Updated, 5:58 p.m. | Senders of holiday goodies, beware: at one Manhattan post office, four-legged, scaly-tailed postal inspectors may intercept your package and render it unfit for delivery, or worse.
Exhibit A of this phenomenon arrived Monday morning at The New York Times headquarters from the Midtown Post Office on West 38th Street: a small cardboard box from the Vermont Brownie Company, addressed to a photo editor here.
There were two large holes nibbled out of the box, both looking like something out of a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon.
Inside the box, there was no brownie. Though there was a card noting: “Our brownies are individually wrapped so they stay fresh.”
Exhibits B and C, addressed to other Times employees, arrived in the same day’s mail. A heavier-duty cardboard box inside a mailer containing a sampler of single-origin chocolates from Madagascar (citrus), Ghana (nutty) and Peru (fruity) was covered with bite marks, but the contents appeared intact. In the other package, a tin of redolent homemade fudge was also unviolated, though the box it came in had one whole side chewed away.
A trip to the post office, which serves the 10018 ZIP code in the garment district and Times Square, confirmed the existence of a rodent issue.
“They do have a problem with rats here,” a worker said. “I’ve seen one, downstairs on the work floor. It was big.”
She wrote some information on a sheet: “Three packages damaged due to rat activity.”
Maureen Marion, a postal spokeswoman for the Northeast, agreed that the post office is a veritable smorgasbord this time of year.
“The little animals can smell the chocolate and goodies,” she said. “At Midtown they’ve been very good at putting things in cabinets to keep them away from nibbles, but this time of year they just have more packages than they do have space to accommodate them.” (Similar problems have been documented at the 10003 post office in the East Village.)
Ms. Marion said that on Monday, the post office changed its contract for exterminating service to a visit once a week from every two weeks.
For customers whose shipments are consumed by rats, though, there is no recourse unless the package was insured, Ms. Marion said.
Downstairs at a package window at the Midtown Post Office, Agatha Bochenek, 26, clutched a Priority Mail envelope that she was about to mail.
It contained homemade chocolate truffles, she said, wrapped only in plastic wrap and tissue paper.
We showed her our tattered candy boxes and explained what had happened to them. She blanched.
“I’m not sure if I should drop this off here,” she said. “Maybe I’ll go to another post office.”