I RECENTLY sent a parcel containing Chinese ceramic plates to a client in Johannesburg through the post office "insured" mail service. On arrival one of the plates had been damaged and was in pieces.
This parcel had been painstakingly packaged using bubble wrap, polystyrene support, and each item was individually wrapped in thick protective wrapping – nothing moved even when shaking the package. So I felt disappointed and embarrassed, but at least it was insured – right?
Wrong – the post office informs me that the contents were "fragile" and therefore not insured. Furthermore a look at its downloadable policy declares, among a ton of other weasel phrases, "exclusions – any content of parcel/letter if the recipient signs for the goods without inspecting the parcel for physical damage and declaring such damage to the counter staff before leaving the counter".
Never in all my patient time spent inside a post office have I ever seen anybody inspecting parcel contents prior to leaving, but such are the weasel phrases awaiting the uninformed. Luckily so I thought, my client did just that, pointed out the damaged plate and the attending post office employee testified that the parcel had been securely packaged.
All to no avail, the weaselers (my word) say the goods were fragile – no claim! OK, but that goes for just about anything aside from a stone, metal ball or a jersey. A ceramic plate is surely fragile, if you drop it, crush it or mishandle the package, then so is your car or even a brick.
And you think you're insured when posting through the post office? Think again.
Kevin O'Connor, Central, Port Elizabeth