Express distress: Locals say post office is not performing to the letter

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Alakazam Toys and Gifts owner Cassandra Mathis calls her postal service “unpredictable,” leaving her unsure each day if a mail carrier will stop by her store. Staff photo Alakazam Toys and Gifts owner Cassandra Mathis calls her postal service “unpredictable,” leaving her unsure each day if a mail carrier will stop by her store. Staff photo

From the Downtown Mall and beyond, some Charlottesville businesses and residents are concerned with their mail delivery—explicitly the lack thereof. A few have not received their mail until well into the evening, while others have gone days without any kind of postal service.

Verdigris owner Mazi Vogler says her postal service is irregular when it comes to shipping packages. When she needs to ship a package the same day, she says her postal carrier often does not return to pick up the boxes.

“I’m not even waiting for him,” Vogler says. “I’m running to the post office every day.”

Alakazam Toys and Gifts owner Cassandra Mathis has also had issues with mail delivery to her Downtown Mall toy shop. She says the consistency of her postal service has been getting worse since her business’ regular carrier retired about a year ago.

“Some days we don’t get any mail,” Mathis says.

Those days, Mathis says, pose significant problems for sending of bills and financial mail. The longest period of time she has gone without postal service is two days.

“It’s so unpredictable,” Mathis says. “I can’t rely on if the postal carrier is going to stop by.”

And when a postal carrier does deliver mail to Mathis’ store, it’s not always the same person.

Standing in contrast is a recent USPS commercial that communicates the company’s pride in its service to business owners, especially for e-commerce and online deliveries. The May 18 commercial emphasizes the important relationship between business owners and the USPS—a relationship with which Vogler and Mathis have been having a few trust issues.

But not every business on the mall has complaints with its mail service. Joan Fenton, owner of J. Fenton Too and Quilts Unlimited, says her postal service is “awesome.”

She says the store’s heavy volume of packages for online delivery sometimes slows mail service, but her USPS carrier is very accommodating in picking up the large number of packages.

Tension around mail service has even provoked rumors: One example is that the Southern Environmental Law Center had installed a camera to monitor its mail, although the center expressly denies this rumor and provides no complaints about its postal service.

The hit-or-miss service extends beyond the Downtown Mall. Matt Murray, who lives on Wayside Place, says he recently did not receive any mail at his home for three days straight, nor did his neighbors, a situation he says has never occurred before.

“It was one of those occasions when I was expecting something of importance, and I was wondering where it was,” Murray says. “It reminded me of how dependent we are upon a reliable postal service.”

When Murray’s mail service did resume, he says his carriers told him they were coming from outside of the area, from Troy to Bridgewater.

“I heard through the grapevine that 16 mail carriers had quit,” Murray says.

However, Freda Sauter, from USPS corporate communications, says, “There seems to be confusion and misinformation about staffing at the Charlottesville post office.” She says only one career letter carrier has recently retired, with two other employees currently out on requested leave.

“We do have transitional employees and that fluctuates,” Sauter says. “Typically the Postal Service employs a smaller supplemental workforce in the summer, when mail volumes are lower, and larger temporary staffing during the fall, our busiest time of the year.”

The Charlottesville post office currently lists openings for two part-time mail carriers on its website.

Charlottesville USPS Officer-In-Charge Victoria Brinkley did not respond to C-VILLE’s request for comment.

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