German shoemaker says Atheist-branded packages mistreated by USPS

A United States Postal Service employee sorts packages at the Lincoln Park Carriers Annex in Chicago on Nov.  29, 2012.
JOHN GRESS | REUTERS
A United States Postal Service employee sorts packages at the Lincoln Park Carriers Annex in Chicago on Nov. 29, 2012.
Posted March 27, 2013, at 3:10 p.m.
Last modified March 28, 2013, at 5:01 p.m.

A Berlin-based shoe company that brands their old-style footwear with a non-religious message recently alleged unnamed U.S. Postal Service employees engaged in “differential handling” of shipments made to the shoemaker’s U.S. customers.

Atheist Shoes, whose footwear bears the slogan “Ich bin [I am] Atheist,” said on their website that they had been puzzled by an unusual number shipping delays and lost packages coming from their American customers. When several customers reportedly requested not to use packing tape bearing the word Atheist, the company decided to try an experiment.

In November, the shoemaker simultaneously shipped two packages — one still using the Atheist-labeled packaging tape and one with ordinary tape — to 89 people across 49 states. The results, the company said, showed a clear bias against the Atheist-labeled packages: Nine Atheist packages were reported lost compared with one normal package, and the Atheist packages took, on average, 3 extra days to arrive at their destination.

The company said that similar experiments using the different packing tapes in their home country and throughout Europe yielded no significant difference in delivery time or in the rate of lost packages.

The company said they stopped using the Atheist packing tape on shipments to the U.S., and that delivery times were “already improving.”

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