Complaints mount as post office prioritizes packages over mail

Customer service at the post office has always had a bad rap. Yet at least citizens could look forward to and rely on their cards, letters and packages being in the mailbox at the end of the day, even in a blizzard.

Not necessarily so anymore. Complaints over sketchy mail service have been on the rise all over Minnesota with the holiday rush only exacerbating and exposing the problem. The Brainerd Dispatch says the once-reliable mail delivery service has become a big concern locally, as well as in other north-central Minnesota communities.

Other post offices also have an influx of packages and mail over the holiday season and have had the same weather to deal with in December. Inability to get mail delivered regularly is a frequent conversation topic in the area, and a repeated concern for Brainerd Dispatch newspaper delivery, which went to all mail delivery in November. Mail customers have expressed concerns about medications that are mailed to them, about delays in getting paychecks and using that income to pay their bills, and then, of course, the packages intended for Christmas and holiday gifts.

A woman who lives on Ojibwe Road north of Brainerd said those complaints are common on Nextdoor, an app that connects neighborhoods.

KARE-11 found the same problems popping up in the Twin Cities.

…in the Normandale Park neighborhood of Edina…

“Maybe once or twice a week, and that’s it,” said Jon Wincentsen.

It’s hit or miss for residents like Wincentsen. 

“We’re all walking out to our mailbox and looking at it and going, ‘Hello?’ You know that type of thing and not seeing anything,” said Wincentsen. 

Across the metro in St. Paul, a similar situation for Chey Eisenman, owner of Chey Cab. She took to twitter stating her rent check took 14 days to reach her landlord this month, and last month’s check never made it at all.

It doesn’t help that many post offices have trouble hiring enough employees. Still, the new reality appears to be that USPS now effectively prioritizes the delivery of packages over old-fashioned snail mail, thanks to a deal with Amazon. The agency has acknowledged that some mail will be delayed as a result of a turnaround plan to make the postal service more efficient. Two mail carriers told the Duluth News Tribune the transition sometimes means other mail and customers just have to get used to waiting.

“I’d have to blame it on Amazon. I hate to do that because that’s the post office’s cash cow, is what they’re telling us,” one of the current mail carriers said when asked about the cause of residents’ mail delays. “It’s just so easy to click and ship, as they say.”
The service’s relatively small trucks fill up faster with parcels, sometimes prompting carriers to make a second run or leave mail behind for a less busy day, one of the current carriers said.

Parcels also take up more time, too, one of the current carriers said. A block’s worth of mail can take 15 minutes to deliver. Each package can add a few minutes here or there — time that adds up along a carrier’s route and leads to longer workdays. Both current carriers claimed that USPS supervisors here sometimes prioritize package deliveries at the expense of letters, magazines and other mail.

Even with the new emphasis on packages, the postal service still finds a way to deliver plenty of frustration in the customer service department for some recipients.

She looked up where the annex was, went there, and was told her package wasn’t at the annex but was at the Brainerd Post Office. She was given the wrong place because of a glitch, she said they told her. So she went to the post office. This experience was repeated by others who traveled between the annex in Baxter and the post office in Brainerd and still left empty-handed.

After people stood in line for some time at the post office Tuesday, the woman said a clerk came out and told them if they were waiting for items out for delivery on Dec. 18, 19 or 20, they could all leave because those packages hadn’t been sorted yet and they could come back in a couple of days.