FedEx Twitter bot apologizes for ‘pending delivery’ of remains of Georgia man missing since 2019


When Jeffrey Merriweather’s body was discovered weeks after an alleged shooting in 2019, the Georgia man’s family hoped coroners could give them clarification on the cause of the 32-year-old’s death. More than three years later, however, Merriweather’s remains are still nowhere to be found after the Fulton County Bureau of Medical Examinations decided to FedEx them to a specialized laboratory in St. Louis.

So at the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweeted FedEx was quick to respond to its Thursday night investigation into the case. But instead of getting answers, the newspaper and those following the case got an impersonal response from a Twitter bot, an automated account that posted a lot of content.

“Hello. My name is Gaby,” FedEx Help, the company’s customer service account, responded in a now-deleted tweet. “This is not the experience we aim to provide. I am very sorry about the pending delivery. Please send a direct message , I’m happy to help.”

While the general response from customer service on Friday was met with derision and laughter – “Good god @FedEx– Very serious questions remain as to why the coroner FedExed the remains of Merriweather. Shipping leftovers via FedEx is prohibited according to the company’s instruction manual. Transportation of the deceased across state lines is usually done by airline, but the US Postal Service says it is legally qualified to move human remains across the country under strict guidelines.

“It’s a nightmare you can’t wake up from,” Kathleen Merriweather, Jeffrey’s mother, told the Journal-Constitution of the situation.

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A FedEx spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday. Though the company has long noted that almost all FedEx packages arrive on time, a spokesman told People magazine in April that customers should never use the service to ship human remains.

“Our thoughts and concerns remain with Mr. Merriweather’s family, however we request that further questions be directed to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office,” the statement said. “Shipments of this type are prohibited within the FedEx network.”

It’s unclear why the coroner used FedEx to ship Merriweather’s remains. A spokesman for the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On June 22, 2019, the partially decomposed body of Jeffrey Merriweather was discovered behind a home in southwest Atlanta, according to authorities. Police believe Merriweather was killed in a shootout related to a drug deal gone awry, but the circumstances under which his body decomposed were a mystery, according to WSB-TV.

“Because he was partially skeletal, we couldn’t determine a cause of death,” Jan Gorniack, then chief medical examiner for Fulton County, told the TV station at the time.

When it came time for the coroner’s office to ship Merriweather’s remains to an expert in St. Louis for trauma analysis, the 32-year-old’s remains were shipped in a FedEx on July 5, 2019 for $32.61 -Box mailed expected to arrive in two days, the Journal-Constitution reported.

Then, somewhere along the 555-mile route from Atlanta to St. Louis, the man’s remains were lost. Merriweather’s family was only notified of the disappearance of his remains on August 19, 2019, nearly six weeks after the remains were scheduled to arrive, according to WAGA.

“I don’t know how that could have happened when you had to sign stuff,” Merriweather’s father, Jeffrey Merriweather Sr., told WSB-TV. “They have tracking numbers.”

Gorniack told the station that the remains were last tracked to a FedEx facility in Austell, Georgia, but the remains have not been found since.

The facility in Austell, just about 17 miles west of Atlanta, has been criticized by local residents over the past few years for high levels of packet loss. More than 4,200 people signed a petition on in 2020 asking FedEx’s Austell office, “Where are the packages?” TrustDALE, a consumer website, went a step further last April and described the Austell site, which has a 1.4 rating on Google, as “a black hole.”

“We know that FedEx’s Austell facility has a reputation for being a black hole when it comes to packages,” the website wrote. “We’ve had a lot of complaints over the past year from people whose packages got to Austell but never came out.”

Observers on Twitter acknowledged the seriousness of the case, but also took the time to mock FedEx customer service for the shoddy response.

“This whole thread is a feat in the utter uselessness of using AI instead of hiring humans to deal with customers,” said one critic wrote. Jennifer Brett, senior editor at Journal-Constitution, I Agree: “AI is not always the answer.”

Another observer answered, “Oh FedEx, no. Not like that.”

The Merriweather family have repeatedly held the coroner and FedEx accountable in the years since their son’s remains went missing. Kathleen Merriweather told the Journal-Constitution that more than three years later, the family, including his three children, had no chance of moving on because they were unable to bury her son’s remains.

“Now we can’t even have that closure,” she said. FedEx Twitter bot apologizes for ‘pending delivery’ of remains of Georgia man missing since 2019

Chris Estrada

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