(edited for readability)
Back in January I posted a message entitled "USPS Destroys Bow". I thought it might be useful to others in this position in the future to read the steps we took to file a successful claim.
Step one: the buyer and the seller have to work together from the start. The guy who bought the bow I had for sale was a great guy who ended up becoming a friend.
Step two: treat any postal employee you talk to with respect and in a friendly manner. They did not personally destroy your property. Everyone person I talked to wanted to help.
Step three: face the fact that wading through the claim process for the first time can be frustrating. I will list some shortcuts and suggestions further on.
Step four: before your ship your bow, make sure you tell the buyer to save any and all receipts that will help you later prove the value of the bow and that money actually exchanged hands. There are good ways to pay for a bow or some other equipment. I prefer USPS money orders because you will have the money order stub and a printout of the transaction used to buy the money order. The USPS will not dicker over payment when you use their own payment system. I'm sure a pay pal print out would also be a good means of defining value. Ship the bow two day priority and insure it for the full value you and the buyer agreed on. Save all your receipts.
Step five: when the item is received by the buyer and it is obviously damaged, the buyer should contact the seller to begin the claim process. The buyer should take the item and all the packaging to the post office and have it inspected by the local postmaster or their representative. That person will give you a receipt for the initial inspection in your presence. They will keep the package for further inspection. They are required to fill out Postal Form 2856 without you being present. Both the initial inspection form and form 2856 will eventually get placed in the claim file. Have the buyer tell his postmaster that he would greatly appreciate getting those two forms into the system as soon as possible, and that the seller will be beginning the claim process shortly.
Tell the buyer to send you a copy of the initial damage report and a photo of his money order stub and the post office printout he got when he bought the money order. The seller should begin the claim process. I did this online the same day that my seller took the damaged package to his post office.
The seller will be given a claim number. As part of starting the claim process, you will have the opportunity to tell the claim division that your buyer has begun the two required inspections and that these will eventually get to your claim file, and that you will provide proof of value and the sale process. You will receive an online response to your initial claim, allowing you to give the Postal Service additional information as you receive it from the buyer. Send a copy of the intial damage report and the postal money order receipts from the buyer when you receive them.
Step six: Postal claims are eventually handled by the Accounting Services Department. I had a heck of a time getting the number to talk to a real person. Here is the number to call: 1-866-974-2733. I called this number twice and each time the person I talked to was wonderful. Ask them what is in your file and what else do you need. I was told that for a successful claim the following items are needed in your ongoing file: Proof that you mailed the package and that is was insured. They will already have this information in their system. Proof from the buyer's end that the item was damaged. That's were the initial damage report and form 2856 come in. Proof that money exchanged hands attesting to the value of the item. That's were the postal money order receipts from the buyer enters the picture.
Step seven: call the Accounting Services number every day until everything needed is in your file.
Step eight: be prepared to wait. It was explained to me that if your initial claim is rejected it is normally due to missing forms or information. You can appeal this first denial. This first appeal is handled by the same office that began the processing of your claim. Don't be afraid to ask the Accounting Services folks what might be missing from your file. If there is a problem like one form was slow in getting to the right person and your first appeal is denied. You can make a second appeal.
This final appeal goes to Washington. Make sure your ducks are all in a row before beginning the second appeal. If you need to talk to someone in the Washington office, here is the number to call: 1-202- 268-4760.
See how easy all this is! The first time is always the worst. Once you know the system, the claim process is not so bad. We got our money back in full. I had the Postal Service check in my hand two days after they approve the claim.
I hope this makes life easier for someone else in the future. I had mailed or received a dozen bows with no problems until this one in January. If I have a problem in the future, I'll have way less stress completing the process, and wish the same for those of you who might need it!