Mail fail: ABC 6 investigates what's preventing the post office from delivering mail
Checking to see if you got mail is probably one of the first things you do when you get home. But in many Columbus neighborhoods, people say mail delivery is a luxury, and the service is only getting worse.
Residents in some areas say checks and packages have gotten lost, delivered to the wrong address, or just gone missing. They also say they’ve had bills go unpaid. One man claims he lost his health insurance because he never received an important renewal notice that was mailed to him.
Richard Calcaterra said his neighborhood once went an entire week without mail delivery, and that's a big problem.
"I get all my medications by mail," said Calcaterra. "That's the only way they'll send them."
Neighbor Doug Melvin agreed that delivery is dismal.
“It's been ongoing for the past couple of years,” said Melvin. “It just seems like it's getting worse and worse.”
ABC6 has received complaints about mail service in Columbus and the surrounding areas for years. A majority of them stem from the Oakland Park Post Office on Innis Road in northeast Columbus. People complain about long lines, no mail, and no answers at the postal branch.
During a recent trip to that post office, it took an ABC 6 crew 30 minutes just to get to the counter.
The Oakland Park Post Office delivers to more than 54,000 addresses six days a week, according to USPS Spokesman David Van Allen He said there are 4 to 5 inquiries a week from customers claiming they are missing mail.
That's more than 200 complaints a year, and neighbors told us nothing's been done.
"It's pretty pointless to complain anymore because nothing ever happens," said Phillip Francia.
ABC 6 reached out to the American Postal Workers Union, Local 232, which represents 1100 post office employees. No one wanted to talk. The On Your Side crew also tried Buckeye Branch 78 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents the city letter carriers. They, too, had nothing to say.
Merrilee Pyle, who retired after 30 years as a mail carrier in South Columbus, did talk.
"It is much harder than it looks," she said. "There's a lot more involved than people know."
Pyle told us the mail carrier job is not like the old days.
"I talked to a friend this morning, who said every single day there are 8 routes they have to cover that are totally unassigned that do not have carriers at all. And they have to pick up the slack."
Pyle, who trained new carriers for a while, said these days new carriers are given impossible tasks.
"They only train them 3 days on the street, which is not enough to know, especially if you don't know the area," Pyle said. "They (managers) expect you to do 10 hours worth of work in 9 hours. If you're not back in 9 hours, you're going to get written up. And for 90 days, you're on probation, so they're scared to death, afraid to do anything wrong."
ABC 6 tried again to ask US Post Office spokesman Van Allen about a possible carrier shortage, and why there were so many problems, but he denied our request.
The Post Office held a recent job fair at the Twin Rivers Drive Post Office, where they were hoping to fill 100 open city carrier assistant jobs in Columbus.
"We have them every so often when we realize we really need to get more people in," said Donna Flint, USPS Human Resources Specialist. "We have plenty of work available. So it's not really a part-time job. It's for people who are looking for plenty of hours."
The job pays almost $17 an hour, plus benefits. Flint said it's six days a week, including weekends and holidays, and you deliver mail until the job is done.
Back in the neighborhood where residents often complain about mail issues, Calcaterra says why not just hire full-time carriers.
"Two supervisors came out here in the evening, and they were putting mail into mailboxes," he said. "They said they just don't have anybody to deliver us on a regular basis."
Post Office spokesman Van Allen says customers with any concerns, complaints or compliments are encouraged to contact the Customer Care Center at 1-800-275-8777 (1-800-ASK-USPS) or by using the “Contact Us” link on their website.
He said when customers contact the Customer Care center, their concern is logged into a database which allows them to efficiently and effectively track and resolve issues. Van Allen also said customers who contact the Customer Care Center receive a callback and/or email about their concern to ensure that the issue is resolved.