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Call Kurtis Investigates: Package Stuck In USPS Limbo Travels Over 6,000 Miles

GREENVILLE (CBS13) — A package that was mailed by a local woman should have taken just a few days to reach its destination, but instead took over 40 days to arrive and racked up thousands of miles in the process.

Dennis Hayes says his wife sent a garden flag as a gift to a friend in Colorado from their post office in the Plumas County town of Crescent Mills, but after a month, the parcel was still en route.

"It's just's just going and going and going," said Hayes.

The couple tracked the package online as it went from the Crescent Mills Post Office to Sacramento, then to Denver, then San Francisco, on to Los Angeles, and then back to Denver.

But it didn't stop there.  The package kept traveling. It went from Denver back to San Francisco, then back down to Los Angeles, back to Denver, then to Los Angeles -- still not reaching its destination in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

"This package is just racking up the frequent-flyer miles," said Hayes.

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Plotting locations and adding up the distance, the package traveled a whopping 6,618 miles.

"The earth is 25,000 miles around, so that's about one-quarter of the distance around the earth," said Hayes.

It turns out the package was caught in the postal service's automated system. The travel route happened because the destination address, which was written with a marker on a shiny envelope, was smeared, according to mail officials. This made it impossible for the post office's machines to read.

USPS spokesperson Meiko Patton says the postal service provides several different size boxes and envelopes, for free, that their machines are sure to handle better.

"We encourage people only to use our packages," she said.

Patton also recommends that people always print clearly, in capital letters, and use black or blue ink. If you're using a sticker label, make sure it's on straight because the machines could have difficulty reading crooked labels.

After CBS13 got involved in the 40-day journey of Hayes' package, it finally arrived in Colorado.

"I'm in awe of what they do, so I'm not mad at them or anything," he said. "But I'd probably send a package next time by UPS or FedEx."

Patton says that packages going in circles are typically flagged, and then pulled by a person who manually inputs the address into the system. Patton could not tell us why this didn't happen in Hayes' case. She also could not tell us how many packages get stuck in the system each year.

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