UPDATE: Tony says his local postmaster arrived on his doorstep the day after his story was posted on Consumerist, to personally apologize and get more information about his situation.
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Anyone who’s ever been anxiously awaiting the arrival of a promised package might know the sheer frustration of waiting around at home all day, only to check the tracking later and find that a carrier attempted delivery when you finally left the house. That’s what happened to Consumerist reader Tony — only he had video to prove that no one from USPS ever showed up, despite what the tracking information said online.
Tony put together a video chronicling his recent frustrating experience waiting for a package to get delivered, but here’s what happened if you don’t feel like watching: He waited at home all day for a package last Friday, finally leaving his home at 6:25 to get dinner. By the time he returned at 7:40 that night, still no package, and no notice left on the door… but the online tracking information said USPS had attempted delivery at 6:59 p.m.
Someone who doesn’t have evidence to the contrary might believe they’d missed a delivery attempt, but Tony has a new home security camera on his front door, so he checked the footage of that time period — and no one turned up at 6:59, or ever. Not only that, but without a pink notice slip, he couldn’t reschedule delivery and would have to go the post office to pick his package up.
The next day around 1 p.m., he checked the tracking info one more time before heading to the post office and was surprised to see a note that his package had been delivered… 15 minutes before. And yet, a quick search outside showed that the package had still not arrived. Just as he was about to finally leave for the post office at around 2:30, the mail carrier showed up and handed over his package — two hours after the tracking info says it was left on his front porch.
“So now not only are they claiming they attempted delivery and left a notice they didn’t leave, but the next day they are also logging that they came back and specifically left it on my front porch when they haven’t, before finally hand delivering it,” Tony writes.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened to Tony, and there are many others like him out there — including members of the Consumerist staff — but he says that when he calls the the main number for USPS (1-800-ASK-USPS) to find out what happened, the people on the other end are nice and seem to believe him, but tell him there’s nothing they can do.
When he’s tried to sort it out with USPS staff at the post office, he’s been told to speak to a manager who he says is never there, or submit a complaint online. He’s tried that, too — he filed an official complaint with the postal service as well as with the USPS inspector general, but neither resulted in a response.
We’ve reached out to USPS to find out how and why this happens, and what consumers should do in a similar situation when all complaints have apparently reached deaf ears, but we have yet to hear back as of this posting. If and when we do, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, there doesn’t seem to be much Tony can do, other than continuing to remain vigilant for invisible mail carriers attempting to deliver invisible packages.
UPDATE: A Consumerist reader who we’ll call Zack (not his real name) who says he worked for the USPS for 38 years wrote in with a possible explanation of what’s going on when the online tracking contradicts the reality. He also wished us luck in getting an answer from USPS, adds that employees often had problems getting usable response from headquarters.
Basically, tracking info isn’t actually the result of an actual scan of the bar code on a piece of mail — the records are system generated, Zack says.
“These are events that the system thinks should have happened at a certain time,” Zack explains, regardless of whether it’s actually happened. “When a postal employee with access to the company’s internal tracking application looks at a tracking record such ‘scans’ will be listed as ‘system generated.’ ”
A spokeswoman for USPS sent Consumerist the following statement, after getting in touch with Tony to resolve the situation:
We are glad you bought this to our attention, and we regret the customer had this experience. The Postal Service expects our employees to always provide a high level of customer service. As such, we do not condone this behavior and have taken steps to properly address it with employees.
Our Consumer Affairs Office is following up with the customer and apologizing personally for the situation.

She points customers with deliver concerns to contact their local Postmaster (which didn’t work for Zack at first) or to call them at 1-800-ASK-USPS (800-275-8777) or visit the USPS help site, options which, again didn’t help Zack much at first, but it’s always good to exhaust all possible options before calling in the cavalry.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.