Residents complain of spotty mail delivery

March 13, 2016

Photo courtesy Rebecca Bennett.

BY MARK GOODSON — When a Hyattsville resident, who chose to remain anonymous to avoid blaming a specific mail carrier, was waiting on a credit card to be delivered from her mother in Mississippi, she tracked the parcel on the United States Postal Service (USPS) website. It was marked as ‘delivered,’ even though she never received it. When the card arrived two weeks later, the package was visibly opened and then re-taped. A good samaritan placed it back in the mail for redelivery.

The same Hyattsville resident has also been on the receiving end of misdelivered mail. “I get mail from all over, including East-West Highway,” she said. She added that mail, bulked together by a rubber band, has been thrown over her fence rather than placed in her mail basket on the porch.

Gwyn Kesler of 40th Avenue described herself as “beyond frustrated” with USPS mail delivery. “I often get mail tossed over the fence rather than put in the mailbox,” she said. According to Kesler, the contents of two packages she received were ruined when they were left out in the rain instead of beneath her covered porch, a mere five feet away.

Other similar complaints were posted on local listervs. Some residents shared positive experiences with USPS mail delivery, such as Carolyn Miller who said, “I’ve lived in Hyattsville for 35 years and have never had a problem with our mail delivery.”

Irene Marsh said her mail delivery to 40th Place has been much better than the experiences she had as a Greenbelt resident. She said she knows people there who don’t take vacations because they know their mail won’t be held when they request it to be.

All these complaints were directed at mail carriers in particular, not at the mail system as a whole. But when asked about how their complaints were handled, each resident said USPS was unresponsive. Marsh said, “At various times I have called various supposed customer complaint lines, never getting a live person and never having my call returned.”

Kesler was also never able to speak to someone directly about her complaints and said the website handled felony concerns, but not local mail delivery complaints. Another resident attempted to contact the Calvert Carrier Annex — postal annexes are established to help manage mail in high-volume regions — on Baltimore Avenue without avail.

The Hyattsville Life & Times reached out to Theresa Doherty, a spokesperson for USPS. Here is the process to file a direct complaint about local mail delivery:

  1. File a complaint on this customer care line: 1.800.275.8777.
  2. You will receive a call back within 48 hours from a USPS representative for your location.

HL&T used this process to file the complaints from the list serve.  USPS employee Crystal Walls handles local complaints for zip code 20781. In addition to offering to speak directly with residents, Walls placed an “alert” on those particular addresses which will notify carriers to double check those residents’ mail on delivery.

USPS began consolidating its network of mail processing facilities in 2012 after suffering losses of $26 billion in three years, according to an open letter from USPS. In 2014, USPS announced phase two of its Network Rationalization plan, which was slated to affect 82 facilities in 2015, until the plan was deferred until 2016.

One explanation for the consolidation deferment might be USPS’ new Sunday parcel delivery. USPS partnered first with Amazon Prime for Sunday delivery and has since expanded to deliver for more retailers. In 2015, USPS offered Sunday delivery from Thanksgiving through December, and handled nearly 600 million packages according to its website.

Megan Brennan became the 74th USPS Postmaster General in February 2015. A former carrier herself, Brennan told Bloomberg Businessweek that USPS is leveraging its infrastructure toward e-commerce. As alternative media replaces the written letter, commerce seems to be the battleground for USPS’ survival.

Geekwire and other news media have reported that USPS carriers have been overworked as USPS has not hired enough carriers to handle the influx of deliveries.

The Hyattsville Life & Times reached out to the Postmaster located at 6511 Baltimore Avenue, who did not respond to our request for a comment.

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