Saturday, March 29, 2014

New Postal Hires Mean More 'Return To Sender' Mail

The U.S. Postal Service’s shift to a more flexible workforce is likely to mean more mail pieces will be marked “return to sender,” according to postal officials.

USPS estimates it delivers at least 2.2 billion mail pieces annually that lack complete address information, according to information presented at a session of the recent National Postal Forum.

With intimate knowledge of their routes, letter carriers are often able to deliver mail pieces despite such problems as missing apartment and suite numbers, minor spelling and addressing errors, and changes of address. USPS says such special handling costs it an estimated $160 million annually, according to a recent Post Ops Update (available only to members of the Association for Postal Commerce).

An imperfect process
What carriers learn about problem addresses is supposed to be captured in the Postal Service's address-management database, but it's an imperfect process.

Because of greater use of “transitional” employees instead of career carriers to deliver the mail, it’s becoming increasingly likely that a poorly addressed letter will end up in the hands of a carrier who doesn’t know how to deliver it, a postal official acknowledged. Such recent hires are paid less than career carriers, and their hours can be adjusted more to match the peaks and valleys of mail volume.

Letter carriers point to another reason that “carrier knowledge” often fails to overcome addressing problems: Even career carriers are increasingly delivering mail to unfamiliar addresses, such as when several carriers work overtime to cover a vacant route after their usual deliveries are done.

USPS returned, forwarded, or destroyed nearly 7 billion “UAA” (Undeliverable As Addressed) mail pieces last year at a cost of more than $1.2 billion, not including the cost to mailers. The volume of UAA mail has generally been declining for years, thanks to stricter regulations on business mailers and greater use of address-correction software.

More than three-fourths of that UAA mail results from changes of address. But another surprisingly common issue is that many people don’t know their correct mailing address, especially for office buildings and college campuses.

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31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have a periodical that's been coming back to our home office and not our fulfillment house even though they have perfectly good addresses. Looks like the processing plant didnt read the barcode, kicked out and then one of those additional barcodes got put on piece routing to the home office!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm, where I work many of the subs deliver everything because they're not given the time, they just don't care or they're too incompetent to figure out who does and doesn't live at a certain address.

Anonymous said...

Why of course...... they will hire anyone now !

Anonymous said...

I've been a carrier for 27 years in CT. Up until about 5 years ago there was always 1 carrier on 1 route meaning that every route was staffed properly. Plus, we had "fixed" floaters for our days off. This ensured that the mail was delivered with adequate knowledge.

Now, everyday is nothing short of chaos. Carriers are scrambling around the office to "case up" vacant routes then doing a 2 or 3 hour split in addition to your own route. Its a recipe for failure.

If there is a route where it is lower-income and hundreds of changes of address and no names on multi boxes, everything gets sent back because if there is no regular carrier on it then there is no way to keep up with the brought back mail. It is a complete disregard for what that postage is paying for.

Its too bad because I love the job but I can't wait to get out.

Anonymous said...

Plus we are not allowed to leave mail at the case for the regular carrier to look at the next day to review. "There's no such thing as review mail!" So I'll send it to the forwarding system, if there is a change of address in the system it's forwarded, if not then it hopefully comes back when the regular will get a chance to check it. Inefficient, but have to follow bonehead instructions.

Anonymous said...

Management could care less what does and does not get delivered and where. As long as the insignificant street scans are hit and the clock rings when they want them, then all is well for them to get their bonus.

David Cary said...

The other commments so far are right on!

I have 30 years of carrying mail, almost all on the same route.
It is AMAZING how often mail even GETS to my route, as poorly addressed as it may be!

Most regulars try to get the mail to the right place, but the two Anon posters are so right, there is no time to deal with some of it, now, carriers are having to work longer and "keep a clean work station", and the flood of transitional subs can in no way learn all the names on all the routes that they have to work.

True, management gives only lip service to true service, wanting numbers to keep them out of hot water.

A missed scan point is so much more important to upper management than misdelivered mail, undelivered mail, or even deliverable mail that ends up being returned to sender because carriers are not given time to properly deal with it.

And it will only get worse as downsizing proceeds, mail volumes increase, new addresseds increase, and more temporary help is used.

Anonymous said...

We don't use "UAA" anymore. It's been "UTF" - Unable To Forward - for several years now.

Anonymous said...

Many of these transitional employees have no idea of who lives where. They never hesitate to bring back a handful of mail for someone else to fix. It used to please me years ago when a clerk would bring a handful of Christmas cards to the middle of the workroom floor and shout out names in trying to get the right address. those days are long gone.

Anonymous said...

"UAA" mail is everything that is undeliverable: Vacant, Refused, Insufficient Address, Forwardable,etc. I've never been a carrier but I've worked as a clerk for over 30 years, including 7 years in a CFS unit. The amount of UAA mail that had poor addresses was ridiculous. We would get mass mailings from national mailers that would have the wrong city name/ZIP code for the address, no street address at all, no house numbers (let alone apt. numbers.) A lot of the companies regularly kept sending mail using the same address data base, regardless of how many times corrections were sent to them. On a more local level, when I cased mail to our PO Box section, I have seen mailers use mailing lists that were 10 to 15 years old. The amount of UBBM mail is staggering,and it costs the Postal Service a lot of time and money to handle, simply because companies can't be bothered to update their list.

Anonymous said...

Time for the old timers to stop hanging on and milking the system... time to let a younger harder working generation of postal employees step in and save the post office from snail paced overtime mooching carriers

Anonymous said...

Are you so sure about that, because in my office it's the older carriers than know where people are and move to and if not will look it up or ask, and it's the younger ones who could care less and will forward or nixie mail, supposing they don't incorrectly deliver it in the first place.

Anonymous said...

A few tips:
1. The Processing Center I work for does NOT have nixie or uncoded clerks. This means mail without zip codes will be returned.
2. Mail with incorrect zip codes will be sent to the zip code on the mail. A letter sent to Los Angeles, Ca. 10010 will be sent to New York and then returned as undeliverable.
3. First class mail that is undeliverable and does not have a return address will go to the Mail Recovery Center and if no valid address can be determined the mail will be destroyed.
4. Save the piece of mail that comes back and have a qualified postal worker examine for errors. You would be surprise how many "perfectly addressed" mail pieces are far from perfect.
5. Correct zip codes are easily obtained via the internet.

Anonymous said...

Face it, old timers. You've been coddling your customers by giving them incorrectly addressed mail and now they'll have to pay the pieper. I'm a 20 yr Postmaster and my rural carriers have always re-routed mail because of their personal knowledge and it drives me nuts. I don't condone it because when the sub works, mail gets RTS. I can't help the sub either, because I don't know either. You'd be a better carrier to push your customers to correct their mail pieces misaddressed, and put their house number on their mailboxes.

Anonymous said...

Case in point....is the 20 year old postmaster "number driven" or "customer service" driven?? The bottom line is that upper management is too concerned with the numbers...we have gotten out of the business that we started with....DELIVERING THE MAIL!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute! I see a lot of complaining about management reducing staffing, pushing employees, and expecting hard work....but what about the real reason most mail gets returned; bad addressing. Why are we so off the subject. Put the right address on the mail in the first place and the problem is mostly resolved. Why are we spending millions of dollars correcting errors? If were going to correct the customers errors, then we should charge for it! We get a lot for 49 cents!!

Bruiser Smith said...

The worst part about this is that the USPS is too stupid and inept to create a return to sender shipping label that is trackable and machineable. So your return to sender Priority Mail package goes to a sorting center to be hand sorted and takes 2 weeks or more to get back to you.

Anonymous said...

I can't say that my mail delivery scenario is from an inexperienced letter carrier...but she certainly could use more attention to detail and/or additional training.

We've lived in our current house for more than six years -- and continue to get mail intended for the previous residents. Two of whom have been deceased since before we bought this house! We've also gotten many pieces that only have the same house number as us...but on different streets with completely different recipients' names! (And it's not as if there could be confusion -- street names/addressee names are not even close to ours.)

Along with receiving other peoples' mail, call me selfish, but I'm more concerned about the things I might not be getting!

I can certainly understand the occasional "oops" when piece intended for a next door neighbor shows up, but there's stuff not for us showing up probably once a week. And, YES, I've spoken directly to the carrier. And I've gone to the local post office, spoken with the post master and hand delivered to him nearly identical letters (just changed the date) explaining the situation and listing "current" and "past" residents' names at least three years in a row. My requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Any suggestions for whom to contact above my local "post master"? [Cumberland, RI] I've tried searching on-line to no avail.

Anonymous said...

You can gaps.com/inspectors & locate all Postal Inspector Services. Contact all US Postal Inspectors for every city & state that you send to & receive mail from. Report it as Mail Fraud & Tampering! Too much of my mail is being returned for absolutely no logical reason considering addresses are current & correct! This problem began 7 years ago after buying my home & moving to this city! Most of time mail isn't returned to me for several months & even up to 2 or 3 years later(cut opened)! Come to find out my mail isn't even leaving my local area! POSTAL THEIVES!!! BIG TIME FELONIES!!!

Anonymous said...

Look up the US Postal Inspection Services & contact each & every Postal Inspector for every city & state(zip code) that you send mail to & receive mail from. Report it as Mail Fraud & Tampering! Contact each & every Inspection Office individually in writing(make Xerox copies) of your letters & addressed envelopes(keep a copies). Take them directly to the Post Office & mail them. There are Thousands of dishonest postal workers across our country & many are involved in mail theft rings! I don't buy the lame excuses of not being able to deliver especially when the addresses are correct & current. Mail returned cut opened & returned several months to 2 or 3 years later is not due to an incorrect address!!!

Anonymous said...

I receive unwanted mail and mark it return to sender addressee unknown or not at this address. The postal carrier keeps putting it back in my mailbox. This morning it had a note on it "Standard mail does not forward.or can not be returned. Addressee's responsibility to trash. Federal offense for postal employees to trash customers mail."
I have always been told that unwanted mail marked return to sender was returned, and the original sender was charged paid return postage and would remove that name and address from their database. Which is correct? Can the post office refuse to return mail?

D. Eadward Tree said...

To Anonymous (7/29/14): I believe your carrier is correct. Standard mail is generally not forwarded or returned; that's one reason the rates are lower than for First Class Mail.

Anonymous said...

Twice in one week the USPS has failed to deliver a package from Amazon. The problem appears to be they don't bother to read the address. There is a street in my city that ends in circle, street, ave, and way. Of course, if they would actually read the whole street name, they would not attempt to deliver it to another address, but they might have to think and read, a decidedly difficult task. The brainless morons that created streets in the same city that only differ with the ending, I.e. circle, street, avenue, and way is another problem. Plus they all have the same zip code. Idiots.

Anonymous said...

Since when does the post office have the right to return to sender first class mail addressed to me at the correct street address but lacking my apartment number? I've had personal party invites and holiday season greeting cards returned to my friends because they didn't know and thus didn't include my apt number.

Anonymous said...

In my area the main problem seems to be having big blocks of little boxes for lots of similarly numbered apartments. My (correctly addressed) mail is constantly put in some box next to mine instead of the right cubby. And every time when I complain about it, I get told "Oh it was my day off and someone else was doing my usual route. I know better." Not to mention the only way this ever gets resolved, no matter who else I complain to, is to physically stand around while mail's being delivered the next day and beg my carrier to check for mail in the boxes around mine for items that are addressed to a different number than the box they are in. And low and behold my mail is usually found (again, correctly addressed but misdelivered). Plus, no one has any way of knowing where mail ended up: a box, a large-package overflow box (which one, of the dozens my complex has?), a doorstep, a front office, returned to the post office. That's not deemed important enough to document in the tracking system, but is really super important when something goes wrong.

Tom said...

In our office, it seems like if the useless CCA'S don't know where the mail goes, they kill it, even if it's not on the route they are doing. I been delivering mail for almost 36 years, and where I work, there is a total of 4 hours of walking in the office of 75 routes, you should here how the useless CCA'S wine about having to walk. Also some of the CCA's deliver 1 circular to every house without looking what address is on the circular, management doesn't care, even though they might get 150 complaints a day. The USPS is DOOMED in 10 years. Most of the CCA'S Are Gargbage, out of 28 we have hired in our office, I would have kept 2, yes I used to train all of them before they hired the new crap

Anonymous said...

LMAO! Where are these 'younger, harder-working' employees???

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ January 5, 2015 at 8:55 AM

Your Apt. # is part of your address. If you won't give it to possible mailers as part of your address, you might as well not provide them with your state and/or zip code either. The Apt. # is just as important as your street address.

If your name is clearly labeled on the mailbox, then you at least a have a shot at getting it delivered/delivered correctly. But you shouldn't be placing the blame at the letter carriers feet... who is going to most likely a CCA since they don't know the names. But that shouldn't be their fault considering the correct address does exist but just wasn't provided or used by the sendee.

Anonymous said...

Bunch of apologists for the Post Office's terrible service. In my case, the Post Office is returning correctly addressed mail as "Delivery Attempted - Unknown." Let me make clear: I live in an apartment. The returned mail had my correct name, street address, apartment number, city, state and zip. If delivery had really been attempted, I would have received it.

I'm self-employed and work at home and the returned mail tends to have my business name on it - but almost always in addition to my personal name. So that's really no excuse for non-delivery. And, again, there was never any real "attempt" to deliver.

Just this morning I learned of the fourth client check returned this way -- in the 18 months I've lived here. Also incorrectly returned have been a credit card bill (eventually paid late) and, I suspect, two 1099 forms. Who knows what else?

An employee being new, part-time or covering someone else's route doesn't excuse the failure or inability to deliver mail that has a correct street address and apartment number. I get plenty mail for Occupant, Neighbor and Resident, even though there's no one in my household by those names. So what should it matter whether mail has my personal or business name? If it has my apartment number, put it in the box and I'll decide if the addressee is unknown.

Anonymous said...

The postal service here in LA County is brutal, aka horrible. It is like they randomly select if they will or will not make an attempt to deliver the mail. I've been sending mail to the EXACT address & recipient, no changes, homeowner didn't move. and it get's returned to me. This happens on a monthly basis. March the address/name was good, April it isn't, May & June it is good. WTF? This is a consistent pattern I have noticed and there is no way to prove it is occurring. I'm not a conspiracy theorist but it sure is ironic how the postal service is operating at a loss and them being able to randomly return mail thereby increasing their revenue shortfall by requiring us to send it out twice is untraceable.

Big Daddy said...

The real reason most mail is returned is bad addressing? Perhaps. But that just makes it all the more frustrating when a properly addressed item is inexplicably returned. My credit card company put a hold on my card when their bill deliveries were repeatedly returned—the address has not changed, and I still live here! The only thing that has changed: the personnel involved in delivery. Yet another example of bureaucratic BS at the ol' USPS. I cut out the middleman and went paperless, but what about other mail that I'm missing? Can we go ahead and make everything email-based already?!