Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The PWE: The Good and The Ugly! (A Tale of Two Envelopes)

Today's tale is a journey of a pair of PWEs.  One came from Steve over at The Card Chop.  The other is from an eBay seller where I paid my hard earned cash to acquire a card.  Let's take a look.

Up first, the Ugly.

This is what I found in my mailbox.

Ugh.  No one wants to see that cursed "received in damaged condition" stamp on their letter.  Even worse - the letter was damaged in transit BY THE FREAKING POST OFFICE and they still have the gall to say "received damaged" when they were the only ones touching the darn thing from Steve's post office to mine.

The Good?

The eBay PWE arrived in perfectly fine shape - and the card I wanted was in tact.

That's a brand new Barry Larkin card for my collection - and I managed to get it for 6 cents (if memory serves) thanks to a couple dollars worth of eBay bucks.

The Larkin auction also had a second card included - this one of Eric Munson of the Detroit Tigers.

I have no interest in the Munson so it's available for trade!

Now - why did I pair these two envelopes together for a single post?

To compare and contrast them of course.

The eBay seller packed up both of the cards I bought in a top loader and sealed it with packing tape.  Both cards were in the same top loader and neither card came in a penny sleeve.  The top loader was then thrown in the envelope (no tape or anything else to hold it in place).  Amazingly, it arrived at my house with no issues.

Steve, on the other hand, packed my cards in a top loader (he said), and then in a team bag, and then wrapped a paper towel around them for just a bit more padding before putting them in the PWE.  What happened?  The paper towel arrived - as did a SLICED team bag but no top loader or cards were anywhere to be seen.

Steve's packing job was much, much better than the eBay's sellers (and I paid good money for the eBay auction no less).  Despite all that, the much more crappily packed envelope arrived unscathed.

Moral of the story?

The post office is a cruel mistress - and even the best packing jobs can be thwarted by the evil gnomes who work at the post office (I have to assume evil gnomes do this because the post office won't take one ounce of responsibility no matter how an envelope looks when they finally deliver it).

Thanks for the attempted trade Steve - I know you meant well and the post office is clearly to blame here.  Despite my bad luck with this PWE, I still think PWEs are a decent way to complete trades - it is a much cheaper avenue when you are only sending one or two cards.  I know I sent out quite a few PWEs last week to various people (and now I can only hope they all arrive in tact)!  If anyone else out there would like to trade, check out my want list and make an offer (PWE trades are ok with me still)!


Need More Cardboard said...

I had a similar thing happen last year, albeit with a good outcome. I got some cards from Crackin Wax's "Take My Cards" and sent him my SASE and penny sleeves. He's pretty good about putting the cards in the mail within a few days of receiving the SASE. After about two weeks of waiting I sent him an email just to check in an he said he'd mailed them out exactly when I thought he probably had. Six weeks later I got a big envelope in my PO box from the USPS Undeliverable Mail center. Inside was my SASE sliced lengthwise all the way across. Unbelievably all of the cards were inside my SASE, inside the penny sleeves and completely intact.

madding said...

I wonder if his envelope was forced through the sorting machine and was damaged there. All PWEs are subjected to that beast unless (supposedly) the sender adds extra postage to make it "non-machinable". I'm sure everyone knows this, but the best way to go is to make your envelope as thin and flexible as possible if you're going to roll the dice with a single Forever stamp.

Stubby said...

As a former Postal worker, my guess is your trading partner attempted to pack the cards too well. I'm pretty sure the paper towel was his undoing. Too much thickness, probably.

I've said this elsewhere and I'll say it again, here. All mail is run through machines. Even if you write "non-machinable" or "manual sort only"--even if the nice lady or gentleman at your local PO tells you to write that on the envelope (they don't know what's happening at the sorting centers anymore than we knew what was going on at the local POs)--all mail is run through the machines. This will include mail that clearly should not be run through the shampoo samples. Its just the way it is and, if you have anyone to thank or curse for it, I'd look straight at Congress (for requiring the USPS to pre-fund retirement and health care funds that are already over funded 75 years out to the tune of 6 billion dollars a year; the dirty little secret is the money doesn't even get to those funds anyway but, instead, is used as a kind of slush fund...but I digress). There are reasons management chooses to do this. I don't happen to agree with them, but I understand them. The position of "manual clerk" has essentially been eliminated from the postal service sorting centers. At most, you'll have one guy or gal at a table piecing together the shards of mail ripped asunder and bagging remains. All of this was true when I left the USPS 8 years ago and I can only imagine it is even more so now.

Card traders may think the PWE is the cat's pajamas and maybe it is the way to go for common cards, but you're basically playing Postal roulette and you really shouldn't be surprised if you lose at that game every once in a while...or frequently, for that matter. I don't play the PWE game, myself, and I hate it when eBay sellers do. I pack my cards like I want them to get to their destination in one piece--a padded envelope containing a sturdy top loader reinforced with stiff cardboard at the very least. Those will go through the flat and package sorters which are much more forgiving. Just sayin'. To each his own, I guess.

BTW, "received in damaged condition" is legit. It is what the receiving office stamps should mail arrive at their office in damaged condition. You can't think of the Post Office as one big thing. If I'm in New Jersey, I have no idea what happened to something in Cincinnati. All I know is what it looked like when I got it. And, with the amount of mail the Post Office handles daily, its impossible to track any one piece back to the original cause of the damage. Could have happened at any point along the way--including points where it isn't even under the control of any part of the Postal Service. Where the damage occurs at your facility and that is known, the piece would be stamped something like "damaged in handling at the Postal Service"...something like that.

Stubby said...

@madding Extra postage won't save you from the machines. That's essentially urban myth. If you're a bulk mailer mailing a couple of thousand pieces, yes. For an individual PWE, no. Better to use that extra postage to pay postage on a proper package. Just sayin'. Not that a padded envelope (for example) is immune, but your odds are much better. It is also worth saying that, again, with the amount of mail the Postal Service handles every day, your "odds" are pretty good even with the PWE, strictly speaking--I dunno, one in a couple hundred thousand maybe, maybe better than that. I just don't personally want to be on the sending or receiving end of one of the (relatively rare) losers.

Hackenbush said...

I've run into a different problem with PWE's. Most get to me just fine. Every now and then one will come postage due. I see no difference among them, not like the postage due pieces are any thicker. Seems arbitrary. I guess some machine or other kicks them out as irregular.

roddster said...

Stubby, cool info on usps. Nice to hear what's happening to my cards behind the scenes. I've been fortunate with PWE's. For small trades for cheap cards I think it's a great way to trade.

Need More Cardboard said...

@Stubby- 1 in a couple hundred thousand? Well I beat those odds! now if only I could beat them when I rip packs....

Fuji said...

Bummer. Thanks for sharing. I got a lot from this post and the comments too.

madding said...

Stubby: everything you say pretty much jives with my expectations, but why does the USPS charge a special rate for non-machinable first class letters? is it just a scam to grab an extra 21 cents or are there good intentions somewhere along the line that just get ignored?

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