I've never had problems with putting my mail on hold. I go on business trips about twice a year, usually for about a week at a time, so I go to the USPS website, put a Hold Mail order in with the desired dates as soon as they're finalized, and when I get back, my collected mail arrives the next day. As far as I've ever been able to tell, I've never lost anything I cared about. My bills always got through, magazines and packages reached me just fine, etc.
This December, however, was a different story. I was going to visit my family from Christmas to New Year's, so I put my mail on hold and left. A package that I'd ordered a week or so earlier hadn't arrived yet, so I figured that would be held along with some magazines and whatever junk mail the advertisers wanted me to throw away. When I got back, there were only four pieces of mail in my mailbox... one magazine and a pay stub with hold box numbers and a rubber band, and two other letters that looked like regular delivery. Okay... so the magazine I was expecting in mid-December and the package were just late, right? My dad told me that my Christmas card had been returned (and he lives in England, so postage isn't cheap), but he confirmed that he had the wrong address on the envelope, so I didn't expect that the rest of my mail had shared the same fate.
Spin on about two more weeks, and my concern was growing. I called the post office, and the dispatcher wasn't particularly helpful, but I didn't expect he could do much. That's uninsured mail for you... you might as well be putting a stamp on your letter and throwing it in the garbage for all that anyone wants to see it get to where you sent it. I called the company that had shipped the package, and they expressed some concern, but said that the hold mail order at the holiday season might have added even more delay, and asked me to call back on Tuesday if it hadn't shown up. That's yesterday, and it was no surprise that it didn't show up. So I called to have a replacement shipment set up, then called the magazine I hadn't received to let them know as well... and they'd canceled (or suspended) my subscription when the magazine was returned to them. AH-HA! They confirmed that the address was correct and reinstated my subscription, arranging to have the issues I'd missed sent to me. So that all got sorted out, and unless someone tried to mail me something important and didn't tell me to expect it, I haven't really lost much yet.
So what's the bad news? One of the things that was in that package was a limited edition item, and the company doesn't have any more of them in stock. They're backordered, and my experience with this company is that backorders are usually filled at about the same time the President does something that's universally applauded, or to be a bit less political with my humor, the same time Lamb Chop's famous song reaches its final chorus. (I don't really have any complaints there, since the company is happy to cancel those items if I decide to find them elsewhere... but they've already charged me for this one, and I'd have to leave town to find another one in a shop.) I may call them later in the week to find out whether the package made it back, and to let them know to expect it if it hasn't, but I figure chances are good by this point that someone found a package marked RETURN TO SENDER and figured they'd make a profit of the contents. We've seen stories like that recently.
I wonder... has USPS set up a hotline for valuable missing items yet? With all the theft going on, and (hopefully) a drive to clean up the organization, I think they might benefit from collecting the precise data from the missing packages and figuring out which distribution centers are losing them so they can root out the traitors to our country. (Federal employees abusing their power to betray the trust of the American people... you bet I've got a problem with that!) Or, if it really is just a screw-up and the package is sitting somewhere, lost in the shuffle on its way back, they could find it and get it moving again. Their reputation sure doesn't need to be any worse. By the time the increased rates are factored in, the problems with finding 2 cent stamps lately, and the extra premium service purchases needed to keep them honest, it's just about as cheap to go with UPS, FedEx, DHL, or any of the other services so often complained about here. USPS used to be the most reliable... what happened?