Yes, your mail's late, survey finds


Ever wonder why the mail is so late reaching your door, or whether delivery is better in other cities?

Rest assured, it is. In most of them.

A report that Baltimoreans have the seventh worst mail delivery service in the country has provoked some puzzlement among local postal workers, some suggestions as to what's wrong, and a professed determination at the top to make things better.

"I'm very, very surprised, to tell you the truth," said Gary Doyle, a manager in Customer Service Operations, about Baltimore's poor performance. "I just seem to get my mail all the time.

"Ours is not one of the best," said Jane Shinnick, manager of the Govans Post Office, after learning of the low efficiency rating. "Why? If I knew, I'd go out and correct the problem."

The survey was done by the Price Waterhouse accounting firm for the Postal Service, and covered the late winter and early spring. It showed that in Baltimore mail was delivered on time only 68.6 percent of the time.

This was considerably better than Washington. The capital's mail carriers had the worst delivery record in the country, with an on-time rate of only 60.6 percent.

The post office considers first-class mail delivered on time if it arrives overnight or within two days, depending on the area. Second-class mail is on time if it is delivered within seven to 10 days.

Baltimoreans also enjoyed better mail service than did New Yorkers and Chicagoans and the inhabitants of Newark, Philadelphia and Westchester, N.Y.

The residents of Long Beach, Calif, had the best service in the country; 88.7 percent of their mail arrived on time.

The Price Waterhouse data, which was handed over to postal authorities in Washington, was published in Business Mailers Review, a Washington newsletter that specializes in information on the service.

Richard Rudez, the Baltimore district manager and top postal official in this area, said one of the problems was a shortage of workers.

He said a survey mailed to all Baltimore households over the past few months revealed that the most frequent complaint was that the mail was being delivered too late in the day, a consequence of the shortage of carriers.

"They wanted improvements in the time it took mail to be delivered and the time of day we were delivering," he said.

"They wanted it as early as they can get it."

Mr. Rudez said the agency has been working since May to move mail sent within the city with greater dispatch. New boxes exclusively designated for intra-city mail will soon be on the sidewalks around town.

"What we are going to do is basically to improve the flow of the city mail into our plant [the main post office] by keeping it separate from all other collection mail," Mr. Rudez said.

The delays in mail delivery are annoying to customers. Cindy Devon, the manager of the law offices of Stephen L. Miles, said lateness is bad for business.

"You used to be able to depend on the Postal Service and more and more you can't," she said.

Ever since the company moved to its current offices at 1010 St. Paul St. in November, she said, the mail has been arriving late.

"If you're waiting for something and it comes in at 9 you can react to it by noon. If it comes in at noon, well, with the volume of mail we get, you can't deal with it until 2 in the afternoon."

"The biggest problem that I have is that when they stick it through the mail slot, they rip the mail a lot. A couple times no one in the neighborhood has gotten mail," said JoAnn Bailey, 33, who lives in Charles Village.

Postal supervisors around the metropolitan area were reluctant to discuss the problems when contacted yesterday. But an employee of the Parkville Post Office admitted that office received a lot of complaints from people in the neighborhood.

"The mail is late. It's late going both ways. Late going out and late getting where it's sent," said the woman, who, like other postal workers contacted for this article, asked to remain unidentified.

Asked about efficiency among the branch's 130 employees, she said: "We have only about three who are a little slow. You have to keep an eye on them, keep them motivated."

The problem, she said, is outside the branch. "The mail's just not here when we need it."

A branch supervisor in East Baltimore identified the failure of the main post office to get the mail into the branches as a major problem.

He blamed a shortage of personnel and problems with sorting equipment. Specifically, he said optical scanners, which are programmed to read addresses, are blinded by reflections thrown off by window envelopes.

"This mail is rejected, and has to be processed by a human. And, since we have a shortage of people, well, it gets delayed," he said.

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