Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Government workers are so very helpful

Posted by Trixter on October 25, 2006


In all my days of computing, the software that has impressed me the most has been software that pushes a machine seemingly beyond its limits, making it do things that it was never meant to do. One such piece of software was ICON: The Quest For The Ring. It tweaked CGA to within an inch of its life, displaying 16-color graphics on a video card only meant for four ugly colors in graphics mode.

I’m a software collector. I collect vintage retail packages of software as a hobby. (I’m comfortable enough with my nerditude to admit this, so go ahead and mock me — I don’t mind.) So imagine the nerdly dance of joy I did when I found that ICON was up for auction, bid on it, and won! The package I’d been searching for for over two decades, the game that had inspired me to learn assembler and graphics tweaking, the game that shaped my hobbyist world, would finally be mine!

That’s where the governmental workers come into the story. It seems that they were in need of a football to relieve the overwhelming tension and stress of delivering packages, so what I actually received was this:

If you’re not familiar with the hobby of software collecting, I can sum it up in five words: The Value Is The Box. 90% of a software collectable’s value is in how good a condition the box is, then the printed materials inside it, then the diskette labels, then finally the actual software code itself. (Why? Because most software has been pirated already… and most people throw away the box and lose the manuals.)

My twenty-year dream quite literally crushed, I decided to visit my local US Postal Services office to file the claim for the $50 I had paid for it. And this is where we again meet our lovable and cute governmental workers, for here is what I learned today about insuring packages:

  1. You have to provide proof of the item’s value. So if the USPS determines that your item is worth less than what you insured it for, and you cannot provide any “documented proof” (the validity of which is at the government worker’s discretion, of course) that it is worth more, you get what they are willing to give you, not what it is actually worth. This is how they justify giving you less money than the value you wrote down on the form when requesting insurance.
  2. You cannot insure something for more than what you paid for it. See #1 for rationale. So if you completely luck out and find an Akalabeth with a Buy It Now of $4, the most you can insure it for is $4 even though its value is anywhere from 10 to 150 times that value.
  3. If your item is only slightly damaged, and you want to keep it, you can’t. You must completely give over every single thing you are filing a claim for, never to be seen again. This means that there is no protection against *partial* damage — if it’s partially damaged, bend over, since you can’t get partial money for it.

See, all this time I was under the silly impression that, if you insured something for a certain dollar value, that was the value they were going to give you when you showed them it was damaged. Or that maybe, just maybe, you were insuring it against partial damage — like depreciation or something. How wrong I was: Insurance is only protection against complete and total destruction of property and/or complete and total loss of delivery. If it *arrives*, and is only *somewhat* damaged, you’re shit out of luck! How glad I am to be educated! (although I could have done without the “bending over the table” portion of my education)

So what did I do? I made the obvious determination that something I had been searching two decades to locate — in *any* condition — was worth more than the $15 or so they were going to give me for it. So I tore up the claim form, took back the item, and left. Since then, I have been researching cardbox box reconstruction techniques, for I am not only a nerd, but a stubborn nerd.

About the only satisfaction I got from today’s visit was the audible popping noise the government worker’s synapses made snapping apart into individual neurons as I tried to explain that, yes Daisy Mae, the value really was the BOX itself and not the contents inside it. The complete and total lack of understanding confused her to such a degree that she was unable to blink her eyes in unison for at least 10 minutes after I stopped talking. I could have done without the drool, though.

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5 Responses to “Government workers are so very helpful”

  1. Fredrik said

    I understand your agony, or at least to some degree. But if it is any consolation, your writing about it cracks me up.

    So you might not have gotten your $50 back, but you made me smile!

  2. Trixter said

    Since that was the intended effect, I’m glad :)

  3. Goddamn assholes. I would probably put my foot up someone’s arse if this happened here (not that it wouldn’t, mind – the Israeli post office is every bit as careful as its US counterpart, except that the average PO employee here is even more stupid and/or corrupt).

    As a fellow game collector, I share your pain.

  4. Jean Chastain said

    I came across your posts and since I am feeling “postal” toward my local post office I could not resist posting a comment. I collect and sell antique and vintage glassware. The post office has managed to break 3 of the last 4 items I have purchased at far below market vallue and has refused to pay me the worth of the items although their site repeatedly uses the term “actual value.” Actual value to USPS means “purchase receipt.” I made the mistake of contacting the USPS HELP on line and submitted my frustrations and they referred me to their ambiguous website which I am sure I have read more times than their employees. When I asked again with more detail, I was told they would not respond to any further emails from me (to f—o–) and call the 1-800-WHO CARES number and got the same run around. ARRGGGGGGGGGGG!

  5. Bugger! Happened to me as well more than once. Sometimes it’s the PO’s fault and sometimes the sender just doesn’t package the item well enough :(

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