Matt Brown and his wife were waiting for an order from Amazon, but what they got when the opened up a white package from China in May smelled so badly and was so concerning, he called the cops and a HazMat team was sent in.
Two months after it happened at his South Jersey home, Brown retold the story to NJ Advance Media this week after reading a story on NJ.com about the state Department of Agriculture advising against opening packages containing seeds from China. He now thinks what he got might have been the mystery seeds that were just badly decomposed.
“My wife went out to get the mail, and she came in and said I needed to go look at the package we got,” Brown, of Mullica Hill, told NJ Advance Media. “It stinks. It smells horrible.”
The package had a United States Postal Service logo on it and inside was another bag with “China Post” on the label, stating it contained jewelry and was sent from the Longgang District of Shenzhen Guangdong, China.
Although the family was waiting for a package —elephant ear plant bulbs from Amazon — the tracking status showed it had not yet shipped and were still showing as “delayed.”
Brown, who was working from home, went out with a surgical mask, and examined the package. When Brown opened up the package, an unusual brown sludge-like substance was inside of a pouch — and it smelled awful.
“It was the weirdest thing I have ever smelled,” Brown added. “I used to work at a grocery store, and that dumpster in the middle of the summer — milk and everything else did not compare to this smell. It was just horrible.”
The couple then called the number on the outside of the package, following the prompts, which eventually led to the call being transferred to Brown’s cell phone. The couple tried again, and it then went to his wife’s cell phone.
Amazon told NJ Advance Media that the phone number on the package was not one of the numbers that the company utilizes.
Erring on the side of caution, Brown called the Harrison Township Police Department’s non-emergency number and reached a dispatcher.
“She apologized and said ‘I am sorry for how many people are about to show up at your house,” Brown said. “But, it is better safe than sorry.”
Harrison Township Police Department spokesperson Lt. Ronald Cundey said units from the department responded to Brown’s address, and that Gloucester County HazMat technicians also went to the Brown residence and determined the package was safe. Brown said one of the technicians who arrived at the home used equipment to survey the package and detected it as something organic.
The police filed a report, took pictures of it, and advised the Browns to dispose of the unknown matter, the homeowner said.
While Brown still doesn’t know for certain if the package contained the seeds that others have reported getting, the police spokesman said that if residents were to receive unknown packages from China, to heed the advice of the state’s Department of Agriculture.
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