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UHR Answers Still Not Forthcoming
by Susan Headley

The U.S. Mint's Public Affairs office is still refusing to provide an explanation for the multiple shipping dates that Ultra-High Relief (UHR) coin buyers received. They also refuse to give us an update about the order tracking system and why it had been offline for more than two weeks now. I previously reported that they took this system down due to security concerns on the U.S. Mint's Web site, but we still don't know how long the system might be offline. There are so many outstanding issues right now that I don't recall ever having a period like this from the Mint's press office in the past. They have sometimes taken awhile to address things, but this long list of questions going unanswered for so long is extremely odd, even for them.

Michael Zielinksi posted a list of some of his concerns on his Mint News Blog site. My list is a little different than his, but check his out because he explains the background on some of the issues I haven't covered. He isn't having any better luck getting answers from the Mint, and last I heard, Coin World is also struggling to get responses. I have escalated my concerns to the Director's Office, but I don't really expect any quick responses there, either.

Here is the list of questions I have been submitting this past few weeks, beginning in the last week of January when the first batch of changed shipping date emails began being a major topic of online UHR discussions:

Why did UHR buyers receive multiple and changing shipping dates for the UHR?
What was wrong with the UHR companion books?
Why is the Mint violating its own promise to ship the UHRs in the order in which people bought them?
How come only certain UHR customers got the book update email that was sent to 45,000 UHR buyers?
Why hasn't the Mint restored the orders for the customers whose orders were canceled in the security breach?
Why isn't the Mint providing extra phone support during this time of higher call volume due to the order tracking feature being offline?
Why did the Mint change fulfillment contractors again this year?
I have also been waiting for answers to questions related to the new penny, including whether there will be a Special Ordering Period for the other three cent designs this years, (and why wasn't there one of the first cent?!) I have been asking about when the Mint will begin selling the new pennies on their Web site for three weeks now, but they didn't bother to notify me when the pennies were announced! I discovered them myself on the Upcoming Products Listing when I checked the site for information tonight.

Many long-time U.S. Mint observers say that they've never seen the Mint this bad before, between the ordering fiascoes, lack of communication from the press office, and overall terrible customer service right now. People can't even check their orders, because the online order checking system has been down for weeks and when they call the Mint's 800 number, they can't even get an operator due to high call volume most of the time! Customers have to call back over and over again hoping to get lucky.

I think it's safe to say that things at the Mint are a real mess right now, but the Mint is making it very much worse for themselves and their customers with this total lack of communication this past five weeks. For example, if they had just told collectors at the very beginning that there was a problem with the UHR companion books, most collectors probably would have said, "oh, that's too bad, but thanks for letting us know" rather than congregating in online discussion threads and forums, comparing notes and engaging in negative conversations about the Mint! This speculation and negative critical mass all began with the multiple shipping date emails. Why didn't the Mint make a statement right then and there, explaining the reason and thereby defusing this whole mess? Hopefully they will learn from this utter clusterfark and improve relations with the collector community in the future.

One thing I can say, though, about all this: When I first took this job in 2006, I told everyone who would listen that I was going to work hard to improve communications and relations between the coin collecting hobby and the U.S. Mint. This was going to be my Mission, I was going to Save the Numismatic World from the Unresponsive Mint. Everyone sort of laughed at me and said things like, "good luck. [Coin World Editor] Beth Deisher's been trying to do that for twenty years now and she hasn't succeeded yet, either."

But I had hope. I am persistent and very resourceful. I don't give up easily. I was certain I could make a difference and finally convince the Mint that treating its hardest core fans with respect was in its best interest. I thought I could win this battle once and for all.

Until now...


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