Snail mail: Irregular postal deliveries tell a familiar tale

Delayed mail has become the norm for some living in Charlottesville. Staff photo Delayed mail has become the norm for some living in Charlottesville. Staff photo

By Jonathan Haynes

Charlottesville residents are again losing their patience with irregular deliveries from the United States Postal Service.

Conan Owen, owner of Relax and Rejuvenate on Arlington Boulevard, says he has repeatedly experienced gaps in service over the past year. “They’re skipping the building entirely,” he says.

Owen says the delays have disrupted his company’s payroll system. “I was literally waiting for a $10,000 check. I got it the next day and it put off my payment schedule.”

Post office representatives have provided little assistance. “You cannot reach the Charlottesville USPS postmaster,” he says. “You can get a clerk who passes a message and they never get back.”

Owen says he emailed the postal service about irregular deliveries several times without a response. Nearly a month after the first complaint, USPS Marketing Manager Benjamin Farmer replied, telling Owen that he “will follow up with the offices and have the postmaster give you a call.”

Eight days later, Owen emailed Farmer again to inform him that he has not heard from the postmaster and that problems with his mail service have persisted. As of this writing, Farmer has yet to reply.

The postmaster’s contact information is not publicly listed. To lodge a complaint, residents must go to their local post office or call the agency’s general service line.

C-VILLE’s attempts to contact Postmaster Cloteal Farmer were unsuccessful.

The post office was established by the United States Constitution to ensure that all residents would receive mail regardless of who they were or where they lived. But it differs from other government agencies in that it is financed by postal stamps in lieu of taxpayer funds.

In the mid-aughts, this unusual structure plunged the post office into fiscal distress as email and online banking began to replace paper mail as Americans’ preferred mode of correspondence. While revenue was declining, the federal government struck another blow to its budget in 2006 by passing a law requiring the agency to fund employee health care plans in advance of their retirement.

The USPS promptly downsized to close its budget deficit, laying off employees and scaling back operations nationwide. In 2010, Charlottesville cut costs by merging its processing and distribution center with the Richmond branch.

The austerity measures kept the service afloat, but administrative problems quickly transpired. The volume of delayed mail doubled between 2009 and 2011, leaving Richmond with the largest quantity of delayed mail in the country.

Complaints from residents surged and the USPS Office of Inspector General stepped in to conduct an audit, which concluded the Charlottesville-Richmond center was both understaffed and overburdened, resulting in a massive delivery backlog.

Subsequently, complaints about the postal service were covered by local news outlets, including C-VILLE, where we wrote about instances of irregular delivery twice last year, after receiving tips from local neighborhoods and businesses on the Downtown Mall—and the recent reports of mail delays suggest the post office’s problems have yet to be resolved.

Over the years, Charlottesville residents have complained about irregular delivery service from the post office.

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