MOREAU -- It was the most expensive envelope Susan Archambault ever mailed.
On the afternoon of Feb. 24, the South Glens Falls woman finished work at St. Joseph’s Church in Fort Edward and bundled together about 20 large envelopes to mail. She threw them in a Hudson Street drop box, along with $882 in cash.
Thanks to the diligence of the U.S. Post Office, however, Archambault got back every dollar.
“I’ve got to commend them on their honesty,” Archambault said.
Archambault had stopped earlier that day to withdraw her daughter’s income tax refund money from her account, leaving it in the bank envelope. At the church, she placed the envelope underneath other correspondence for safekeeping, thinking her daughter would be along to pick it up at some point. The day turned “crazy,” though, when a man fell at the church and an ambulance had to be called, according to Archambault.
In the chaos, her daughter never stopped by the church.
At quitting time, Archambault banded the envelopes together and dropped them in a mailbox in South Glens Falls and went home.
Her daughter called at about 7 p.m., saying she would stop the next day to pick up her money.
“Right then I said, ‘Oh my God, the money.’ I had totally forgotten about it,” Archambault said.
She retraced her steps to the church, but by then had realized the cash must have been dropped in the mailbox with the envelopes. She told a retired postal worker, who lived across the street, and he advised her to go the next morning to the Glens Falls post office and speak with the postmaster.
Archambault spoke with a supervisor, who said if a letter carrier found the money it would have been turned in. She was told the mail had already gone to Albany to be sorted, was given the phone number for the claims department and spoke with a supervisor.
Maureen Marion, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, confirmed that Archambault spoke with Glens Falls supervisor Ryan Morrell, who told her the mail had been sent to the Albany distribution center in Colonie for postmarking and sorting.
Marion said Morrell contacted the plant and gave Archambault the phone number for the consumer affairs office in Albany.
Clerk Catherine Williams in Albany took Archambault’s call and contacted two other consumer affairs employees whose job is to gather damaged or separated mail.
“Imagine one envelope in a processing facility that postmarks hundreds of thousands of envelopes each night and processes millions of pieces of mail, of all kinds, weekly,” Marion said by email. “A bank envelope is like a small sleeve. It typically has no obvious means of containing its contents, as does a sealed envelope, in the very physical handling and processing of your mail in equipment like the barcode sorting machine.”
But Williams discovered $862 of the lost money in a locked container used to collect valuables found loose in the mail. A workroom supervisor said loose bills had been rolling through the high-speed automated equipment.
“Dutiful clerks and mail handlers captured every loose bill that danced by them,” Marion said.
The remaining $20 was found in the mail sorter later in the week and put in a locked box.
Williams notified Archambault and arranged to have the $882 in cash sent to her by registered mail. It arrived at her house on March 1.
“Many hands made this magic, and we are very proud of every person who contributed to this outcome,” Marion said. “We work very hard to earn the trust and confidence of the communities we serve.
USPS was named ‘Most Trusted Government Agency’ for the seventh year in a row in an annual survey conducted by the Poneman Institute, Marion said.
Errors like Archambault’s are common, Marion said. Photos, deposit slips, shopping lists, pencils, hotel keys and wallets end up “with some regularity” in the drop boxes.
“For those of us who organize our lives in piles, sometimes something slides into the mailing envelope stack that should not be there,” she said.
Archambault said she is happy to have her daughter’s money back, especially because she works two jobs and it would be difficult to recoup almost $900 out of “stupidity.”
Until this incident Archambault said she had taken postal workers for granted, but now she sees them as hard-working, honest people.
“How many times do you see a post man get a snow day? They’re always delivering the mail, regardless,” Archambault said. “For somebody to retrieve the money, to me was kind of half a miracle.”