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SOUR NOTE ON DELIVERY OF GUITAR

Q: I run a music store in Buffalo and am experiencing a frustrating problem with the U.S. Postal Service.

In early August, I sent a guitar to a customer in the Netherlands. It was sent via airmail and insured for $380.60. It arrived at its destination, but was badly damaged. I followed the procedure outlined by the Post Office to file a claim for reimbursement.

The Post Office's delivery partner, General Logistics Systems in the Netherlands, will not investigate an insurance claim on damaged merchandise until the U.S. Post Office sends a request for the investigation. The U.S. Postal Service will not send a request for an investigation until General Logistics verifies the damage.

My customer attempted to report the damage as soon as he opened the box, but General Logistics will not verify the damage until the U.S. Postal Service requests an investigation. You get the picture.

Meanwhile, I'm stuck with an unhappy party with a badly-damaged guitar, and no way of collecting on the insurance for which I have paid.

I've contacted the Post Office via its web page, and 800 phone service. I've written to their consumer advocate office, their international claims department, and even the postmaster general.

So far, none of these correspondences has elicited any response. The customer is having the guitar repaired at his expense in the Netherlands. - Scott Freilich, Williamsville.

A:You definitely seem tangled in quite a bureaucratic web.

So far, the most promising yield of our research may come from intervention by Sen. Hillary Rodham, D-N.Y. Her New York City office is pushing for a resolution with postal authorities in Washington, D.C.

"I am concerned that this is indeed a frustrating and costly situation for Mr. Freilich, and I will work with the U.S. Postal Service to do everything I can to reach a favorable outcome for him," Clinton said.

Clinton sent a letter on Nov. 5 to the Postal Service's Washington office describing your plight and asking for it to be reviewed. "We're going to follow up with them, but right now, we need to give them some time," said Nina Blackwell, a Clinton spokesperson.

In the meantime, file a formal appeal with the service's International Claims and Inquiry Office in New York City.

After we contacted local postal authorities about your problem, the ICIO investigated the matter and on Oct. 28 denied your insurance claim. The ICIO determined that your case wasn't eligible for indemnity because the Netherlands customer didn't make a complaint at the time the guitar was delivered. The ICIO said the foreign postal administration refused to authorize the claim because your customer accepted delivery without reservation concerning the condition of the contents.

"We therefore recommend that (Freilich) immediately file a written appeal to the ICIO in New York City, where it will be documented and then forwarded to postal headquarters in Washington, D.C. for further consideration," said Victor Laudisio, U.S. Postal Service customer relations coordinator in Buffalo.

We also contacted GLS's press office in Hamburg, Germany. GLS chalked up the problem to insufficient packaging,said Karin Nowack of GLS' press office. "From the outside, the package was OK. The problem was inside. So, no transport insurance will cover this. GLS always tries to help the customer, but unfortunately, we couldn't help this one."