Dear PoPville – UPS and USPS and package thieves – if they dont pick up packages, and then they get stolen, who is at fault?


“Dear PoPville,

I’m looking for some advice/experience. I had three packages that I was trying to return. Typically, UPS and USPS leave packages for me under my front stairs, and when I have a pre-paid package for them to pick up, I do the same, and leave them a note on the door, letting them know the packages are there. This usually works ok. However, this week, I left a note on the door on Wednesday, and neither UPS or USPS picked up the packages. I left another note on Thursday. When I came home Thursday, two of three packages were gone, and I hoped they’d been picked up. But then my downstairs neighbor found one of the packages up the street, ripped open and empty. This may have been the fate of the other package as well. So, clearly, leaving packages outside for a few days is not ideal. But for the USPS package at least, I KNOW the mailman came (because he delivered the mail), so had to see my note, but ignored the package for 2 days in a row, and then it was stolen. And now I’m out the money for the goods that I can no longer return. Anyone ever have any luck recovering value for stupidly handled goods from UPS or USPS?”

42 Comment

  • Once it leaves (or until it becomes in) the custody of the shipping company, the package is your responsibility, so you’re probably out of luck. That said, some companies will replace stolen products. I once had an expensive product stolen off my porch, and Amazon sent a replacement free of charge. I was really surprised, as they have no legal obligation to do this…

    • For this very reason, I only drop my items off at FedEx or UPS store locations only. It’s a simple solution when you can’t trust leaving items on your front porch.

  • Not how it works. You need to drop off returns at designated USPS/UPS drop-offs. Those aren’t always post offices or UPS stores, there are other designated drop off stations too. More than likely, your front stoop isn’t one of them.

  • You’re kidding right? Even if UPS picked the packages up the day you left them out, there is still a pretty good chance they’d get stolen. I’d count myself lucky it has never happened before and locate the nearest drop-off location for any future returns I might need to make.

  • My guess is that’s you’re out of luck.
    I’ve noticed crappier and crappier service from USPS lately. There are some days the mail doesn’t come for two or three days and then I’ll come home to an overflowing mail box. I know USPS is using a lot more contracted labor for deliveries; you can tell if they are contracted because they’ll be wearing street clothes and not the blue-grey mailman uniform.

  • OP put too much trust in his/her local mail person for them to go out of there way and pick up the package. He/she may have a rapport with the person, but at the end of the day, they’re just doing their job, and most, if not all will not go beyond what they are paid to do. It sucks this happened, but at the same time, you’re always much better off going to your local post office and shipping it from there. The peace of mind is worth it.

  • This is a clown question, bro.

  • Pretty sure you’re out of luck. If UPS or USPS never takes possession of the package(s) it’s pretty implausible that you would be able to hold them responsible for the items. I don’t think they’re under any obligation to keep an eye out for notes posted on the door guiding them to secret pickup locations; maybe it worked in the past but that’s not a binding agreement.

  • I also remember the good old days, when mail carriers and other professionals took some pride in a job well done, and in a satisfied customer.
    (These are no longer those days. When my mail carrier carries on a constant, loud, profanity-laden conversation on my porch while jamming my mail through the slot and then while walking through my flowerbeds, I just imagine the dear mailman of my youth, turning in his grave.)

    • I also remember when people treated mail carriers and other professionals with respect and not just as employees tasked to provide services in whatever manner the customer sees fit. Chicken or egg, I don’t know.

  • I didn’t think leaving packages at a private home for pickup was even possible. In future, I’d recommend going to a post office, UPS Store, etc. and dropping it off directly with them.

  • I don’t think this is a service you can rightfully expect package and mail carriers to provide. Try using a drop-off location instead of complaining about “stupidly handled” packages you’ve left sitting out in public.

    • epric002

      according to the USPS website, you can schedule package pickup. whether the OP did that or not is another story, but they do do home pickups.

      • I took from the original post that it was unscheduled, but I could be wrong. If it was a scheduled pickup then obviously it’s a different story.

  • Definitely use a drop-off location. I had a delivered package stolen from my porch the other day. Usually USPS tries to hide it in the bushes, but that didn’t work this time. USPS told me to file a police report. The company I ordered from told me to report it to my credit card company. Have your stuff delivered to work or a friend’s place.

    • That’s not really the issue OP is asking about, though it’s not bad advice.

    • I live in a rowhouse and order from Amazon constantly. I can only think of one instance in which a package *may have* been stolen from my porch. I say maybe, because I can think of one other instance where UPS reported it delivered but they definitely didn’t deliver it to my house, so that may have happened in both cases.

      Anyhow, my point is that while I may have gotten lucky, it doesn’t seem like leaving packages on the porch is as much of a theft risk as people think (either on the sending or receiving end).

      My guess is it’s about “hiding in plain sight.” A thief just doesn’t want to go the hassle of swiping a package, finding a place to open it, and maybe getting caught, only to discover a personalized coffee mug inside that cost $10 and is worth $0 to anyone but you… And they assume you wouldn’t leave anything more valuable than that in a box on the porch.

      • I think you have been lucky, or maybe you’re on a block that’s not frequented by thieves, and so your point is not particularly helpful. There are *plenty* of people who leave valuable things on the porch on boxes (you can read their complaints here when those things get stolen, including the OP, of course). And there are plenty of people who will swipe whatever box they see – just as they will go through the hassle of breaking a car window for a handful of change – because enforcement of package theft and theft from cars is not a priority for MPD.

        If you are ordering things that you don’t care about replacing, then by all means, continue having them delivered to your front porch! But don’t assume your luck extends to others.

        • I think my comment is helpful to anyone who is hesitant to have something delivered to their house because they assume its pretty much guaranteed to get stolen due to the comments of the OP and the others. I think the actual risk is relatively small.

          As for the safety of my block, in 4 years I’ve had 3 vehicle break-ins and 1 home burglary, so assume what you will.

  • I use the Package Pickup portion on which gives the carrier a heads up that there is a package. You can also say where you are leaving it.!input.action

    • thanks for this – I always leave them a note, but that doesnt seem to influence if they decide to actually pick it up…

      • Packages are usually handled by a different person than the one delivering the daily mail. So if you don’t use the website, the person responsible for picking up packages won’t know to go to your house.

  • You can also use a UPS drop off box if there’s not a storefront convenient to you. Many, many offices have them available for public use.

  • It totally sucks, but until they’re taken possession of by UPS or USPS, it’s not their responsibility. No more than if they were in your living room or the trunk of your car waiting to be dropped off and got stolen there.

  • OP here. Look, leaving a package for pickup isnt ideal, and I know there are inherent risks. Just to clarify, the point of my question/annoyance is not about whether it’s a great idea to leave something outside. Obviously, it’s a risk. But the risk is magnified when, say, UPS just doesnt bother to pick up the package. Obviously between leaving the package there in the morning, and when they come by, that’s a risk I’m taking. What I’m curious about is complaints after UPS or USPS comes, and leaves the package there. When you return something on Amazon, one option is for them to schedule a UPS pickup. So, it’s not outside the scope of what can be expected of, say, UPS – they’re getting an extra fee ($6) for the pickup.

    • You have to schedule a UPS pickup from a residential location. My understanding is that even if they come to your house, they won’t take a package that’s left out unless you’ve scheduled for it.

  • I think it’s because so many people live in rowhouses or other small buildings without staff, and they work all day but don’t/can’t have their packages sent to their work. This issue is one of the main reasons I live in a staffed building and not a rowhouse – I can’t get packages at work due to security concerns (probably also true for many others), so I live in a building where the staff accepts packages for residents. The other reason is that rowhouses don’t get enough light…

  • The reason you have to schedule a pick-up is that someone other than your mail carrier may have to pick it up, depending on size, weight, etc. Imagine that your carrier is half-way on his route with his truck a few blocks a way and then he/she has to pick up a box and either finish his route whilst carrying it or return back to his/her truck to drop it off. Not terribly convenient.

  • Also, a lot of Feds cannot receive personal packages at work.

  • Get a police report and file it on your homeowners insurance or renters insurance. Most policies cover theft.

  • I think it is silly to leave something of value on your pouch in DC, and then blame the USPS for your misfortune. I live in Adams Morgan and there are people constantly trolling for things to steal. Never leave anything on your porch. Never leave anything in your car.

  • In case this helps anyone: If a package is less than 13 oz and fits the correct dimensions (check, it can be dropped off in a blue mailbox.

  • Ever try walking to a post office?

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