I am NOT a big fan of the USPS, especially when time is of the essence. I'm also not a fan of FedEx Ground, but that's because the guy who handles the route I am on likes to show up at 6:45AM or earlier and when one gets to sleep at around 3AM most days, last thing I want is two barking pugs first thing in the morning.
Sounds to me like someone dropped the ball at ADJ in the shipping department. I mean, if someone wants to know when and where, you DO NOT use the USPS. They simply track it at the beginning, then it's "in transit" and then at delivery(with a late evening update). UPS and FedEx, if pressed, I can force them to give me a more realistic update, as well as I can just go flat out nuts and check the tracking number via their web site every 3 seconds if I felt so inclined.
In my case, I don't believe in playing the odds as you were forced to. As we both know from working in this world, stuff happens and we sometimes have to do things we don't want to do or would regularly do. For example, I have a wireless transmitter acting up, and while Audio Technica would have gotten it back to me in time, I would rather take the chance and hang onto it, because then I'd have a spare. I have 7 channels as it is, and this mic could have been a "live spare" for any of the 4 same series units. The mic works, mind you, but certain features(like mute) doesn't. Odd. With a show Friday and me not able to send it Monday, it would have been a guarantee of not getting the gear back in time(not to mention not having the money to ship it off either, I'm that tight these days). RIght now, I did my 3 day show, all that money went to bills and mortgage, so I'm broke again. In fact, I can't even get fuel for my truck, I'm that broke right now, so no shows until some money comes in, things are so tight right now.
When I don't care about speed, USPS is most often the best way to go. But, if you want any sort of assurances, USPS sucks. My choices are both FedEx and UPS. Anything else and you won't be able to really track. Sure, I guess you could go DHL, but I'm annoyed at them for losing an insured package and NOT re-imbursing me, and I PAID for that extra insurance, so I'm a bit sore at DHL. Other than that ONE incident, I've had no problem with DHL.
To the best of my knowledge, club owners don't typically have spares laying around. Honestly, CD players are so inexpensive that despite the fact that the unit was "down and not available", a pair of CD players I'm sure could have been taken from home and shoved into production for a few days. I mean, I hear ya, this sucks, it's not acceptable, but hey, the show must go on. Excuses are like a word that would get me in trouble here, and you know what? Nobody cares what the excuse is. I swear, I should have a bench at FOH with a hole in it to make it much easier to pull miracles out of my butt.
My further advice: DICTATE terms. I think your method of paying ONE WAY and then having them contact you for return shipping forces a "manual intervention" in which you can "specify and ensure clarification" of the shipping. "USPS" can look like "UPS" at a quick glance.
I like ADJ, I've had good results with service, sales and parts. Eve so, the best of companies can mess up. My advise: have a backup plan in place at all times for just about any forseen situation. When I do shows, I travel with FULL gear. Why? If I need it, it's in the truck. No excuses and support is just a short walk away. I've got so much gear that I can typically handle anything thrown my way.
I'll continue to be an ADJ customer. I hope this is brought to the attention of the right people so that they can ensure they don't make these sort of mistakes again.