Puzzling Mail Carrier Behavior
July 12, 2014 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Can someone familiar with post office procedures tell me if this is a messed-up as I think it is? One day, two independent packages expected that day were, according to the USPS tracking page, scanned as both "Notice Left (No Authorized Recipient Available)" and "Delivered". All four scans had the same timestamp, 2:16 pm on the day they were due. Someone was present at that time, no delivery attempt was in fact made.

Two days later both packages turn up on our doorstep. Handwritten on both of them in cursive ballpoint pen was the message "Scanned for vacation hold 6/28" -- the date they were supposedly both delivered and undeliverable. Apart from being untrue -- they were both scanned as a couple of other inaccurate statuses but not vacation hold -- we were of course not on vacation that day. Perhaps the carrier was? The handwritten excuse was pretty odd.

We've had a number of issues with this carrier, such as continuing to deliver our mail when were had in fact put in a hold request, as well as lots and lots of incorrect deliveries where neither the number nor the street was even close. When I've seen her, she's often talking on the phone as she does her rounds, invariably has her earphones in and when I tried to talk with her once I had to basically get in front of her and wave my arms because she couldn't hear me.

Forgive the possibly excessive additional detail. But any idea what was up with the carrier with those packages, and just generally, and is it time to start a complaint process?
posted by George_Spiggott to Law & Government (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Call the branch office. They may be more helpful and can offer you some explanation.
posted by amanda at 5:27 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Were they from Amazon, by any chance? I ask because we had the same thing happen with an Amazon package - the tracking info said "a notice was left" - when in fact, no delivery attempt was made. Amazon investigated and found that there's a glitch in the USPS system that registers a delivery attempt and a notice with packages as they're being entered in at the local post office prior to delivery. They said that they were working with USPS to fix the problem. (This all happened just a couple of weeks ago).

But also yes, if your carrier is consistently messing up, you should follow up with management.
posted by soulbarn at 5:33 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

You can't call the post office directly, but you can send a letter to:

City, State, Zip

This will get the letter directly to the Postmaster of your PO branch.

But, be aware, it Federal Government, so...don't expect too much.

Also, UPS is doing this wack-a-doodle thing where they deliver the package to the local PO, THEN it comes to you. I check the tracking number, it says it's been delivered--to the PO. Then you're supposed to get a second tracking number form USPS. Kind of a hassle if you ask me.

Or you can go into the post office directly and ask to speak with a supervisor. But I'm here to tell you, don't bother calling the 800 number for USPS, unless you enjoy being on hold for about an hour.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:41 PM on July 12, 2014

Best answer: Get the phone number of the branch manager and make a complaint every time this happens. My local station (now closed) in downtown LA was where "bad" employees were sent when they'd messed up too many times. We didn't get mail, we got other people's mail, and nothing ever happened until I got the right number for the right person, and the bad carrier got replaced. Don't bother with the 800# or the "official" channels. Find the manager and keep at it until you get the results you want.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:42 PM on July 12, 2014

Response by poster: soulbarn, they were from different origins, neither of them Amazon, but that's interesting information, thanks.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:45 PM on July 12, 2014

Best answer: Call the local postmaster. When our mail was being misdelivered, and we were receiving mail that was not ours, I called to ask if perhaps talking on the phone was causing our mail carrier to misdeliver mail. I was informed that the mail carrier was not supposed to be using a phone or listening to headphones while delivering mail. I never saw that guy talking on the phone again, and our mail delivery with that carrier was fine after that.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 5:56 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Amazon said it was entirely the post office's issue - don't know that the statement is true, but if it is, it could be happening with other packages.
posted by soulbarn at 5:57 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Our mail carrier loves to leave his schedule "Friday light". So, if I have a package arriving on a Friday, I always get the peach-colored slip saying they attempted delivery. Every single time it's happened, someone has been home and confirmed that there was no attempt to climb the stairs and actually rung the doorbell. I'm pretty sure he just pre-fills the forms before his route starts. It happens at least once a year.

Postmaster should clear it right up. They're pretty serious about making sure that carriers aren't taking shortcuts.
posted by quince at 6:14 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Postmaster or the delivery manager at your local post office. I've had this happen more than once (with US mail as well as with FedEx and UPS) and every single time, the issue has been that the mail carrier/driver has logged the packages as delivered before actually going out on delivery (assuming that s/he'll get to them), and then doesn't actually get them delivered before having to go off shift, so returns them to the post office or the warehouse and has to log the packages -- since they weren't delivered -- so marks them as "notice left" or something like that. And then I get the packages the next day.

Last time this happened with the post office, I tracked down the number for the delivery manager at my post office and he was VERY interested in tracking down exactly what had happened. In that case, the letter carrier (who was a sub) actually HID the package in the manager's office and presumably would have retrieved it to deliver it on her next shift, which wasn't until the next week (this was on a Saturday); when the delivery manager realized that's what happened, he actually grabbed the package himself and brought it to me after he got off work. Kind of restored my faith in the post office.
posted by devinemissk at 6:23 PM on July 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

I live close to a big post office. Our route is given to screw ups/workers currently under investigation or being sued & random carriers when there is no regular assignee.

We are well known as a commuter neighborhood; only sometimes, on Saturdays, are packages & sig req letters attempted at delivery. Other days they just carry attempted delivery slips. SOP & complaining doesn't do much. We get "I don't care" from the ones punished with our route, and "I'm not your carrier" from all the randoms.

So everything goes to my work office. I'd remove my mailbox if I could. Will be getting a po box instead soon.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:30 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would recommend going INTO the post office and speaking with someone at the desk.
In my area, I've been given the [direct, local] phone number of the person in charge of the carriers, and he takes nonsense behavior seriously. (I've gotten the same reaction numerous times over the last 15 years.)

Sometimes it would start with "leaving a note for the carrier" which might or might not get (generally temporary) behavioral change, but talking to him has always solved the issue permanently... at least until we moved or the carrier changed to one with new issues.
posted by stormyteal at 9:21 PM on July 12, 2014

I've definitely gotten results by calling the local postmaster.
posted by radioamy at 1:11 AM on July 13, 2014

You might be able to find the telephone number of the local USPS office on Yelp.com. I posted the one I finally found on Yelp, in hopes of helping the next person. I have seen other USPS stations numbers listed on Yelp; it's as good a place as any to start.

So get the number of the manager in that local USPS station. Call every day. I had a mail delivery guy who was / likely is a lazy liar, would say that he attempted delivery when he hadn't, said that he could not leave packages in the locked boxes we have here at our condo (they leave the key in our mailbox) because "they might get stolen" blah blah blah blah. He just didn't want to burden himself with actually doing any work, carrying any packages. A real piece of work.

Only with repeated calls to the manager of his route did it change, and even then it changed slowly. It would never have changed without calling every day, making it less painful for the manager to finally deal with the employee than hearing from me every morning.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:30 AM on July 13, 2014

Best answer: Over a three week period, I had 4 of 4 incoming packages with tracking marked as 'Out for delivery' around 8am and then 'Held for pickup' around 3-4pm. I didn't receive a peach slip for any of the packages. As far as I can tell, the carrier simply didn't even try. So I opened a USPS case ID for each missing package, using the online form so I could list the prior case dates and IDs to demonstrate the ongoing nature of the problem.

I received a variety of interesting reasons for each of the delivery failures. My favorite was for the third case, "Carrier did not feel comfortable leaving package at night" on a Saturday at 3:30pm. They're permitted to decide that, but they have to leave a notice. I asked why I didn't receive a notice. They promised to investigate further. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The final case involved the package being marked Delivered at 12:30pm; I called 800-ASK-USPS at 12:35 and informed them that it had NOT been delivered. They put me on hold to call my postmaster, and while I was on hold, around 12:45pm, I watched as the carrier parked in front of my building, carried the package to my doorstep, and then drove off.

That was the last I ever saw of that particular carrier, and my ongoing delivery issues ceased as well.

So, my advice is to open a case each day that you experience a 'carrier anomaly', starting with the handwritten packages, using the online form so you can list all previous case dates and IDs related to the problem, and then call 800-ASK-USPS every couple days and ask them to pull up the latest case so they can help you explain your carrier's behavior.

It seems extreme, but in your description you list at least 3 separate incidents over time, NOT counting the ongoing misdeliveries, all on different dates. A single complaint may get lost in the noise (my first complaint was effectively FAQ'd and closed). A series of ongoing complaints on different dates with cross-references, however, is not so easily ignored or dismissed.

(I've never once successfully reached a local post office by phone. I did get 800-ASK-USPS to request a callback from one, received it within 24 hours. Your post office may vary.)
posted by crysflame at 5:05 AM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

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