What can I do about my post office's failure to deliver mail?
April 23, 2013 11:27 AM   Subscribe

My local post office doesn't deliver mail, or on the rare occasion that it does, it comes horribly late. What can I do to rectify the situation?

Several times now packages that had been sent USPS have been marked as "delivered" through their tracking, but not actually delivered. Fed-Ex and UPS have no such problems, though my latest package (shipped through UPS because this is so predictable) used USPS for the "last mile" and so of course the package was lost, marked as "delivered."

Aside from this, much of my mail and my roommates' mail has gone missing. Important tax paperwork has had to be sent and resent because it simply never arrives. Things like checks and save-the-date cards and whatnot will arrive a month or so later than they arrive to my coworkers/friends.

In taking this up at the post office in person, I was one of a line of people with the exact same complaint, all of whom were greeted by a supervisor who, while courteous and professional in demeanor, acted as if this problem made no sense and had to be on our end.

I am livid. The post office has essentially stolen a great deal of money's worth of packages from me, as well as important mail that I need in order to keep my affairs in order, and they will do nothing about it. What can I do myself to both recompense for my lost mail and make sure it doesn't happen again in the future?
posted by Navelgazer to Law & Government (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to your area's post master? I would call the local office and ask to talk to him/her—that was my brother's job and he got phone calls on that more than once. It's their job to handle just these types of situations.
posted by Eicats at 11:30 AM on April 23, 2013

Go up a step from the local post office branch manager --- I'm not sure exactly who that would be, but try www.usps.com. (And it sounds like the problem is the specific mail carrier working the route that includes your address; check with your neighbors to confirm if this is true.)
posted by easily confused at 11:30 AM on April 23, 2013

Definitely call the post office and it sounds bad enough that I would contact the local Congresscritter as well.
posted by exogenous at 11:36 AM on April 23, 2013

It might be an issue with one carrier - every now and then you see a story about a mail carrier going to jail for something like being found with a house full of undelivered mail.
posted by thelonius at 11:44 AM on April 23, 2013

Response by poster: I feel the need to add just for the completeness of the story that the Supervisor's standard response when being told that mail wasn't being delivered and undelivered mail was being marked as delivered was to ask, "which specific parcel are you most concerned about receiving?"
posted by Navelgazer at 11:50 AM on April 23, 2013

When this happened to me, I got to know my carrier very well, and then I got to know his boss, and his boss's boss, and then I got the phone number of that person's office and I called very often. My calls and complaints to the 800 number went unnoticed, and my local Congressional office wasn't very helpful. But calling the manager worked wonderfully well. Turns out my local station was where "bad" managers were sent, until they could redeem themselves. Getting my mail to me in a timely manner was repaid by my sending letters about how great that particular manager was. And I tip my carrier at Christmas, too.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:58 AM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Were it me, I'd go in with some other affected parties & get a cellular-capable GPS package tracker like this one, then mail it repeatedly to the parties involved, being sure to retain the tracking data for each mailing.

...then, with that in hand, confront Someone Important. Or the local news, whichever.

Also note, the device might never make it back to you, but that's why it has to be cellular-capable -- you can track it and confront the supervisor (or PostMaster, or whomever) saying, "If there's no problem, then why is the package currently sitting at (location), rather than my house, which is where you say it was delivered?"
posted by aramaic at 11:58 AM on April 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I think you need to hit https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/ and send this up the chain. Not the guy in the office, the inspectors. It sounds like there's a huge problem in your area, and there needs to be a hammer brought down.
posted by mephron at 12:08 PM on April 23, 2013 [23 favorites]

I second contacting the postal inspectors - they are a serious bunch. It sounds like your property is being stolen, and theft of the mails is serious business.
posted by tommyD at 12:14 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can write the postmaster (even email!). Has happened to me once or twice and this always rectified the situation.
posted by NYC-BB at 12:18 PM on April 23, 2013

My bride notes that when we've had mail problems, a call to our congressperson has always netted an immediate response from the post office. Note that your congressional person may want detailed info from you.
posted by maxwelton at 12:24 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Many TV stations have a help feature which assists stonewalled consumers with embarrassing publicity about the offending company/service.
posted by Cranberry at 1:38 PM on April 23, 2013

You don't live in Chicago, do you? (There are a few documented black holes there, and I believe also in Brooklyn.)

Normally with the post office I say, write the postmaster first, sending the letter via certified mail with electronic return receipt. Don't send it from that post office, either.

You would be well within your rights to start a postal inspector investigation, and it sounds like it's bad enough to skip talking to the postmaster. I think Maxwelton's suggestion of contacting your representative is also a great idea, especially if multiple people in the area do the same.

Be prepared to find out that someone, probably a carrier, is taking the mail for everyone, and either hiding or dumping it. The fact that the mail is described as delivered strongly indicates it is your specific carrier or someone in the office who is able to close the loop when delivery confirmation/tracked mail comes in.

However, this kind of investigation takes time. These stories tell of just two carriers who were caught burying and burning thousands of pieces of mail.
It took years before people caught on, and then additional time to plant and prove that they were stealing mail.

I hate to say this, but maybe you and your roommates should consider paying for a private mailbox in a nearby town. You can also have packages delivered to a workplace in many cases.
posted by mitschlag at 1:47 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

As another stopgap, Amazon has started offering me a locker option lately.
posted by ecsh at 3:17 PM on April 23, 2013

This happens in my neighborhood a lot as well, and I reported it to the post office, via the USPS website, and they actually responded quickly. My mail issues were resolved for about a year (it's getting bad again, which makes me think my neighborhood is ALSO Where Bad Postal Workers Go To Die). It's so frustrating; I really feel you.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:23 PM on April 23, 2013

Congressional letters really can scare government bureaucrats into action. You call your congressperson, a staffer takes your account, takes a letter from you, and has you sign a disclosure form. Then the staffer writes a letter and *signs* it in the name of the congressperson. Somebody at USPS gets a letter from the guy or gal who writes the laws that make their job possible and they will pay attention.

Likewise, Inspectors are pretty scary too. The congressperson can change your agency's laws or cut your funding, but the Inspector General can put you in jail.

When I got a Christmas card sliced open and contents stolen, I filled out the online form for the Postal Inspector. Small beans, but I felt better leaving a data point. You should escalate higher than that, though.
posted by Skwirl at 9:21 PM on April 23, 2013

I'm so furious, I'm in the exact same situation. I currently have two packages with "delivery confirmations" marked as delivered on the USPS website, neither of which have arrived, and one is perishable chocolates, sent for second day delivery. This happens a LOT. I hate paying extra for faster delivery when I don't need it, but I absolutely do not trust the USPS any more.
posted by janey47 at 12:51 PM on April 29, 2013

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