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10 Cases of Mistaken Mail Deliveries

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Everyone loves getting packages in the mail—assuming it’s what they ordered. But occasionally, delivery services make mistakes, and depending on what gets misdelivered, the results can run from mildly amusing to straight up catastrophic.

1. The package that got everyone buzzing

Just last month, a woman on the northeast side of Washington D.C accidentally received a crate of 1000 bees that were supposed to go to someone with the same address—but on the southeast side of town. Ray Noll, director of Animal Control Field Services for the Washington Humane Society, told Washington City Paper that the resident who received the bees—which were contained in a wood-and-wire box within a plastic bin—"was freaked out" (understandably). When Noll, who noted that Animal Control doesn't normally handle buzzing insects, tried to calm the woman, she said, "You're not the one with the bees on your porch!" The bees were eventually delivered to the right person.

2. A Wrong Address Leads to a Drug Bust

It’s not every day that a box of unordered narcotics ends up on your doorstep. But in 2014, due to an incorrectly labeled package, FedEx delivered a box of cocaine, heroin, and meth to the neighbor of the intended recipient in Houston, Texas, who then alerted the local police. Sheriffs were sent to the correct address and, upon raiding the house, found what KHOU referred to as "a hodgepodge of cocaine, heroin, LSD, steroids, assorted prescription drugs and a whole bunch of guns," including an AR-15 with a military-grade night scope. Three suspects were taken into custody after the incident.

3. Pot and Dentistry Don't Mix

In 2011, a Richard Lyons, a New York City dentist, received an unexpected box of marijuana from the UPS. Even though it wasn’t addressed to him, he opened it. “Then I see it—just a little piece of green—and I knew what it was; I immediately called the police,” Lyons told CBS New York. “It was stinking up the entire office. It was reeking so bad that the police officers had to use masks.” The NYPD investigated the identity of the addressee, but found no one with that name. “That’s not normal that it was delivered here,” Lyons said. “Forget that it’s not normal it was delivered here—it’s not normal that it can go through UPS ... I would like to get to the bottom of this to know just what the hell is going on.”

4. Banana Republic Slips Up

In 2013, a couple from Boston accidentally received a box of employment papers from Banana Republic instead of the tie and pocket square they ordered. The papers—meant for the company’s headquarters located nearby—contained employees’ Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other confidential information. Emily Dreyfuss, the recipient of the box, contacted the company on Twitter, and told ABC News that they were "really gracious about it and they seem mortified that it happened." Edie Kissko, a spokesperson for Gap Inc., which owns Banana Republic, said that the package "was accidentally mislabeled and information intended for headquarters was mailed to a customer instead ... Regrettably, human mistakes happen and this was one of them. We're taking immediate action to evaluate and strengthen our processes to prevent mis-mailings in the future and apologize for the error."

5. A Supermarket Gets the Wrong South American Product

Instead of getting in a shipment of bananas, a Danish supermarket received 100 kilograms of cocaine from a Colombian drug gang in 2013. According to an article in the Daily Mail, “The powder was discovered in Aarhus, western Denmark, when workers noticed that some of the boxes were heavier than others.” The shipment of cocaine had a street value of more than $15 million.

6. Cars don’t run on jet fuel

In 2012, customers of a Monmouth County, N.J. Delta gas station had their tanks filled with jet fuel instead of gasoline due to a mistaken delivery. Instead of zooming away, the cars stalled. The mistake was attributed to the storage facility in charge of delivering the gas. The gas station and all others that could have been affected were immediately shut down for cleaning. One woman blamed the gas station's name: "It was probably because it was called Delta and they thought it was Delta Airlines, right?"

7. The Home Depot Receives The Wrong Kind of Pump. 

Heart valves—while useful—aren’t the go-to tools for kitchen remodeling. Unfortunately, a Home Depot in New York City received a box full of them back in 2010. The heart valves were supposed to go to a hospital in Chicago, but somehow ended up on the Upper East Side. "I think it's crazy," employee Bryan Beltrez told ABC7. "They should look at their packages before they deliver them."

8. The Air Force Makes an Intercontinental Mistake

In 2006, the U.S. Air Force accidentally sent four intercontinental ballistic missile electrical fuses to Taiwan—which had actually ordered helicopter batteries. The Department of Defense revealed the incident in 2008 after then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered an investigation. Though the the fuses had already been recovered, China's foreign minister Qin Gang expressed "strong displeasure," saying, "We ... demand the U.S. side thoroughly investigate this matter, and report to China in a timely matter the details of the situation and eliminate the negative effects and disastrous consequences created by this incident." He also demanded that all weapon sales between the U.S. and Taiwan cease.

9. A Bar Owner Invents a New Dish Out of What She Gets

The Buffalo Chicken Wing has multiple origin stories, but one of them involves a mistaken delivery and a bit of cooking ingenuity. In 1964, Teressa Bellissimo, who along with her husband Frank co-founded the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., ordered chicken necks to use in her spaghetti sauce. When chicken wings arrived instead, she made do and invented the popular bar food. 

10. The Obamas Wish the wrong people Merry Christmas

Last year, when Alane Eklund Church received a long-delayed Christmas package from her brother-in-law, she found a surprise at the bottom of the box: a photo album from the Obamas. Church posted a picture on Facebook with the caption, "Ok this is crazy!!!! We finally received Tom's brothers Christmas box from NY.... It [came] damaged and with an extra gift!!! All the packages were opened and tossed in a toilet paper box!!!! We got the Presidents Gift!!!!!!!! What to do.......? Wow!!!!" The album, a yearly tradition from the Obamas, was meant for Eleanor “Mama Kaye” Wilson, their family friend and Sasha and Malia’s godmother. When the post office had to repackage her in-law’s damaged goods, they accidentally bundled the two gifts and sent them off together; Church tracked Wilson down and made sure that she received the album.

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Want to Recycle Your Christmas Tree? Feed It to an Elephant
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When the holiday season finally comes to a close, people get creative with the surplus of dead Christmas trees. One San Francisco-based artist transformed brittle shrubs into hanging installation pieces. Others use pine needles for mulch, or repurpose trees into bird sanctuaries. For the average person, sticking it into a wood chipper or "treecycling" it as part of a community program are all eco-friendly ways to say goodbye to this year's Douglas fir. None of these solutions, however, are as cute as the waste-cutting strategy employed by some zoos around the world: giving them to elephants.

Each year, zookeepers at Tierpark Berlin—a facility that bills itself as “Europe’s largest adventure animal park”—feed the elephants unsold pine trees. The plants are reportedly pesticide-free, and they serve as a good (albeit prickly) supplement to the pachyderms' usual winter diets.

A bit closer to home, the residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee rely on local residents to take part in their annual Christmas Tree Drive. In addition to being nutrient-rich, the tree's needles are said to help aid in an elephant's digestion. But beyond all that, it's pretty adorable to watch.

5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree

What’s the environmentally safest way to dispose of your Christmas tree? It’s hard to say. Grown, managed, transported, and recycled efficiently, a real Christmas tree’s environmental impact should be near neutral. Unfortunately, not all Christmas tree plantations are equal in their environmental impact.

The most eco-friendly way is to leave the tree in the ground, where it belongs, so you never have to dispose of it. But then you don't have a Christmas tree in your house to bring festive cheer. One thing you can do is be environmentally smart when it comes to the tree's disposal. After this festive season, why not try one of these eco-friendly methods.


If you’re lucky enough to have access to a big wood-chipper, you may be able to chip the entire tree. Wood-chip is great as a decorative landscaping material. But if you really want to do great things for the environment (and if you have access to a lot of Christmas trees), you could make a bioreactor to denitrify water. Nitrates are put on farms across the world to help increase crop output, but a considerable amount is washed away into lakes and rivers where it’s disastrous for fish and potentially toxic for people. A wood chip bioreactor encourages the growth of bacteria that break down the nitrates in the drainage water, reducing the amount that gets into the water supply. It's not a simple project, however. To make one, you have to dig a big trench, get the water to flow through said trench, and fill it with wood chips. More info can be found here [PDF].



If your tree hasn’t yet let go of its needles—and you haven’t yet let go of Christmas, get crafty with it. Cut off small branches and bind them around a circle of wire to make an attractive wreath. This looks even better if some of the cones are still attached. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could set up an essential oil extractor to get a supercharged Christmas scent. If you are already distilling alcohol, you have everything you need (here's how to do it). With a little less effort and equipment, you can make a weaker liquid called hydrosol, which is a fragrant condensate water containing water-soluble parts of the needles.


Many legumes, such as garden peas, are thigmotropic, meaning that they respond to objects they touch, growing in coils along or up them. Needle-free Christmas tree branches have lots of twigs, texture, and knobby protrusions for peas and beans to get a grip on. This allows them to grow upwards strongly toward light. Simply stick a small tree branch in the soil next to each new shoot for a free, effective legume-climbing frame. Another advantage of this technique is that it makes grazing animals less likely to munch those tender green shoots, as they tend to avoid getting Christmas tree twigs spiked up their noses.


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Come January, it’s cold, the festivities are over, work looms, and you’ve got too much on your mind to be thinking about dead Christmas tree horticulture or crafts. Fortunately, a simple solution is at hand: Most counties and municipalities now provide Christmas tree recycling points where you can take your tree for chipping. Some “TreeCycle” points will even exchange your tree for a bag of wood-chip or chip mulch. OK, this probably means that you’ll have to jam that Christmas tree into your car once more, but as long as you don’t have to drive too many miles out of your way, Christmas tree recycling is a quick and easy environmentally-friendly option.


After you’ve had your Christmas cheer, why shouldn’t fish have some fun? Several communities have programs in place where they’ll take your old Christmas tree, drill a hole in the base, tie a brick to it, and throw it in a lake. When humans create artificial lakes, they tend to be relatively featureless on the bottom for easy dredging. That’s great for us, but it means baby fish have nowhere to escape predators. Christmas trees provide a nice, temporary place for the fish to hide out and explore.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to see your Christmas tree mauled by a pride of lions, that’s OK too! Some zoos around the world take Christmas tree donations (but please remove all the tinsel first) and allow the animals to play with them.


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