Post Office guarantees package, but can’t deliver

Harbor Landing owner was waiting for essential medication.

John Vitale opens a package containing his medication. — Stacey Rupolo

Updated Nov. 27

John Vitale arrived at The MV Times office and was visibly upset. He was clutching his smartphone in one hand and a U.S. Postal envelope stamped “Priority Express” in the other.

“I can’t believe how I’ve been treated,” Mr. Vitale said, his voice booming and forceful.

Mr. Vitale is the owner of a time share at Harbor Landing Hotel at 15 Beach St., and is on the Island working on roof renovations and boiler repairs. The project has taken longer than expected, so he reached out to family in Connecticut to send him prescription medications he needs for diabetes and blood pressure issues, he told The Times.

His family checked with UPS, Federal Express and, ultimately, decided on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver the medicine because they guaranteed delivery on a Sunday, something the other two shipping companies could not do, Mr. Vitale said.

He monitored the tracking information and everything seemed to be going great. He was scheduled to receive the package at 3 pm on Sunday, the tracking noted. Then, suddenly, things changed and it showed the package had arrived in Wareham, the regional distribution center for the Post Office, but never left to make its way to the Vineyard.

“I went to the Vineyard Haven Post Office to see if I could get an answer,” Mr. Vitale told The Times.

At the Post Office, he found someone working in the back who told him he was out of luck. He wouldn’t call Wareham, but instead gave Mr. Vitale a toll-free number to call. There was no one available on that line until the next morning at 8 am.

“I was willing to go to Wareham and pick it up,” Mr. Vitale said.

Instead, he had to wait for the Vineyard Haven branch to open the next morning to get his meds.

Turns out, the Post Office never should have promised the guaranteed delivery for Sunday, Stephen Doherty, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, told The Times. After researching the incident, Mr. Doherty said it revealed a glitch in the postal service system. There is no delivery of mail scheduled for Martha’s Vineyard on Sundays, so there’s no way the package could have arrived by its guaranteed time.

“We’re trying to find out why he was given misinformation,” Mr. Doherty said. “I’m sure he was frustrated, and rightfully so.”

Mr. Vitale’s family is entitled to a refund of the $36.25 that was paid to ship the prescription medication by Priority Express, he said.

But what of the anxiety the delivery snafu caused Mr. Vitale?

“They were so rude,” he said. “They really did not care that it was my medicine.”

Mr. Vitale said he spoke to supervisor Thomas Roan, who told him that his family could get the money back paid for the guaranteed delivery. “What good would that do me if I went into diabetic shock?” he said.

“What can I tell you? This is an Island,” is what Mr. Vitale says he was told.

Mr. Doherty really couldn’t comment on the back and forth. He said in his quest to get information from postal employees at Vineyard Haven Post Office, they were forthcoming.

While Mr. Vitale was speaking to The Times, his phone dinged with an alert from the Post Office that his package was ready for pickup, even as he was already opening it to show a half-dozen bottles of prescription medication. Moments later, he got a message from the Post Office asking if he’d like to participate in a survey. He took the bait.

Describing the situation to the woman on the phone, she agreed that he was not provided satisfactory service. “No one should be treated that way,” she could be heard saying to him.

She took his information and opened a complaint with the postal service’s customer affairs division in Boston.

“They were just so rude, I get so upset,” Mr. Vitale said. “I can’t even put it into words.”

Mr. Vitale did receive an apology from the woman on the other end of the line, as well as a reminder that his family could get the $36.25 returned for missing the guaranteed delivery time.

Mr. Vitale wants more. “If the supervisor was to apologize, that’s what I want,” he said.

Beyond that, he’d also like the Vineyard Haven branch to think about how it treats customers, particularly with its location in the heart of one of the Island’s transportation hubs, with so many visitors coming through and using the Post Office. “They should think about what kind of message it sends to someone who comes to the Island,” he said.

Mr. Doherty said the type of miscommunication that happened to Mr. Vitale is not something he’s been made aware of previously. He said the incident did point out a flaw that needs further investigation: “It is something in our system that needs to be fixed.”

Updated to clarify Mr. Vitale’s affiliation with Harbor Landing.



  1. I do a lot of ordering to be shipped by UPS, FedEx, and USPS. I never believe them when they say a certain number of days for delivery; usually the person taking the order has no understanding of our delivery dynamics and in many cases cannot even control which carrier gets the job. In many cases I find that ordering the super duper “extra fast” service actually extends the delivery time.

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