The FedEx Help Twitter account just wants to help. It’s in the name, after all. But the official customer service page of U.S. FedEx apparently isn’t equipped to manage every situation that arises. The shortcomings of the account became apparent when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted out an article late Thursday night.
“Man’s body still missing 3 years after Georgia medical examiner shipped it via FedEx,” read both the local news outlet’s story headline and accompanying tweet. That mention of FedEx seemed to have triggered some sort of auto-response from the company’s customer service account, which then posted: “I am truly sorry you went through this experience. Please send a direct message so I can continue assisting you. – Gaby.”
Obviously, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is not who FedEx needs to be apologizing or reaching out to. A better option might be the family suffering through the prolonged loss and uncertainty of their loved ones’ missing remains.
The FedEx Help account is almost certainly a bot, based on its observed behaviour, though FedEx hasn’t confirmed that to Gizmodo. Following the initial post, the account’s responses got even odder as others on Twitter took notice and made jokes. FedEx Help continued to reply, each time listing a different name and tweeting out a robotic-sounding form response inappropriate for the context of the interaction.
Elon Musk hubbub aside, bots are allowed to be on Twitter, under certain conditions. For example, they are meant to be clearly labelled, and to not spam. It’s unclear if the FedEx Help bot is in direct violation of any of these platform policies. As of writing, Twitter has not responded to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
What Did FedEx Do Wrong?
FedEx’s auto tweets are a little offensive given the circumstances, and the courier losing a package containing a person’s body is an undeniable, horrific tragedy. But in FedEx’s defence, human remains were absolutely never meant to be transported via their services to begin with.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constituion:
The bizarre episode also may have violated the law. Human bodies are traditionally transported across state lines by airline. FedEx said using its services to send human remains is prohibited, a fact that’s stated in its user manual. The U.S. Postal Service is the only mailing service legally qualified to carry human remains across the country and then only under strict guidelines.
According to the news outlet, the responsibility of the lost body seemed to fall mostly on the Fulton medical examiner, which is Georgia’s largest medical examiner’s office.
Whose Remains Are They?
The missing remains belong to Jeffrey Merriweather, who was initially found dead on June 22, 2019. Court documents claim he was killed during a shoot-out, but the state of his remains didn’t exactly line up with the described cause and timing of death. Merely 10 days after he was first reported missing, his body was essentially just a skeleton, weighing only about 15 kg, according to the Journal-Constitution.
Because of the mysterious condition of the body and circumstances of death, Jeffrey Merriweather’s remains were sent, via FedEx, by the local medical examiner to an expert in St. Louis for additional assessment on July 5, 2019. The package containing the body never arrived, and became un-trackable in the courier’s system shortly after it arrived at FedEx’s Austell facility.
The Journal-Constitution reported that the family have received no further information from FedEx or the Fulton medical examiner’s office in the three years’ since. “It’s a nightmare you can’t wake up from,” the deceased’s mother, Kathleen Merriweather, told the outlet.
She further said that, though she wants to know how her son died, what she wants more than anything else is to be able to “lay him to rest.”
“He’s in pieces,” she said to the Journal-Constitution. “Just like my family.”