Where are my packages from overseas?

| 21/06/2019
Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status

I shop locally in Cayman wherever possible and am happy to support local business, however there are some items which I sometimes have to source from overseas, and most of the time these items are delivered via parcel post at the Airport Post Office.

The issue is, though, that it is a completely hit and miss affair as to whether I will actually receive the items I have paid for. More often than not I do not receive a notification to my PO Box, but when I go the post office in person and have them search, they will sometimes find the package, sometimes not. Recently I went in to ask if there was anything for collection under my name, and on checking they produced two packages which had arrived six months previously.

They have mentioned tracking numbers, but very few retail companies use registered post; however, the packages can be viewed online and they clearly show the date of arrival in the Cayman Islands, with my name and PO Box details clearly printed. But several of these packages then just disappear and never reach me. Several emails to parcelpost@gov.ky have gone unanswered and when I phoned recently I was told by an employee there, that this email address is not checked regularly for correspondence.

Is it possible to find out how these parcels are logged and what is the best approach to ensure I receive my goods?

Auntie’s answer: I contacted the Cayman Islands Postal Service (CIPS) for help and before I share their very detailed reply, I want to point out that this department responded quickly and thoroughly (yet again) to the question. As readers may know, though I pride myself on being patient, I will eventually call out those entities that fail to answer questions, but I also try to make sure to praise those deserving of it.

Anyway, Deputy Postmaster General Melissa Martinez-Ebanks responded to each of the concerns you raised in turn, starting with not receiving a package notice. “One common issue we see with internet orders is that though the online documents show a complete address, the actual item does not,” she said, noting that this a particular problem with small orders from China and Hong Kong. In those cases, the address label is very small, which results in “key elements of the address” getting cut off. Or sometimes the buyer provides both a street address and PO box number, but the label on the package will only show the street address. “In both cases, we are unable to send the notice to the addressee,” Ms Martinez-Ebanks explained.

As for tracking numbers, “If a customer can track an item online, it has a tracking number, even if it is not registered mail.” The CIPS can “use that tracking number for processing domestically, and customers can ask us to create a ‘watch for’ request in the system”. To request that service, customers should email CIPS at cipscustomercare@gov.ky and include the tracking number and an email address. When the item is processed the system emails a notice to the addressee.

One other common issue is when people use a company or family PO box, in which case packages notices will be placed in the box but do not necessarily get delivered to the actual addressee.

The deputy postmaster general also explained that the parcel post email is a group address that goes to customs officers, adding that the email is checked regularly and any invoices that are received are printed for clearing of packages. “I am sorry that the reader was told it was not checked, as this is not accurate. I will follow up with our team to ensure quality information is provided to customers on this email address.”

One final point: Ms Martinez-Ebanks added, “I would be happy to arrange a tour of our processing centre for a customer who wants to understand the processing system and to address any specific complaints or queries.” She can be reached at 945-6875.

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Comments (20)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The excuse I was given at APO (3 weeks after a tracked delivery) was that the package letters weren’t printing automatically and no one had noticed!!

    The Customs people had done their inspection and paperwork and NO ONE noticed or had the initiative to wonder why there were no notices printing or that all the packages were piling up.

    Total slackness and it makes me sick that we all pay their salaries and will be paying their medical and/or pension for ever.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have been waiting on a parcel for some weeks – on Thursday I received a notification that it was ready for collection. The date on the notification is 13th of May, but printed on 24th of June. Where has it been for 6 weeks?? I then decided to have it delivered as this service is offered for a fee, and I booked a slot for early Friday morning. I got a call from the airport post office on Friday morning to confirm my delivery so that was good….until they called again just 10 minutes later to tell me that my package had now gone missing, it was nowhere to be found and they would do their best to find it by the end of the day. That was the last I heard about it – no parcel appeared, no delivery, no update. Is this really the best they can do? After a long delay even telling me the parcel is there, they go ahead and lose it!!!

  3. L.R. van der Pluijm says:

    Today I was told that the Airport Post office no longer sends notification to your POBox but sends an SMS to your phone. Why were we not informed about this change and what if there is no mobile phone number ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Just read today’s Compass. I was speechless reading the explanations why notifications are not delivered. I don’t think even in true Banana republic you would hear such nonsense. As if it is not a legitimate business run by professionals ( who received some awards in Quatar) but toddlers play pretending running a business. Mary why did you grab the notification I just printed, you are a janitor and not supposed to be here? By the way what did you do with it? We have toilet paper in a storage.
      It is astonishing to learn how they actually do business!! Just mind boggling.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is a hilarious post. The rest of us are wondering who is Mary and why is she picking up documents form the printer : )

  4. Anonymous says:

    Just use a ‘freight forwarder’ no? I use Stamar almost weekly and haven’t lost anything in 10 years…

  5. Johnny Be Good says:

    One would think and expect that in this paperless age we live in electronic notifications of mail and parcels are sent out. CIPS has had my email address on file for over a decade now but the paper waste continues.
    More to the point, I always opt for mail and parcels that are traceable, I have still lost a few though.

  6. Mail-user says:

    Somewhere under the Airport Post Office is a vast cavern filled with undelivered postal items; everything from picture postcards to large cardboard containers. Either that or these items walked out of the back door. I have first hand experience of the non-delivery of tracked envelopes, simple birthday cards, which are shown as delivered to Grand Cayman, but mysteriously never make it into my P.O. Box.
    I am informed that there is a large box into which the staff place items when they cannot determine the correct box or post office for it; or, perhaps the individual can’t be bothered to walk to the other end of the building with it.
    A couple of times an unusually friendly staff-member has gone and searched the box at my request; once this did actually produce a correctly addressed piece of mail but no explanation as to how it got in the box in the first place.

    That whole organisation needs new staff with new attitudes.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Decisions were made without consideration for the rest of the world that has been in the 20th century long before Cayman decided to join in..
    Whomever had the great idea to use the letters “APO” for airport post office were ill-advised as it is already used by the US Postal Service. It stands for Army Post Office and is used for Army posts overseas.
    Gee, that’s not confusing…

    Also, as the ‘excuse’ for why people do not get their notification to collect their package of “the buyer provides both a street address and PO box number”, everyone should know that the use of a physical address is for FedEx/Sprint type deliveries and should never be used along with PO Box numbers.

    Never use a physical address and never put Georgetown or it WILL end up in Guyana first.
    Sample for receiving mail/packages in the post;

    Joe Bones
    PO Box 2345
    Grand Cayman
    Cayman Islands KY1-1107

    You’re welcome

    • Anonymous says:

      And why is it so hard when both, street address and PO Box are known to deliver notification to the PO Box?
      It is not the rocket science to deliver the package or notification to the addressee even with min. information provided. After all there are only 60,000 people in this country. May be 10-25% of this number actually order things from overseas. Last and first names are always on the package. Just enter it into the system and the search would take seconds. Recipients expect their packages, therefore a phone call followed by few clicks on keyboard should easily locate the package.

      I sent cards and letters to my friends in Cayman, WITH CORRECT ADDRESSES that were never received or returned to me.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agree. Plus, I always avoid using U.S. Postal Service as I believe that’s where many of the problems lie. Much better to use UPS, FedEx, or DHL, who actually care about their customers and update their tracking information promptly.

      For small orders, I use a freight forwarder. For larger orders, I have them shipped to Cayman Cargo in Miami. I have not lost a single package in the last 30 years.

  8. Roger Davies says:

    We had a small package airmailed from West Palm Beach at the end of March with the correct address and post code. No sign of it yet.

    • Anonymous says:

      I received a christmas card recently, halleluja, as 99% have gone missing. This one was two and a half years en route.

    • Anon says:

      Amazing coincidence, this afternoon I got a parcel notification in my post box (main post office GT) for my missing package. The notice is dated 26/4/2019 and at the bottom it says “printed 13 Jun ’19. I will be giving a copy of the notice to the Postmaster General to follow up with whomever is responsible for this debacle.
      Roger Davies.

  9. Strange coincidences says:

    I have had several packages ‘lost’ at the post office. They are sent with tracking numbers so I can see that they actually do arrive in Cayman, but strangely all searches for them at the post office turn up nothing and the parcel is ‘lost’. I have asked about how the tracking info is updated and am told that the bar code on the parcel is scanned on arrival which updates the tracking info – it’s not done manually. So if the bar code is scanned, the parcel definitely arrived in Cayman and then disappeared somewhere within the postal system before it reached me. It has happened on far too many occasions for it to be poor management. I am inclined to believe that because the parcel must state on the outside label what the contents are, and their value for customs purposes, that this can lead to desirable items going missing in Cayman before they reach the intended recipient. How else do they explain how it went missing between the plane it arrived on and the airport post office.

  10. Anonymous says:

    While I personally have no experienced this issue, I am disappointed at the response by the Deputy Postmaster General. Essentially her team is not to blame for anything and it is always entirely the consumer’s fault?

    None of my packages have gone missing, but I have tried to email the email above and did not get a response at all.

  11. Anonymous says:

    We tried short-lived direct subscriptions to various magazines over the years and received just a smattering of issues. They were well-traveled, having gone via Guyana, Kentucky, and sometimes Bahamas. I think it’s more a function of chronic merchant distribution errors than postal theft, our country code “KY”, and George Town versus Georgetown. In many cases, the Cayman Islands isn’t a country that can be selected from dropdown billing and.or shipping menus, despite the inclusion of exceedingly obscure third world nation states. Also, back in late 1990s when the whole Caribbean was still the “809” area code, with isolated cases of “calling card fraud” in neighbouring islands, we were blocked by telephone switchboards, and many of them carried the block over to “345”, ergo why some people in certian switchboards of North America can’t seem to dial through to the Cayman Islands. Wish the DoT would work to rectify and educate to eliminate these self-limitations.

  12. L.R. van der Pluijm says:

    I have the same experience with not receiving notifications while the package is at the Airport office for weeks. This only happens in the last few months. Before I had no problem at all and every package and notification was delivered on time. Someone is not doing his job correctly.