Like most people, Brynne Fisher is conditioned to expect U.S. Mail service to slow down during certain periods, such as the holidays and tax time. But this time, the glitch was too extreme for her to ignore.
When the Toys “R” Us catalog – with discount coupons – she was expecting arrived a couple of weeks after Christmas, Fisher wanted someone to be accountable. But she hesitated, concerned about unintended consequences.
“I really like my mail lady. She’s very nice and I didn’t want her to get in trouble.”
Eventually, Fisher did register her complaint with the USPS regional office in North Carolina.
“I spoke to the lady at the customer service place and she said she knew all about the troubles in Fort Mill and they had an investigation going on,” Fisher said.
“I know people are starving and there’s more important tings in the world than my Toys “R” Us catalog, but still...”
Fisher’s not alone. Other local residents have been complaining about shoddy service.
Monica Robbs, the USPS spokesperson for this region, said there had been a spike in complaints, but that the issues, which she attributed to backups at a regional processing center, have mostly been resolved.
“During the January time frame we did experience an increase in the number of complaints, mostly about the timeliness of delivery of mail in the Charlotte area,” she said, blaming “higher than expected package volume” around Christmas for the delays.
Around Christmas, Robbs said, the Postal Service deployed more processing center employees than usual on handling packages, which caused backups for ordinary mail delivery she said. She also said customers normally used to good service are particularly sensitive to lapses of any degree.
“Generally, when service is excellent, any decline is noticeable,” she said. “But they dig down deep anytime we learn that service is not up to standards. There’s no magic bullet, but we’ve returned to the quality service we usually provide.”
In fact, Fisher, who cited complaints other than the one with the catalog, said she’s noticed an improvement lately.
“When I posted [my complaint] on Facebook, it blew it up,” she said. I’m also the person who does our church newsletter and people were getting it three to four weeks late. I know it wasn’t the person doing the newsletter’s fault and I send one to myself as a test to see how long it takes to get there and timeliness is important. It doesn’t do anyone any good to get it late.”
However, “it seems like things have gotten better,” Fisher said. “I have no idea the impetus for it getting better and I don’t want anyone to get in trouble anywhere, but at least things seem to be getting better.”
Not all local customers are happy, though.
“My mail service has been suspect recently,” said one Fort Mill resident who, fearing retribution, asked not to be identified.
“I know that my son is waiting for a letter from Clemson regarding his application. All of his friends received their letters either Saturday or yesterday. I hope he gets his today,” the resident said recently.
One expected piece of mail that did not arrive at the resident’s home could have serious consequences, he said.
“It contained information regarding an interview appointment for a prestigious college scholarship. Since my son did not receive this mail, he missed the interview and was informed last week by mail that he missed the interview and is no longer being considered. This is for an out of state school and the scholarship would have been worth over $200K,” he complained.
Like Fisher, this resident’s Christmas cards and direct-mail advertising he wanted arrived after the New Year began, he said, and “We received a package around Dec. 27 that was sent on Nov. 14. This was a joint UPS / USPS mail where UPS handed it over to the USPS on Nov. 16.”
Another resident, who also asked to not be named for the same reason, had similar complaints, but also one the others didn’t mention.
“I have had so many issues with the Fort Mill Post Office,” said the resident, who rents a box there for businesses purposes but also gets home delivery.
“I have had, on two occasions, had another box holder get delivered my mail into their box. That box belonged to the Federal Inmate Advocates. They took it upon themselves to open my credit card statements and write themselves donation checks! The second check was for $1,850.00 – plus $74 fee and $7.11 interest! When the first incident happened I was very upset and called the credit card company and they took care of it. The second time I was furious and demanded to talk to the postmaster [who] had me contact the postal inspector.”
The resident contacted police, he said, and as of this week, the incident has not been resolved.
Another time, he said, a package of DVDs and Blue Ray disks were delivered to his home after apparently being tampered with.
“When I pulled out the package, the disks fell all over!” he said. “I found that the package (the plastic rip stop type) was sliced open from edge to edge! There was no way that it could have went through the mail like that. I drove to the post office and asked for the [now former] postmaster. She wasn't in, but they took my information and she was supposed to call me. A couple days later I went back and she told me that it must have happened during transit or processing! I showed her the package and she looked dumbfounded...I do like my carrier, but it didn't make sense. She told me that he should have put tape on the package.”
Finally, this customer was waiting for delivery of a vintage motorcycle gas tank he purchased on eBay when he inquired about it possibly being lost.
“It was shipped from Illinois via USPS insured with a tracking number. After a couple weeks without delivery I went to the post office to try to track it. I was told that because I was the recipient I was not able to track the package. A week later I was told that they couldn't track the package until it was delivered! The next time I was there, as I was starting to get very angry, [the post master at the time] said she would track the package for me. She then found that it had been delivered in Texas weeks ago, but she wasn't able to find out where! In the end I was able to get a refund from eBay...once the seller received the insurance payment from the post office!”
There is, currently, no postmaster at the Fort Mill Post Office, which is supervised by Officer-in-Charge Meryl Burke. She referred all questions to Robbs.
After longtime Fort Mill Postmaster Phil Layne retired in July 2008, he was succeeded by Deborah Wasylink in October of that year, Robbs said. When Wasylink “left for a detail (temporary assignment) at another local office in North Carolina,” Robbs explained in an email, “Teresa Fiske served as an Officer-in-Charge for several months in 2010, after Ms. Wasylink left. For two months, John Greiner served as the OIC, until Meryl Burke assumed the Officer-in-Charge position.”
In January, Wasylink was officially selected as the Postmaster of Huntersville, N.C., “making the Postmaster position in Fort Mill officially vacant. There has not been a selection to date,” Robbs wrote.
Robbs advices customers who have complaints or questions to bring them to Burke but also go to usps.com.
“I recommend in addition to that calling 1-800-ask-usps,” Robbs said.
“It allows our upper management to keep an eye on it and have an idea if needs extra attention and they may follow up with the customers to see if it was addressed properly. People should also feel free to go there if they have a suggestion or even a compliment. We like to pass along the good stuff, too,” she said.