John Tuttle's upsetting experience sending a parcel via the Mexican
Mails reminds me of an experience I had many years ago. To persons
dealing with antique recordings, I urge you to read on:
A friend at the music school of the University of Indiana told me
that the University was getting rid of all its 78 rpm records. They
had an outstanding collection of early classical recordings, all like
new and carefully put up in albums on which the outside leaves had been
replaced with Masonite, instead of the usual cardboard! Caruso era
vintage stuff, including much of his. I had most of his records,
but there were others by numerous artists which I wanted, on various
labels. I arranged to take the entire collection, which was not huge,
but was outstanding.
I obtained a list, and we reached a very reasonable price for the
lot, my interest based primarily on a select number of the entire lot.
These were rare, which I desired specifically to add to my already
large vintage collection. My friend was kind enough to supervise the
packing according to my instructions, to make sure that different size
records were not packed together, no single package was too heavy, they
were carefully packed and addressed, etc. I paid extra to have the
entire shipment (every package) well insured for the shipment from
Indiana to New Jersey by the U.S. mails.
There were something under 20 parcels. The boxes arrived, spread out
over several days, although they had all been put into the system at
the same time! Several were obviously squashed. As you've no doubt
already guessed, fate had it that the worst damage occurred to the very
recordings that I considered extra special, smashed beyond recall.
My friend told me that he personally took the shipment to the post
office on campus at the U of Indiana. He described the actions of the
receiving clerk, who stamped each package several times with official
rubber stamps reading "Insured" and "Fragile" and whatever else
applicable. He "applied" these markings as though the rubber stamps
were hammers, and their impressions had to be somewhere halfway inside
each package. Then the clerk literally threw or tossed each box some
feet, over onto a pile of other packages, despite the repeated
objections of my friend.
Needless to say, I filed a damage claim. The Post Office denied my
claim. When asked why, they reported to me that the Post Office did
not insure phonograph records for breakage, only loss. I couldn't get
them to explain to me what difference that made, since the result was
I argued further that the boxes were clearly marked as to what they
contained, which was also explained thoroughly to the clerk by my
friend. I said that since they accepted them and the money for the
insurance, they should have informed us up front that they didn't
insure for breakage, which they most definitely did not do, and about
which there was no argument. My friend was willing to go to court
over this, talk to postal inspectors, or whatever. The Post Office
was totally adamant and wouldn't even have inspectors check into it.
We pushed it further. Then we got another answer, which said the
reason now that they would not pay was that these items entered the
mails through a postal sub-station located on the campus, which was
staffed by (including the receiving clerk) college students, rather
than actual government employees!
You can imagine my response to this: Nonsense! It's obvious that
they were in a post office and handling the mails, so they were
government agents, whether college students or not.
The Post Office remained adamant. Meanwhile, I brought up this subject
with our Congressman, and supplied him with all the gory details as
they unfolded. He was initially surprised, then intrigued, then
incongruous, then embarrassed, and finally quite angry.
I don't know if this is still being done, but he had another remedy.
First, material about all this was put into the Congressional
Directory. I don't think the Post Office people liked that at all.
Second, the entire matter was brought before the House Post Office
Committee. There was -- perhaps still is -- a legislative device
called "Special Legislation for the relief of...". In other words,
he introduced a specific law, which awarded me specifically the amount
of money for which the damage claim had been filed. I don't know for
sure, but I believe the amount was charged against Post Office funds
allotted by the House of Representatives. I'm sure they didn't like
In recent years I have asked USPS officials to tell me if the situation
remains the same these decades later. This is important to me, as I am
going to start selling off many of the records in my large collection
and wanted to obtain information on shipping methods and rates. They
refuse to answer. This tells me that the situation has not changed.
So UPS, here I come!.
I would parallel John Tuttle's advice: Do _not_ ship recordings (at
least antique, fragile recordings) through the U.S. Mail _or_ the
Mexican Mail! In this sense at least, the one is as bad as the other.
Actually, I think the U.S. service worse; at least his parcels eventually
showed up and were delivered in Mexico, and since Mr. Tuttle doesn't
say otherwise, I assume the goods were received intact, albeit tardy.
One more thing I learned recently: Canadian dealers do not like to be
paid via PayPal, a service which I use constantly in eBay transactions,
and about which I have positive feelings. I am told that PayPal (even
before they were purchased recently by eBay) charge Canadian PayPal
recipients a much higher fee. They also hit them with an extremely
unfavorable monetary exchange rate. In that case, one dealer at least
understandably insisted on an International Postal Money Order. During
the time that we discussed this back and forth, I lost out on
purchasing the item at question.
A word to the wise. We live in a world of caveats!
Appomattox County, Virginia USA