(Washington, DC) – Complaints about the United States Postal Service (USPS) are nothing new. The quasi-Federal agency has operated in the red for years. Stamp prices increase annually. The lines at some post offices stretch around counters at times. But through it all, the mail got through.
The complaints have gotten louder as mailboxes have been left vacant for days at a time. In some cases, once-a-week delivery is all residents can count on.
Some believe the USPS is delaying deliveries purposely to demonstrate what five-day-per-week mail delivery, suggested as a way to curtail USPS financial losses, might look like. The USPS has strongly denied these allegations.
“We’re mandated by Congress to deliver the mail in a timely fashion,” said a USPS spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And no one ever tries to circumvent or lie to Congress. Not even members of Congress!”
Instead, the USPS is citing budgetary restrictions for adverse delivery issues.
“Congress has sequestered our funding for years,” said a USPS spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “When Congress sequesters your funding, you have to make hard choices. When you have to make hard choices, you decide to cut overtime. If you don’t cut overtime, you have letter carriers falling asleep in their vehicles. If you have letter carriers falling asleep in their vehicles, there’s going to be delayed mail. We urge everyone to talk to Congress so they don’t have delayed mail.”
But many customers aren’t buying the budget argument, citing a seemingly endless rise in postal rates over the past decade. And limited mail means delayed bills and delays of other important documents, including tax documents, job offers, and college admission materials. All in all, the disruption in mail delivery has taken a toll on USPS customer confidence.
In Maplewood, NJ, one resident says that, in spite of keeping the sidewalk, driveway, and mailbox clear of snow and ice this winter, she has received mail only three times in February.
“My husband had a heart attack while shoveling last week,” said the longtime Maplewood resident, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I told him to keep shoveling. We need our mail delivered more than anything.”
“I am apparently deceased,” said another USPS customer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “My death certificate was made out back in January, but because the mail didn’t show up for three weeks, I didn’t find out I was dead until just last week.”
Erroneously-issued death certificates must be challenged within 10 days. Otherwise, in the eyes of the law, dead is dead. “I couldn’t even arrange for myself to have a decent funeral,” lamented the customer, continuing to speak on condition of anonymity.
The USPS is also citing the need for letter carrier safety as a reason for late mail delivery. Many cities, ranging from Washington to Miami to Seattle, have ordered letter carriers to return to the office by 6:00pm, even if there’s mail that still needs to be delivered.
“We’ll brave the rain. We’ll brave the sleet. But the ‘dark of night’ thing is now a problem,” said the USPS spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Our employees have to fight the elements. They have to fight dogs. But fighting a nut-case with a gun is just too much to ask of anyone here.”
On November 23, 2013, Maryland letter carrier Tyson Jerome Barnette was shot and killed while on duty in Landover, MD. Police were called after 7:00pm to respond to the shooting.
“At least they’re not going around shooting people any more,” said a USPS customer wearing a bulletproof vest, speaking on condition of anonymity. The customer referred to a series of murders committed by USPS employees between 1986 and 2006. In separate shootings, 37 people were killed and nine wounded by gun violence. The murders gave birth to the “going postal” slang term.
“Now it looks like it’s open season on mailmen,” continued the bulletproof vest-wearing USPS customer. “Looks like the foot’s on the other hand now.”