2 Investigators: Postal Service Loses Family Heirloom

(CBS) — It was a treasured family heirloom and it got lost in the mail.

Now the family wants to know how something like this could happen. CBS 2’s Pam Zekman investigates.

“It was my sister’s who had passed away,” Joe Camphouse says.

He’s referring to an antique set of silverware, eight place settings in all, made in the 1920s by the Rogers Brothers company.

“It’s like when you sit down to dinner she’s there, you know,” Camphouse says. “It’s something that represents her.”

The family sent the silverware, using standard mail, to a brother in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

They mailed the package from a postal station inside a pharmacy in Joliet. That’s when it began its 66-day journey across the country.

The package traveled from Joliet to Jacksonville, Fla., back to Chicago and then east to Warrendale, Penn. Then it went back down to Opa-Locka, Fla., and then finally it arrived in Fort Lauderdale.

Sort of.

Roberta Camphouse, the matriarch of the family, called her son when she heard the package had finally arrived.

“He says, ‘Yeah, it came. It’s just the cover, just the box top, nothing else,’” she says. “I says, ‘Come on, you’re teasing me.’ He says, ‘No, ma,  just the top, that’s all I got.’”

Joe Camphouse says he couldn’t believe it when he found out that only the top of the box, with the address, was delivered.

The Camphouses have repeatedly reached out to the U.S. Postal Service for help, but to no avail.

“I received a response from them basically saying it was mailed over 30 days ago, so there’s nothing we can do,”  Joe Camphouse says.

The U.S. Postal Service could give no explanation for the silverware’s long journey.

In the past three years, they have processed  88 million pieces of lost mail, about 4 million of them packages. The post office adds that they have been unable to find the Camphouse silverware at the Mail Recovery Center, where lost mail ends up and is eventually auctioned off.

That facility was criticized in a recent Inspector General report for failing to “track how many inquiries resulted in items returned to customers.”

“That’s all I have left,” says Roberta Camphouse, looking a couple of remaining spoons from the set of lost silverware.

The Camphouses  won’t receive any compensation for the lost silverware — worth about $1,000 — because the package wasn’t insured.

“In my mind it can’t be replaced,” Joe Camphouse says.

“I don’t know what to say to you except I want them back,” adds Roberta Camphouse.

A post office spokesperson says this is a “very unfortunate situation” and urges people to pack items carefully, including name and address inside the package as well as outside. If you are mailing something valuable they suggest using priority mail and purchasing extra insurance.

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