Yesterday, I had to go to the post office. “So what’s the big deal?” an astute reader would ask, “People go there all the time!”

“Ah ha!” I would answer, “But I had to go to try to file an insurance claim!”

I say try because that’s all anybody is allowed to do. No one ever succeeds at filing one because if they did, the U.S. Postal Service might actually have to pay them some money.

As we all know, the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t have any money, which is why it has to keep raising rates. And which is also why it decided that selling insurance would be a great way to make a little extra cash.

The system works like this. Buy a wonderful gift that’s worth more than 10 cents for someone who lives far away from you. Wrap it carefully in a crush-proof container. Then, while under the influence of prescribed medications, decide sending the gift through the U.S. mail is a better idea then soaking it in meat juice before tossing it to a pack of hungry lions.

Next, actually go to the post office. At the post office, you get to wait for several hours in a line of people who are probably all taking the same prescribed medication as you. Unless it’s that wonderful time of year known as the holiday season. Then the wait can be several days.

If you get to a clerk before it’s time for him to go home, he’ll ask you if the box contains any fragile items.

This is a trick question. Do not, I repeat, do not say yes. If you do, after you leave, your package will be soaked in meat juice, then tossed to a pack of hungry lions.

Next, the clerk will ask if you want to send your package by priority mail. Priority mail is another fundraising method in which customers pay extra so that their package might, possibly, maybe, arrive in just two or three days. Unless it doesn’t.

Then the clerk will ask if you want to buy insurance to protect against loss or damage.


If you’re like me, you will buy it because you know that the dedicated employees at the post office will take every possible opportunity to lose or damage your package. I know this because I have actual experience with those dedicated employees who, after I admitted a package contained a fragile item, routed it over Niagara Falls.

Which is why I was in line trying to file an insurance claim. In theory, and according to the fine print on the U.S. Postal Service claim form, the claim process is started by appearing at any U.S. Post Office and submitting the claim form and insurance receipt.

When you do, the clerk will refuse to accept it. He will insist that you have to go to the destination post office 2,000 miles away to file the claim by close of business that day to meet the “file no later than 60 days from the date of mailing” deadline.

At this point you have two choices — run to the airport or show him the line on the form stating that you can file it at any U.S. Post Office. If you decide to show him what the Postal Service form says, he will take the form from you and walk away.

At that point, you will have to remind him that he has to complete section B “Completed by Postal Employee Where Claim is Filed” portion of the form, date-stamp it, and return the middle copy to you.

He will resentfully come back to the counter and demand some proof of damage. You tell him it is 2,000 miles away with the recipient. It has to be because the sender, who is me, buys the insurance — while the recipient, who is somebody else living 2,000 miles away, gets the damaged package. Unless it gets lost in the mail.

At this point he finally accepts the form, fills in section B, hands me my copy and promises to process the claim — by mailing it to the recipient’s post office.

I wondered if I should buy insurance for it.