13News Now Investigates: Post office package problems

In the midst of the holiday shipping season, one local woman has a warning for anyone sending packages through the U.S. Postal Service.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WVEC) In the midst of the holiday shipping season, one local woman has a warning for anyone sending packages through the U.S. Postal Service.

Tammy Venezia said an issue at a local post office could have cost her more money than she was supposed to pay to ship her package.

If you've ever shipped anything at the post office, you know how much it is going to cost is mostly determined by how heavy and how big the package is. Venezia told 13News Now she noticed a problem with measurements taken at the post office. Her experience has caused the Postal Service to take action and apologize.

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Tammy Venezia's YouTube video about her experience already has thousands of views.

“My point is to just get the word out 'be careful,'” Venezia said in her video.

She posted it with a simple title: "Is Your Post Office Overcharging You?"

“This is the season where people are going to be mailing a lot of things,” she described.

When mailing holiday presents, Tammy doesn't want others to have a "Blue Christmas." She's hoping people learn from her experience at the Great Bridge Post Office in Chesapeake. She said she measured a package she wanted to send to be 19 inches long, but because the box was so big, she decided to take it to the post office.

“He measured twenty and said it was going to be $32,” she recalled her conversation with a clerk there. “I said '$32! That's a lot more than $21 when I was going to mail it from home!’ He measures again, 20 inches.”

Not wanting to pay the extra money, she went home to print the label herself. Again, she measured the 19 inches. She returned to the post office, but again the clerk measured an extra inch.

“I go 'look, that's wrong!’” she remembered. “He reaches behind him, grabs another measuring tape, one with a metal end and measures the box. 'Oh yeah, 19 inches, you're right!’”

While one inch might not seem like a lot, in Tammy's case, she said the one-inch difference would have cost her more than $10 extra to ship her package. She started to wonder just how widespread this issue might be.

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“I thought of all those people who went through that line and unnecessarily spent money,” she lamented.

Tammy went to talk to a supervisor. Here's what she says happened:

“She picks up the tape measure and guess what, there's an inch cut off,” she said. “It was cleanly cut across. So every time somebody measured something, there was an extra inch on the end.”

We wanted to get to the bottom of the issue and contacted the spokesperson for the post offices in our area.

"Thank you for bringing this to our attention and we apologize to the customer for any inconvenience,” Freda Sauter in corporate communications wrote. “All of the tape measures in this Post Office have been replaced and this issue was addressed with employees."

That statement did not answer most of the questions in our email, including: How can something like this happen? Would a post office or postal employees get any benefit if their post office made more money? What measures have been put in place to make sure this doesn't happen again? How can you be sure this isn't happening at other post offices?

When we reached out again to ask for more information, Sauter responded: "We have no additional comments at this time."

In the absence of concrete answers, Tammy is warning other customers. She is hoping when others go to ship holiday presents, their experience at the post office won't be a "nightmare before Christmas."

“Question things,” she advised. “Measure your boxes at home before you leave to go to the post office and if something doesn't look right, it probably isn't. Don't' be afraid to speak out.”

While the statement from the USPS spokesperson said “this issue was addressed with employees,” Sauter wouldn't say if anyone has been disciplined or fired, nor if USPS or the inspector general is conducting an investigation.