What do you do when your postal mail carrier sucks?
October 14, 2005 5:51 PM   Subscribe

What do you do when your postal mail carrier sucks?

Our carrier is generally slack (delivers at random times, usually later than earlier) and sloppy (we have 3 mailboxes, yet mail often is "delivered" to the floor of the entryway). But, I'm generally tolerant because (a) I know it's a crummy job, and (b) you don't piss off the guy who delivers your mail.

3 recent developments, however, have pushed me over the edge:

- I'm going to be working from home, so I need to know that stuff sent to me is getting to me.

- My s.o. signed a posted signature waiver form last week for a piece of registered mail (or something like that) that she's pretty sure is a contract she's been waiting for. The waiver disappeared the next day, then nothing. She put up a perfectly polite note asking about it, right on our mailbox, a couple days ago. The note is still there, untouched, and mail has been delivered, so we know he's seeing it.

- Mail just wasn't delivered to our building at all today. I know it's been raining and miserable here in NYC for the past week, but last I checked, the roads were clear and people were still getting about.

Will complaining in person do any good, or will I just get a "yeah, yeah, fill out this form" response? I'm wary of confronting our carrier directly- I have no problem with direct confrontation, but I have no illusions about who holds the power in our relationship.

Am I just screwed here?
posted by mkultra to Law & Government (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That mailman has a supervisor. Speak to him/her.
posted by furtive at 6:03 PM on October 14, 2005

Response by poster: Yeah, by "complaining in person", I meant at the Post Office.
posted by mkultra at 6:06 PM on October 14, 2005

Maybe get a post office box? They're relatively inexpensive and give you more control over your mail.
posted by blue mustard at 6:07 PM on October 14, 2005

I've found complaining directly to the postal branch to be helpful. There was a problem in my neighborhood a while ago where the mail was getting all mixed up and people were getting the wrong mail, but most people were being nice about it and just walking across the street to give their neighbors the right mail. A few people complained, and then there was a notice in the mailbox stating that any mis-delivered mail must be returned to the post-office for reprocessing. That way they know which carrier is screwing up and there's some accountability.
posted by bonheur at 6:08 PM on October 14, 2005

Definitely complain in person. The carrier has a supervisor that you can complain to, although if there is a postmaster or branch supervisor that you can talk to, that's probably better.

We're on a route that attracts postal employees with high seniority, so we typically get workers that have lost their lust for life long, long ago. I work at home a lot of the time, and I've seen our mailman drop packages from his truck and kick them along the sidewalk instead of carrying them. We've had really lousy mailmen that have been replaced by slightly less lousy mailmen when enough people complained about how bad they were. YMMV.
posted by ensign_ricky at 7:04 PM on October 14, 2005

Get a P.O. Box. They're cheap < $4/month for a small one at my post office.
posted by malp at 7:06 PM on October 14, 2005

MK, from personal experience; Make friends with your carrier! We had the same problem here. So we spoke with the carrier and he was cool. He explained that on any given day they are at least 40 carriers short and that he has to figure out his route based on quantity while simultaneously covering at least 5 different routes.

I know, excuses, excuses. But, were friends now, so to speak, and when we recently had a postage dillema, he covered some of the postage for us and hooked us up.

We have had no problems since.

He will be getting home made cookies on a regular basis.
posted by snsranch at 7:33 PM on October 14, 2005

i say PO box. not only are they a cheap option, but mail tends to deliver more quickly/securely to PO boxes.
posted by ransom at 7:55 PM on October 14, 2005

Best answer: My dad worked for the Post Office for 30 years and was a mail carrier supervisor and postal plant manager for most of that time.

Your carrier may be slack. Are you sure s/he's the problem? If you live on a less than desirable route (too long, too many stairs, too much heavy mail, too many parcels), you might have a high turnover for carriers. You might have a carrier who is off on sick leave a lot, meaning casuals fill in. Casuals tend not to know what they are doing and often send things to the wrong address and show up at random times.

If you are certain that it is always the same carrier, then complain to the supervisor. Be polite and cordial. I'm not sure what the rules are in the US, but, in Canada, you can't really complain that your mail comes at different times of the day, since the PO does not have an obligation to deliver at the same time. (Even if it is suspect.) Explain your concern about the signature waiver form. I'm not entirely sure what the Canadian equivalent is, but it sounds to me like you should check with the supervisor. You don't have to be aggressive. Just say you though it was easier to call them directly, since you don't know what time the carrier comes by.

Do you know for sure that no one in your building got mail today? It wouldn't be that unusual for you to go a day without mail. However, an entire building without mail is very odd. It is possible that your usual carrier was sick and the PO could not find a casual. SNSRanch has a good point about scheduling. However, given all the concerns you've outlined, I'd say a call to the PO is in order. Just remember to avoid laying blame on the carrier at this point, since you don't know the whole story. In fact, maybe it's the supervisor who's the problem.

When you call, get the supervisor's name and contact information. Keep it on file, so you can follow up again. If things work out, be nice and let the supervisor know, too.
posted by acoutu at 10:24 PM on October 14, 2005

Best answer: Whether or not being a carrier sucks depends a lot on where you live. If you live in a large town where 40 thousand dollars a year is chump change, then you can expect people with bad atttitudes. If you live in a bad part of town, you'll get carriers with low seniority who won't be planning on staying long. If either of these conditions apply to you, you should get a PO Box.

Oftentimes a route will be unbid, so that it has to be covered by other carriers after they finish their regular route. That would explain the irregular delivery times. Perhaps the regular carrier has a chronic illness and has to take a lot of sick days. If you talk to the carriers and give them a reason to like you and look out for you, that might help. Home baked cookies work, and tips work, although $20.00 is the maximum that they can legally take.

Last, go down to your station and complain. Ask to see the station manager and tell them what's going on and when. Be specific, keep it as recent as you can, and be as civil as you can.

But basically, if endearing yourself to the carrier(s) doesn't work, and complaining to the supervisor doesn't work, get a box. Post Office boxes are cheapest and most secure, but UPS and FEDEX can't deliver to a USPS box, so if that's important to you try someplace like Mailboxes, etc.

On preview, what acoutu said.
posted by faceonmars at 10:45 PM on October 14, 2005

If the problem is with mail delivery by his USPS carrier, I don't imagine he'd need to redirect his UPS and FEDEX shipments, so that's one objection a post office box that might not come into play.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:14 AM on October 15, 2005

I live in NYC, and have massive (read: packages not delivered and sent back to foreign countries) problems with delivery, mostly via USPS, but UPS too. I'd been warned about this by people who ship to NYC.

I filed several complaints via the official channels, with 0 effect. The only thing that slightly improved service was printing up signs which essentially repeated basic operating procedure, with thanks at the end. I didn't get package slips, but when I asked for them to be put through the mail slot, they started appearing. But then someone else in my building filed a change of address form, and my mail was sent to another state..

I'm getting a PO box.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 3:53 AM on October 15, 2005

I was a mail carrier in college for the USPS. I would mirror some of the comments here: you may be on a route that has a different carrier every day. Supervisors in that situation may parse out the route to multiple carriers which might be the reason for the mailing coming at different times of the day.

Definitely speak to the supervisor. If you do have one carrier dedicated to your route, then, yes, make friends with him or her. Greet them if you can. Offer them water on hot days.

And just like any job, you'll find those who love their work and those who don't. BTW, it's not as crummy a job as you might think. You get good exercise and get to read all sorts of magazines on your lunch break -g
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:20 AM on October 15, 2005

What snsranch said: make friends with your carrier. Besides, it's good form to talk to the person before you go over his/her head by complaining to the supervisor.

Call the post office directly to see what's up with the piece of registered mail.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:42 AM on October 15, 2005

Response by poster: Good advice, thanks. We're going to go down to our P.O. on Monday. Some additional background, since a few brought it up- we have two regular carriers, and we live in a nice neighborhood (Park Slope). According to my s.o., who is around during the day, one is nice and does a decent job, the other is the one who regularly leaves our mail in a pile and apparently does her route as if she were being chased by a knife-wielding maniac.
posted by mkultra at 7:35 AM on October 15, 2005

Interesting, I have a number of friends in Park Slope who have complained about their mail service. This includes people from North Slope and South Slope. Maybe this is more endemic than a single carrier.
posted by Falconetti at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2005

Before I moved, I had a pretty good mail carrier. He knew me, I knew him. I wouldn't say we were friends, but we were on good terms. Since I moved, I've had okay service but no where near as good as prior. The worst was the mail carrier throwing my deliveries up over the second floor railing to my apartment door instead of walking up the steps.

At least we don't have the Royal Mail delivering our letters and packages.
posted by Atreides at 10:33 AM on October 15, 2005

just a note: mail routes take all day and are often adjusted day to day depending on the number of carriers on duty from a branch office. if you get your mail at random times, or later rather than earlier, that's perfectly normal. all that should be expected is to have your mail by the end of the day. there are umpteen hundred other people on your route, too.

never confront a postal employee. you can land in federal prison by doing so, especially if you think your mail should arrive at a certain time of day every day.
posted by 3.2.3 at 6:26 PM on October 15, 2005

We live in the suburbs and have a mailbox next to the door. When we moved in we received a notice asking us if we would please install a curbside box. (the house is circa 1968). I've noticed flakey delivery, and the guy won't come to our door to pick up outgoing mail unless there's a delivery. So some resentment about walking up to the door, perhaps.

Also, my father (until two days ago) did tech support on a contract for the post office. Little old ladies would call up and ask when their package was going to arrive (like the time of day) and he'd get other surreal requests, so eventually he started making up answers ("I just looked in the back room ma'am, and we've got your package right here. It will arrive at 2pm on Tuesday). Unfortunately he called his irritating 26-year-old manager a word that rhymes with "witch" the other day and they told him if he quit and didn't claim unemployment his bad references wouldn't follow him. So now mom is working extra hours at Walmart (as a greeter) to cover his COBRA insurance costs. Sucks to be in your sixties and working poor. /venting.
posted by mecran01 at 7:46 PM on October 15, 2005

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