Notes From the Post Office

USPS trucks

Since I started working for the United states Post Office, I have discovered that there is a TON of general misinformation and misunderstanding about the USPS. In bi-monthly posts, I’m going to try to clarify certain aspects of the post office. For this first post I URGE you to pay attention if you use FED-EX, UPS or Amazon for any of your shipping needs.

First up: Did you know that even if you think that you are using FED-EX, UPS or Amazon for shipping (and paying their higher rates) the USPS is often  called in to deliver your package on the last and most expensive leg of it’s journey? It’s called Smart Shipping or Smart Posts.Yep, you pay higher rates thinking that you are getting the exclusive and faster delivery service of days gone by, but you may not be. FedEx Corp., United Parcel Service Inc.  and Amazon  are increasingly moving their packages through the U.S. Postal Service. This is not to mess with you, the customer. It is a partnership between the USPS and private delivery companies to save money for said companies and to generate money for the USPS.

LOL, this photo looks like no one works here. Even with so few of us left to process the mail, it is usually a blur of activity. In this case no one wanted to be in the picture so they all stepped back. See those large boxes on pallets? We use tilt-up machines to be able to access the parcels at the bottom of the box. Yep, your packages take several tumbles wherever they go. It is not just the post office who employs these distribution methods. it is the same with all of the parcel shipping companies.

In the past decade, the post office has lost more than 30% of its most profitable product—first-class mail—to the Internet. In spite of radical staff downsizing, the post office is still in need of growth so it has agreed to the extra package-delivery business from its private-sector rivals.  Therefore, parcels are where we now make most of our income.

For FedEx alone, the post office delivers an average of about 30-40% of the express-mail company’s total U.S. ground segment.

UPS won’t specify how much of its shipments go through the post office, but a regulatory filing indicates those types of lightweight shipments accounted for 40%—or about 37 million packages—of its total increase in ground shipments in 2012. And as a postal mail handler, I can attest to the fact that those numbers have increased dramatically over the last several years.

There are two VERY important aspects to this arrangement that you should know. If you do a google search about disgruntled customers who are angry that the various tracking numbers do not account for where their packages are some of the time, you will see that people are complaining about a mysterious void where their package does not seem to be anywhere for a day or so. Tracking numbers are a beautiful thing but they do not tell a complete story.

In the case of all of the private delivery companies, parcels arrive in our warehouse after 6:00am with Fed-EX coming in at 9:00am. – Long AFTER our 5:00 dispatch time. That means that when a package comes in for Cottonwood, for instance, that Cottonwood truck has already left at 5:00am. The package sits in our warehouse, un-scanned, until the next morning when the Cottonwood truck shows up again. The parcel gets to Cottonwood one or two days later (depending on if it’s Sunday or holidays) where it is scanned “Arrived at unit” and then goes out with the carriers that day. THAT is why there is a day or two of delay. Nothing mysterious at all and it’s not due to lax postal employees- just a matter of truck delivery timing.

If Fed-Ex, UPS or Amazon brings us parcels that are for our city, Prescott, then it is scanned “arrived at unit” but may not make it in time to go out with the carriers for that day. So “arrived” and “out for delivery” may also show a one or two day delay. Again, it depends on if it is a Sunday or a holiday and how soon mail gets delivered to our warehouse.FedExThat brings me to packaging. I asked Vicky to stand in front of a Fed Ex pallet so that you can see scale. Often the pallets are packed to 84 inches- just so that they clear our dock doors. Fed-Ex places the heaviest packages on top of the wrapped pallet “for stabilizing the pallet”. Hmmm…what does that mean for you, the mailer? It means that there is a LOT of weight bearing down on your parcel!

If you are wrapping your own packages, listen up. Packaging is of utmost importance to guard against loss or damage. Take some responsibility and know that you cannot send a glass framed photo in a manila envelope and expect it not to get broken. People do. You CANNOT simply put tabs into slots with no additional tape and expect the parcel to arrive intact. People do. And PLEASE, stop mailing breakable items in tissue boxes! I’m not exaggerating- people do so on a daily basis. Broken, smashed, damaged items make our hearts bleed. Trust me on this. I and my FEW co-workers that are left standing bust our butts every night to move the mail quickly and efficiently. When we see damage that could have been so easily prevented by sensible packaging, it hurts is a box that came in with the contents (who knows if it was ALL of the contents) spewed throughout the huge shipping box. Really?  Parcels that are going from one end of the country to the other go through an average of 48 handlers from start point to end point. They also go along on many conveyor belts and lifters that tilt up to drop said parcels onto said belts. Do you really think that you can just tuck tabs in and it will be packed well enough?

Sorry if I’m coming across as really negative. I love my job and am good at it, but I need people to wise up in order to make their postal experience a more pleasant one.



4 thoughts on “Notes From the Post Office

  1. I think the post office works miracles and I always have. When you think of all the things that have to happen to make the mail get to exactly the right spot, you wonder how any of it makes it. And in good shape, the vast majority of the time. I send a lot of mail art and I have to say – it gets there fine, and it’s not standard size, etc. So I really appreciate your work. Just wanted to say it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Claudia! You made my day. We hear so many negative things about the PO when things go wrong. And they do, on occasion. We are understaffed and overworked, but we keep trying. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I found what you wrote really interesting. I especially was amazed at the stack of packages (and the part about the heaviest on top!). You know that there is a huge volume of mail, but seeing it like that was an eye-opener. More, please, I think people would be interested in your perspective from the inside of the mailbox, so to speak. I am.

        Liked by 1 person

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