Post office says package went through several hands en route from Australia to Ontario
Like many Canadians, it's been a difficult pandemic for Julia Qi. For two years, she wasn't able to see her eldest daughter, who lives in Australia. Then, last Christmas, global restrictions eased and Daisy Han came home for a visit.
Qi wanted to do something special, so she bought her an Apple Watch.
"I just want to surprise her," she told Go Public from her home in southern Ontario. "She was so happy."
When Han went home to Sydney, she discovered the watch's features that rely on data were not compatible with telecommunications networks in Australia. She mailed it back to her mom, so she could return it.
Han paid about $50 to send it via Australia Post, and it was cleared by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
But Qi didn't get it.
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On Jan. 25, Qi went to pick up the package at a local Canada Post office. She says when the clerk brought it out, the box looked like it had been opened. It felt like there was nothing inside. She says the employee told her that's how it arrived at the location, so she took the package home.
"I pay their customs duty fees. I take [the box] home, then nothing in there," said Qi.
"They just give me just empty box. Nothing in there."
After Go Public contacted Canada Post, it agreed to reimburse the $475.67 Qi paid for the Apple Watch, as a show of goodwill. Australia Post compensated Han $137 in Australian dollars (about $100 Cdn) and also called it a goodwill gesture.
Australia Post told Go Public via email that the package was safely delivered to Canadian custom authorities, and CBSA says it passed through customs without being opened — officially. Qi believes all this points to one thing, that a Canada Post employee must have stolen the watch right out of the box. The waybill on the package said it contained an "Apple Watch SE."
Canada Post says there's no way to know where the watch went missing.
"The package was handled many times, and by many people, on its way from Australia to the final address," spokesperson Phil Legault said in an email to Go Public.
He said the postal service worked with Qi and "understands [her] concern."
A number of people have written to Go Public saying their parcels, passports and other items have disappeared in transit with services including FedEx, Purolator and DHL. A consumer protection expert says insurance exists for a reason.
"It is really important for people to understand the risks that they are going to assume in shipping goods," said Ken Whitehurst, executive director at the Consumers Council of Canada.
He says unless you purchase insurance, you are essentially shipping at your own risk. Whitehurst agrees there's no way to know for sure what happened to the missing watch without a police investigation.
Qi says she asked Canada Post to investigate but they closed the case without finding out what happened, so she looked into it herself.
No proof, says post office
Her local post office suggested someone at CBSA could have opened the box. CBSA told her there is no record the package was inspected and that, if it had been, there would be yellow tape on it, which there was not.
Qi says Canada Post wouldn't accept her suspicions. She says she was told there's no proof the watch was even stolen.
Woman alleges Canada Post employee stole Apple Watch from mail | Go Public
An Ontario woman says her Apple Watch went missing after it was mailed from Australia by her daughter, and she suspects the package was opened by someone within Canada Post.1:53
"How am I able to prove it? I did everything in my power, did my investigation, then everything indicates that somebody open, open this box stealing the watch in Post Canada," she said.
She says the postal service told her if she believes a crime was committed, she should call the police.
Qi wishes she had trusted her instincts and not taken the package home unopened. She believes if she had opened it in front of the Canada Post employee there would be no doubt the watch had been stolen.
"I feel like I'm so stupid. I should have opened that in front of her and called the police right there so they can't tell me I can't prove it," said Qi.
Go Public asked Canada Post for any statistics on complaints of theft by its employees. It did not respond.
Last year a 58-year-old postal worker was charged in Winnipeg for stealing parcels with a combined value of more than $40,000.
And in 2019, a Bear River, N.S., mailman was charged with stealing mail in the Digby area.
Get the insurance
Initially, Australia Post refunded Han $137 in Australian dollars (about $128 Cdn), per its standard coverage against loss or damage.
In an email, a spokesperson told Han that, in the future, she should buy insurance when mailing valuable items.
Han says she had already paid extra to have the watch wrapped in two packages and sealed, and opted for expedited shipping which was another added cost. She thought those options would make it safer.
She says she understands that insurance exists for a reason, but says it should be used to cover uncontrollable circumstances or accidents — not theft by what she also believes to have been a postal employee.
"If the package was stolen from our porch in Canada and I don't have insurance … then absolutely that would be on me," she said. "But the fact is, the package was opened at some point of being handled … Why should the onus be on the customer to pay all this extra money for insurance to prevent against that kind of scenario?"
Whitehurst, the consumer advocate, says people shipping valuable goods should consider getting insurance if they want to avoid situations like this.
Shipping services are "not likely to return or pay you for goods that you didn't insure when they have an insurance program," he said.
"While it's not right that people aren't better protected, they also have to be realistic and understand that their protections are limited."
Whitehurst also says shipping companies have to make that clear to their customers at the outset.
Qi says Canada Post should do more to protect consumers and stop internal "criminal activities."
"I feel like they they don't care," she said. "They just don't want to do anything."
Whitehurst says it's "a fairly serious" crime to tamper with the mail, and that Canada Post does "actively investigate" such cases.
"But that doesn't mean, you know, goods won't be lost," he said.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team
Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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