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Ordering things online or through the mail always has an element of uncertainty to it. If you walk into a store to buy a new computer, you can be fairly certain that the package you walk out with is actually a new computer. But when ordering online, there’s always a chance that it’s a scam or that the post office will simply never get it to you. We’re not trying to disparage our beleaguered postal workers, but it’s inevitable that something will fall through the cracks in any large organization.

But have you ever wondered what happens when your mail doesn’t get to you? Where the heck does it all go? Well, if you’re really unlucky, it might end up being sold in the street.

Recent photos posted to the Chinese social networking site Weibo show a scene of a group of people apparently buying undeliverable international postal packages on the street.

According to Epoch Times, most of the intended recipients were in the US, Russia, and Ukraine, and the packages had been sent from Beijing. Apparently the packages, which had been returned as undeliverable, were sold for 10 yuan (about US$1.59) each in Bazhou, Hebei Prefecture.

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It seems that many of the packages were originally shipped around November and December last year, meaning that they were likely intended as Christmas presents. Well, in the spirit of giving, at least we can take comfort in knowing they brought someone happiness, right?

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China Post is apparently looking into the photos to confirm the events depicted. As the sale of undeliverable packages and mail is illegal in China, they will be launching a full investigation. According to Chinese law, undelivered packages that cannot be returned to their owners are supposed to be stored for six months.

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For comparison, Canada Post will sell or dispose of items that cannot be returned and “the proceeds [are] deposited [in]to the credit of Canada Post.” Royal Mail, on the other hand, will hold packages for up to four months and then dispose of them. The US Postal Service has a slightly more complicated process, but if it’s not worth at least $25, your “dead letters” are going in the trash. They will try to return things of monetary or sentimental value by looking for the intended recipients, but if they can’t be found, it goes to the US government.

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While we definitely don’t condone just selling off mail willy-nilly, we kind of suspect this isn’t quite as scandalous as it first may seem. It’s likely this mail was going to be destroyed/sold off anyway, if the original senders weren’t found. On the other hand, it obviously hasn’t been six months yet, and there are a whole host of potential identity theft problems here, so it’s still pretty scandalous.

However, this isn’t quite as unsettling as the mail carrier who was simply stealing cash and gift cards in Westfield, Massachusetts. We’re starting to understand why our dogs are so anxious about the mail carrier…

Sources: Epoch Times via Toychan
Images: Epoch Times