A USPS executive recently warned that the shift to more non-career carriers is likely to reduce the chances that mail with incomplete or incorrect addresses will be delivered correctly. Comments from both front-line employees and mailers confirm that the trouble has already started.
“Up until about five years ago there was always one carrier on one route meaning that every route was staffed properly,” a 27-year veteran letter carrier commented recently on my article New Postal Hires Mean More 'Return To Sender' Mail. “Plus, we had ‘fixed’ floaters for our days off. This
ensured that the mail was delivered with adequate knowledge. Now, every day is nothing short of chaos. Carriers are scrambling around the office to ‘case up’ vacant routes then doing a two- or three-hour split in addition to your own route. It’s a recipe for failure.”
“I place a big VACANT sticker in my vacant boxes,” a letter carrier wrote on another web site. “Evidently every CCA [city carrier assistant] thinks this is the resident’s name because they stuff it with mail -- every one of ‘em.”
Some commenters believe that relying on carrier knowledge rather than good databases and systems is the real recipe for failure:
“My rural carriers have always re-routed mail because of their personal knowledge and it drives me nuts,” wrote a 20-year postmaster. “I don't condone it because when the sub works, mail gets RTS[Return to Sender, address unknown. No such number, no such zone]. I can't help the sub, 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.”
“I could not believe the comments from USPS employees that seemed to be saying that the issue would at least be partially resolved if full time/career employees were the only ones delivering mail because they would know ‘where these people live’," one person commented in the Printing Impressions LinkedIn group for mailers.
“The mail should be addressed properly. That is the only way the system works and especially in a time when people are moving seemingly more frequently. No human can possibly keep track of this for a route of any size (I can barely do it for my family!!!). Address hygiene is key!”
Statistics vs. service
Some postal workers blame the growing delivery problems on postal management that is increasingly emphasizing statistics over service. Said one: “A missed scan point is so much more important to upper management than mis-delivered 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.”
Postal workers also complain about businesses and other institutional mailers using outdated address databases. But even industry-standard address-hygiene practices don’t solve all problems.
People often move without notifying the Postal Service, especially since USPS made it harder to obtain the proper forms. And folks forget (or choose not) to share the new address with all of the other organizations with which they have regular dealings.It can take awhile to get updates into the USPS’s address-correction system and even longer to correct data that's just plain wrong.
Stir it up In the interest of stirring up discussion of this knotty problem, here is a selection of other comments made to Dead Tree Edition, other web sites, and LinkedIn groups:
- "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."
- "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."
- “Maybe the USPS needs to use the new scanners/data collection devices to get real time info from those experienced carriers. Part of the USPS problem is not utilizing technology to the fullest.”
- "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."
- "I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about returned mail from my customers lately. This is excellent info."
- "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 two weeks or more to get back to you."
- “It [mis-addressed mail] won`t be returned. It will be delivered. Many of our PTFs [Part-Time Flexible employees] just deliver the DPS [delivery-point sequenced] errors. They couldn`t care less if it goes to the wrong address.” To which someone responded, “Goes hand-in-hand with management that couldn't give a sh1t about the training of these subs......numbers and PFP [pay for performance] uber alles."