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Track It Down Postal Patron's Money Lost, Mailed, Found, Returned
You can't really classify it as a special delivery ... but one Escalon postal customer was certainly happy the local post office lived up to its motto - 'We Deliver For You' - when his inadvertent mailing of an envelope full of cold, hard cash found its way back to him.

The incident occurred when the man, who was dropping off a stack of mail into the collection box recently, also dropped in an envelope he meant to take to the bank. The envelope, which was not sealed, had no return address and just a simple name on the outside, and also contained $2,000 in cash.

Not only did it go into the mail, it was about 24 hours later when the man contacted the local post office about the incident. He at first thought the money was somewhere else but when he mentally retraced his steps the day before, he determined that he must have mistakenly 'mailed' his own money.

"It was about 24 hours after, he called us," said Escalon Postal Clerk Laura Tornquist, who took the phone call. "He was very calm, collected, I just started shaking, I was the one freaking out. My heart just dropped, it really did. But I told him I would make the phone calls, follow the procedure."

Tornquist said she couldn't believe the man was as calm as he was for sending off $2,000 without so much as an address on the unsealed envelope. It wasn't even supposed to go through the mail, it was supposed to go to the bank.

The man fully explained the predicament and offered a description of the envelope and the amount of money inside in hopes it might be located somewhere along the postal chain.

Tornquist said she gave the man what hope she could, even though she wasn't sure what would transpire.

"I told him 'if you hear from us, it's good news'," Tornquist explained.

She then went to Postmaster Ken Crandal and outlined the story. The mail from Escalon that was picked up the day the man dropped it in the box had already gone to Stockton. Local officials hoped it hadn't made it any further than that, feeling they still might have a chance to track it down if it was in the county.

Tornquist and Crandal said that there is what is termed a 'nixie' file where all the items that are questionable are deposited.

"If there are no stamps, no return address, things like that, they go to nixie," Tornquist explained.

It's basically a warehouse where the currently undeliverable pieces of mail are stored.

"Ken saw the (Stockton nixie) location and it was a huge warehouse," said Tornquist.

Escalon officials made a quick call to the Stockton nixie to get them on the search for the lost money, and, amazingly enough, after going through the local office, the drive to Stockton, the loading and unloading process and eventually landing in the nixie file, workers at the Stockton site found the envelope that Tornquist - with information provided by the patron - had described.

The best part, she said, was that all $2,000 was still inside.

"The system works," Postmaster Crandal said, smiling. "And Laura would just not let it go, she was like a bulldog."

Crandal admitted that he wasn't very optimistic, but agreed to make contact with the Stockton nixie site at the insistence of Tornquist, who said she couldn't imagine accidentally sending off that much money.

"We were just so excited," Tornquist said of the local postal crew when the call came in. "And thank goodness for whoever found it, they were honest enough to throw it to the nixie."

Crandal said items placed in the nixie file are reviewed to determine if they can be delivered, if they have to be sent back to the post office of origin or if they are just undeliverable. Many of the items are then sent to a huge 'dead' warehouse in another state. Luckily, the $2,000 never went that far.

"He was blessing us," Tornquist said of the customer who got his money back.

She said other customers have had success in tracking things like registered mail but this was her first experience with cash, floating around loose in an envelope, in her 25 years with the U.S. Postal Service. She has been in Escalon the last six years, but the day the money was found, she said, was definitely the best.

"It was when it was all foggy and gloomy outside," Tornquist said. "It brought us sunshine."

And it brought one lucky postal customer $2,000.