You walk into the sterile smelling building, packaging tape and complicated forms stacked high all around. You assemble a priority mail box, stuff it full of foam peanuts, include your zip-lock bag of exposed rolls, and seal it with a prayer. You confidently approach the counter where a postal worker recites the phrase "anything fragile, liquid, perishable, potentially hazardous?" in such a blur you wonder to yourself if they say it even in their sleep. You request tracking, say another prayer that postage doesn't cost you a fortune, and hope hope hope everything arrives safely. You decline any stamps indicating 'fragile' because you've heard horror stories about those, and you're smarter than that. Then, she does it. She picks up your delicately packaged box, turns 180 degrees and straight up chucks it into the white bin behind her. Your precious box of film soon to be buried under hundreds of other boxes headed to their final destination...some regretfully ending just like the movie. Living in the middle of the pacific ocean, one would swear donkeys are assigned to swim mail over. And often times by the way packages arrive, you'd think they were also instructed to do a little jig on top of them, too. I've had family members tell me boxes were delivered completely flat, and had a Post Office worker compliment my sister on the coconut she was mailing home then wish her "good luck with that"... I even, sadly, read about a photographer who dropped a few rolls of film into a regular padded envelope to mail to her developer just an hour away and when the envelope arrived it was ripped open and it's contents gone. It's no surprise that with mailing things there's no guarantee. However to lots of photographer's worries, the process of mailing film to labs also isn't something that makes shooting film riskier as opposed to digital, because wether lost in the mail or a corrupt memory card, precious moments can unfortunately be mishandled either way. Thankfully when mailing film there is a safe and more secure way to make sure your rolls get to their destination without being lost, tampered with, or straight up smooshed. USPS Registered Mail.
[iPhone photo taken quickly at the Post Office to the dismay of the worker who was trying to go home. HEY, SIR! I gotta BLOG POST TO DO! ;) ]
Clued in to this nugget by a film shooter who used to work for USPS, Registered mail provides maximum security for your packages, giving you a 99% guarantee it will arrive safely. What about the other 1%? I assume that's in the unfortunate even that your package ends up like Wilson, and that's something only God can really control. The difference in sending registered mail vs. priority is the special handling packages are given. Registered mail is delivered with the utmost of care from drop off to arrival, starting with the way it's packaged. Every opening MUST be sealed with paper tape (the kind that you have to get wet in order for it to stick. You can ask the post office for this tape or purchase it online here). Then each side of the paper tape is stamped with the post office seal to make sure it's not tampered with. After that, the box is on it's way where it is kept under lock and key separate from standard mail and personnel have to sign off on paperwork when handing it. When reaches it's destination it is again received with a signature, and according to the lady at the post office is "very, very safe".
Registered mail packages can be insured up to $25,000 (for an extra charge), however considering the invaluable price of memories captured with film the rolls can only be insured for their physical value. It is my understanding they can be not insured for the price of your services or the value of the actual images. Wamp wamp. It comes with tracking and in my experience doesn't take any longer than mailing priority. Opposed to the $7 - $10 it costs to mail priority, sending registered is more expensive (averaging around $25 from Hawaii to California), however I will GLADLY pay $25 for extra measures and peace of mind. Gladly. You won't see your local postal worker tossing THIS one in with the rest of them, they cradle it like the wittle baby it is.