Silicon Valley Residents Report Late Deliveries, Missing Mail Amid USPS Staffing Shortfall

It took seven days for the letter to travel a single mile.

By the time 73-year-old Loralea Anderson received her eye doctor’s referral for cataract surgery, she’d missed several appointment slots at Kaiser. At least it finally made it to her Campbell home. The same can’t be said for last month’s credit card statement.

“I thought it was really odd,” Anderson told San Jose Inside this morning. “I called my credit union, and they said they’ve been having issues, too, with missing payments.”

For several months now, residents in Campbell, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Sunnyvale and downtown San Jose have reported widespread lapses in postal service, from delivery delays to missing mail and letters sent to the wrong address. On NextDoor, Facebook and elsewhere online, scores of complaints describe how the ongoing complications have impacted elderly people who rely on mailed medications, businesses whose revenue depends on timely deliveries and residents awaiting IRS forms to file their taxes.

The problem escalated in Campbell to the point that Councilman Rich Waterman reportedly met with USPS officials and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), whose district encompasses the West Valley town, asked Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman to intervene in what she called “massive failures” in service.

“In my 27 years of service in Congress, I have never had such a drastic set of postal issues in any of the communities I represent,” she wrote. “That’s why this case is an urgent one and must be addressed with urgency.”

Complaints have been cropping online about the noticeable lapse in mail service. (Source: NextDoor)

USPS spokesman Augustine Ruiz Jr. requested more details about the complaints before responding with comment. Since he has Presidents Day off, however, Ruiz said he probably won’t have anything to provide in the way of answers until later this week.

Complaints about the delivery problems have been cropping up on NextDoor.Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) attributed the service issues to an “experimental delivery system,” which reportedly changed carrier routes, prompted multiple resignations and left local post offices severely short-staffed.

“I’ll be working this week to get a functional postal delivery service that we are accustomed to getting,” he said. “As of right now, it sounds like a delivery system issue.”

Karen Black, a real estate agent who sends postcards to let people know about upcoming open houses, said a mailing she sent to about a thousand residents took five days to go from a printer in downtown Campbell to mailboxes less than a few miles away.

“I didn’t experience it myself until last week,” she said. “And as soon as I posted about it on NextDoor, the mailman happened to arrive. So I went out and talked to him and he said he’d been on vacation and they didn’t have anyone to staff his route for him. I guess they’re having a hard time hiring enough people.”

Joe Tseng, a Campbell resident who got no service at all from Feb. 4 to 11, described in a Facebook post how he’s also received other people’s mail and had to deliver it himself.

Meanwhile, he added, online tracking service by UPS, FedEx and Amazon have been reporting packages as delivered even when they arrive days late or not at all. When he inquired about the problems, he said USPS officials traced them back to a pilot program that rolled out last fall to save the agency money after years of declining revenues.

“This is a [Town] of Campbell issue and happening all over the city,” he wrote on the social networking site. “Late mail, lost mail with personal tax and Social Security data during tax season going to strangers is truly unacceptable.”

Anderson, who plans to file a formal complaint with the USPS, said she’s worried about how the service lapses will impact the upcoming March 3 primary.

As part of an effort to make voting more convenient, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters mailed ballots to every registered voter in its jurisdiction. Anderson said she hopes election officials reach out to residents in Campbell and any other areas impacted by the USPS service problems to make sure that people are getting their election materials.

The 245-year-old USPS receives no taxpayer money because it relies instead on service and sales revenue. Yet the government-run corporation has experienced crippling financial losses for the better part of the past two decades, prompting calls for privatization from the right and for massive public reinvestment from across the aisle.

In 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress hamstrung the agency with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which prevented the USPS from innovating beyond mail and package delivery and required it to pre-fund healthcare for future retirees. Despite delivering more packages than ever before, the USPS hemorrhaged money for years in no small part because of that mandate.

Earlier this month, after years of bipartisan efforts to repeal it, the House finally voted to end the controversial $5.5 billion-a-year healthcare payments. USPS administrators applauded the vote as a critical first step toward stabilizing the agency.

In a recently released five-year strategic plan, the USPS said it can regain its financial footing within five years with internal changes and legislative reforms. The blueprint for future growth details how the agency plans to orient more of its business toward e-commerce delivery, new digital services and expanded use of 24-hour self-help kiosks.

“The most significant issue facing the Postal Service today is that our business model is unsustainable,” Postmaster General Megan Brennan and USPS Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan wrote in a joint letter introducing the business plan. “This is due to increasingly conflicting mandates to be self-funding, compete for customers, and meet universal service obligations under highly regulated and legislated constraints.”

Despite its hardships, the USPS remains one of the nation’s largest employers, with 634,000 career and contract workers, boasts the largest delivery reach compared to its private-sector counterparts and polls as one of America’s favorite federal agencies.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

24 Comments

  1. Living up in the hills is a problem for mail delivery.
    The carriers are over worked and unappreciated.
    We get are mail around 5 pm .
    The carrier is always courteous and it is not their fault.
    I don’t know about the management?

  2. I didn’t recieve any of my letter mail for 8 days and finally received all my mail at once on Friday. This is the 3rd time in the last 3 months that this has happened. We often get our mail delivered in neighbors boxes and have have almost 10 packages lost in the last 2 years. We also have a huge issue with mail/packages being scanned and marked delivered even when it isn’t and then receive it 4 or 5 days later.
    The gross mismanagement at the Campbell post office is absolutely astounding. I have had the Post Master literally scream at me over the phone when I asked him to repeat himself, after not hearing what he said. When I told him that there was no need to raise his voice he told me I am mistaken and he was yelling at an employee (like that makes it better). We have had so many issues.

  3. On the plus side not a single disgruntled postal worker has gone on a shooting rampage in San Jose yet this year.

      • > Police are the ones who shoot people now.

        Well, they’re not shooting enough of the people who need to be shot.

        It’s undocumented “migrants”, MS-13 gang members, and drug cartel “employees” who do most of the shooting these days.

  4. This now totally makes sense. I used to live in West San Jose, now in a different state. I have had at least 3 letters go missing in the past year, sending to the Bay Area. And, all 3 had checks in them, none cashed, all stopped payment. My letters went to Campbell, Aptos and Menlo Park. So, it might not be just a West Valley thing with the USPS. Personally, I thought it was MY post office, and so I had a chat with them. The description of their process confirmed that it was not on my end. And, nothing else has been missing, only Bay Area mail. So, this is good info to know.

  5. Definitely a wide spread issue. This same type of stuff happens in Mt. View too. Management is a key component to the chaos. The mail carriers are unappreciated and harassed on a daily. Even expected to “call in” on their days off and getting warnings about not coming in on their days off.

  6. I tried to get a job with USPS but it’s really difficult because they give the hardest routes to the new people and you have to be a super hero to succeed.

  7. The job of letter carrier these days is not the same of yesteryear, the easy-going carrier walking the street chit-chatting with the residents carefree. The job is very demanding, backbreaking due to heavy parcels and the constant demand to get everything out daily. In addition, the salary is not very good for the new people. The salary is the same for a new carrier working in Campbell as it is for a carrier in Alabama where an apartment would be $400/month. So most new people do not last these working conditions for more than a month. It is a brutal job mentally and physically. The turnover is almost 100% for new hires. The trucks have no A/C, break down, and are not designed for parcel delivery. These carriers are working 12-15 hours a day, 6 days a week, often 7 days a week. Would you stay at a job like that with low pay? No idea when you will be home daily? The new system of delivery is a joke, it is a trial at certain locations around the US, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many issues and getting staffing is the main one. But you will not get staffing until the pay is increased for this region, which will keep the new hires from quitting.

  8. My street has been dealing with these issues since October – everything that was talked about in the article. I agree that it is not the Postal Carriers’ faults, but the Post Office is mandated to delivery mail daily and when it claims that a package or parcel was delivered at a certain time and date when in actuality it did not, the is fraud. So we have a federal agency committing fraud against its clients.

    • It’s likely because managers are instructed that all packages must be scanned delivered before 8pm, but if you’re short-staffed because people quit over this “test initiative” going on in the San Jose area (as well as others around the country) and/or overburdened (again, because of the test initiative), I have heard managers instruct (especially new) employees to scan it whatever in order to keep from getting in trouble with higher management. It’s definitely a problem!

  9. Why is it that private enterprise, i.e. UPS, FedEx, DHL and so on provide such excellent dependable service, while the bumbling US Postal Service not only loses money but can barely find its way to efficiency and success?

    • Duh, because the republicans have been trying to kill it for generations. Your question is like asking how come the horse doesn’t win the race after it has been hit in the leg. How come that other horse can run so fast, what is wrong with your horse? Oh yah, because I hit it in the leg buddy duh

      • > Your question is like asking how come the horse doesn’t win the race after it has been hit in the leg.

        The socialist answer to bad postal service or slow horses is always the same: just stuff the beast with more tax money.

        • Did you even read the article? The Post Office gets NO tax money! But I’m guessing facts don;t really matter to you.

          • > The Post Office gets NO tax money!

            Maybe not directly,

            But they do get a monopoly on first class mail.

            Plus, they likely get other “non-tax” benefits.

            Are they paying market rate for their real estate and facilities? I doubt it.

    • Because FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc, are not required to deliver to every address in the US, while the post office is. (Which is why the post office delivers a lot of packages for FedEx and UPS.) When you consider just how many places the post office delivers, it IS pretty darn efficient…and would be more so without so many layers of incompetent management.

    • Because private enterprise charges more to deliver mail. Cost it out for a letter USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL. USPS hands down is the cheapest. Ask the others about sending a letter across the country for 53 cents. Not happening. So, then you have to ask “why is USPS so much cheaper”? I don’t know for sure, but my guess is something to do with: 1) USPS postal rate changes have to be approved by some government body, vs. a business real time decision by a corporation that reflects the actual cost of delivery; 2) the USPS is charging a flat rate to deliver EVERYWHERE. A 1st class letter from my house to my neighbor next door (granted it is delivered thru the local post office sorting station) costs the same as a letter from San Francisco to Tampa Florida. Hmm. That doesn’t sound right. Ask the other guys if they will do that. Nope.
      Until the USPS can charge rates appropriate to the service they are providing, we will be unhappy.

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  11. I can also say that the same thing is happening here in Santa Clara and has been for several months. I live on Nobili.
    It is very annoying and at times disruptive, especially when bills are being paid or important mail / pkgs are delayed. I have mentioned this matter to my local Librarian and he has experienced the same, although not quite recognizing the problem as I quizzed him. He does now!
    Granted the most difficult mailing issues are handled by the USPS. DHL, UPS, and FedEx have been handling the cream all along. Employee pay may well be an issue and must be adjusted for regional economies.

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