Patty Arrington of Glen Burnie says she gets her neighbors' mail, and vice versa, so often that they've worked out their own system for delivering it.
"We've got each other's phone numbers," she said. "We'll call and say, 'We've got your mail.' "
Jeanne Miller, one of her neighbors on Barkwood Road, says if it snows or if cars are parked in the way, she sometimes doesn't get hermail at all.
And Fran Cox, also of Glen Burnie, summed up her mail service this way: "It's gotten just about as bad as it can get."
"I could do a better job," Arrington said."Maybe they should dump itin my front yard, and I'll deliver it myself."
Arrington, who haslived in the Pleasantville section of Glen Burnie for 10 years, saidher mail service started going downhill about three years ago, when she and her neighbors stopped having a regular mail carrier.
Several residents said they have so many different carriers, they never know who to expect.
Some weeks the mail comes early; others it comesafter dusk. Some carriers won't deliver around parked cars or after dark, residents say, while others will.
Miller said mail often goes to the wrong houses as well. She regularly gets mail for families living on other streets with hersame house number.
"The house number is what does it. They don't look at the name or the street," Millersaid. "We end up having to deliver all this mail ourselves. We don'tget paid to do that."
Every day for a month last summer, her family received mail for 803 Barkwood Court, located in an industrial park in Linthicum.
Her husband took a stack of the mail to the Glen Burnie post office, trying to return it to its rightful owners.
Butthe clerk wouldn't take it back, Miller said.
"She just kept saying, 'It must be your mail, '" she said. "My husband got so tired arguing with her, he came home. And you want to know what he did with that mail? He threw it in the trash."
Arrington said she gets mail destined for 806 Paradise Lane and 806 Tieman Drive, and vice versa. Her paychecks have been delivered to 806 Tieman several times in the past six months.
"It's ridiculous," she said. "We get the wrong mail. We don't get the mail . . . The (Postal Service's) motto should be through rain and snow, except in Pleasantville."
William T. Pratesi, postmaster in Glen Burnie, said allegations about missed mail delivery are exaggerated.
"We're on top of the situation," he said. "My feeling is that it happens infrequently."
Pratesi said the Glen Burnie Post Office delivers mail to more than 31,000 homes, 302 days a year. The vast majority of the time, he said, mail is delivered properly.
He did admit to problems in some small pockets, such as theBarkwood Road area. He said he would look into correcting those problems.
But he said he does not believe houses are being skipped dueto parked cars or inclement weather.
However, residents on Barkwood Road maintain they receive no delivery if it snows more than a couple of inches. And if cars are parked on the street, some carriers will not get out of their trucks to walk around to the mailbox, residents said.
Chris Kirby, union representative for Local 4422 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said carriers in Glen Burnie recognize there's a problem.
"Everyone is entitled to one deliverya day," he said. "Almost every other day, carriers are bringing mailback" from unfinished routes.
Kirby stressed that factors contributing to bad service and missed houses are out of the carriers' control. One of the biggest problems, he said, is that the mail being processed in Baltimore arrives late in Glen Burnie.
The Glen Burnie office also is understaffed, he said, causing some routes to be too long. The combination of the late start and long routes sometimes results in mail coming back at the end of the day. And the problem is worsein the winter when it gets dark early.
"We deliver mail in the summer till 7:30 or 8 o'clock at night" to finish the routes, he said. But carriers can't do that in the winter due to the Post Office's policy that mail can't be delivered after dark.
"The hardest thing for carriers to do is pull away from their routes when it gets dark," he said. "But if we're out there and something happens, we can get disciplined."
Kirby said he suggested that routes be changed, leavingapartments and condominiums until last. Because the buildings have lighted corridors, their mail could be delivered after dark if a carrier runs behind schedule, he said.
But his suggestions have gone unheeded, he said.
John J. Dials, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Baltimore, said the number and variety of complaints coming from some Glen Burnie neighborhoods concern him.
"We have to get themail delivered. If that's not happening, this is really going to be looked at," he said.
Dials said he is particularly concerned aboutmail being delivered to wrong addresses.
"What really upsets me is mis-delivery," he said. "We can't do much about bad weather or darkness, but (mis-delivered mail) is within our control.
"That's justinattention to detail," he added. "That's totally unacceptable."
Dials said customers who have not received their mail or get someone else's mail should call the customer service hot line at 347-4377.