Kevin Hunt: Why Is My Mail Delivered Now At 6 P.M.? (Or Not At All In Snow?)


Glastonbury Post Office

Glastonbury Post Office (February 16, 2014)

Untimely mail delivery and the Universal Service Fund are today's entries in this edition of "Is It Just Me?" – where no question is too small for The Bottom Line.

Q: "For some months, my mail has been delivered between 5 and 6 in the evening, a far cry from the 'usual' 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

"I asked my carrier about it and she told me that . . . when a carrier quits or leaves, the person is not replaced, so the rest of them work double shifts.

"On Tuesday, I paid some bills and put the envelopes in my mailbox. That evening, it was snowing, and I checked at 5:30. Envelopes still there. Same at 6:30. Same yesterday morning. No pick-up or delivery in my neighborhood.

"I called the Glastonbury post office was told that it became too dangerous for the carriers to complete their routes. So much for "neither snow nor rain [nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds].

"Apparently it is the U.S. Postmaster General who has instituted this "no replacement" policy. With postage rates going up again, this is unacceptable."

"Have you heard about this from anyone else?"

Nancy Eaton, Glastonbury

A: No. But most people know about the United States Postal Service's troubles, with $5 billion in annual losses. Faster and more easily accessible electronic mail has dramatically reduced the number of stamp-lickers across the country: 2 billion fewer mail items were sent in 2013 than in 2012.

That might explain the 3-cent stamp increase, the largest in 11 years, effective Jan. 26. (It now costs 49 cents to mail a letter.) The two-year increase is expected to help the USPS recoup $2.8 billion.

Of course, now you're feeling a little guilty about asking, but The Bottom Line is glad you did. USPS, in fact, is hiring three letter carriers in Glastonbury, though it might not change the new delivery time on your route.

"We do periodically adjust routes to ensure an approximate eight-hour day for each route," says Christine Dugas, a USPS spokeswoman. "That can change as new construction adds more addresses or mail volume goes up or down. . . . This is done all over the country and is done on an ongoing basis. It can change the time of delivery."

Neither snow nor rain, incidentally, prevented Dugas from researching your specific route. Here's what she found: Several addresses were added to the original route, pushing some addresses to other routes.

"The time of delivery for this street has changed," she says. "It is now at the end of the route. The route may be re-examined at the some point . . . but right now, customers there should expect their mail to be delivered at the end of the day."

As for "neither snow nor rain": Despite its association with the U.S. Postal Service, it is not an official USPS motto. The words appear on the James A. Farley post office on 8th Avenue in New York. They were added by one of the building's architects.

So in extreme weather, sometimes postal carriers are treated like most workers: They're told to get off the roads.

Q: "Why has the 'Universal Service Fund' on the Cox cable bill gone up by 4 cents — not a lot of money until multiplied by 100,000 customers. What's up with that? Another unknown tax?"

John Mancuso, Wethersfield

A: It's unknown because most cable subscribers don't know what it is. If you want to call it a tax, it's applied by the Federal Communications Commission to cable companies, which then pass it to subscribers.

The FCC started it in 1997 after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 called for providers to contribute toward universal access by schools, libraries, rural areas and low-income families. Today, that access begins with the Internet.

"The USF contribution factor is determined and most likely changes every quarter," says Dana Wolfe, a Cox Communications spokeswoman. "And because this is remitted to the Feds, Cox doesn't bill-message an explanation like we do for our own services/fee changes."

Remember, it's not just you. Other people want to know, too. Send questions to The Bottom Line at khunt@courant.com.

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