Saturday, June 1, 2013

We're still cool, right?

I lived in two states in 2012 and I had to mail in both my state returns, because apparently it’s 1999 again. Given how much I trust tax-related things, I decided to send them certified mail with delivery confirmation. The confirmation is a little green card that is sent back to you. The confirmation from AZ came back right away. The CA one did not. Several weeks later, I checked the online "tracking" at If you are used to UPS or FedEx tracking you'll understand the sarcasti-quotes in a bit. According to the USPS website, I mailed it on the 11th, it got to a Sacramento postal substation on the 13th, then no activity until another scan in the same place on the 18th. As if someone picked it up, decided delivering it was too much trouble, and then put it down again.

I called USPS customer service an hour after they closed on Saturday. I was too late, my bad. I found a web form where I could send them a message, so I crammed in as much detail in as a I could and sent it off.  I was extremely surprised when I got a response to that email this morning. Seriously, first thing in the morning! A+ for effort. Grading on the actual content, however... Let me paraphrase:

Me: I sent my tax return to the CA Tax place and your website says it is sitting in purgatory...I mean Sacramento. How do I get it un-lost? Here are the details, tracking #, etc.

USPS: Your certified letter may not have been scanned by the carrier when he took it out for delivery, and also not final scanned when it was delivered. I cannot confirm if it was actually delivered. The amount of mail that week was totes cray-cray. You can use your paper receipt as a magic talisman to ward off the Tax Man when he comes to take you to debtor's prison. I think. Maybe. Don't quote me.  I am not a lawyer.

Ok, so I bought a certified w/ delivery confirmation service. The letter is sort of "lost" at this point and I'm told that I don't actually get confirmation of delivery, because it was busy. Unpredictably busy, apparently. It was probably also unpredictable that much the torrent of mail coming in to Sacramento around early April would probably have a bunch of delivery confirmations attached. People are touchy about their tax returns, the IRS makes them nervous for some reason.

I once had a UPS driver knock on the door and ask me if he had mis-delivered a neighbor's package to my door. The neighbor had reported it missing and UPS does an investigation. The GPS data from the UPS truck said it was in front of my house when he scanned it for delivery. That is package tracking.

I get that the USPS station near the CA Tax Board was busy during early April.  I get that sometimes things slip through the cracks. Both UPS and FedEx have lost things that were sent to me or from me but they have a layered defense. If something goes wrong in operations and handling, there is a method to correct it and find the package. I read the USPS reply as: "Umm. Dunno. Sorry. We're still cool, right?"

I would have preferred not to be surprised with customer service awesomeness and instead have found out that the trackable, confirmable service I paid for actually worked. At least if I have a problem I won't have to fight penalties, the CA Tax Board owes me money this year.

Update: I did eventually get the delivery confirmation, a day or so after the refund hit my bank account. 

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