Residents claim slow mail delivery

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Looking at the massive amount of mail the U.S. Postal Service handles and all the cool technology they use, people would assume the post office is delivering the mail with lighting speed.

However, Cynthia Tavano says in her southeast Houston neighborhood mail service has slowed down significantly over the past year or so.

“Let me stress this. I receive mail from medical people, like doctors. It’s important and that mail just does not get to me in a week or two," Tavano says.

In Houston’s Third Ward, school teacher Leonard Lockett says mail delivery has slowed to a crawl, taking days longer than it use to take to get a letter.

“It’s deplorable. I mean, we had a stretch last summer where we went nine days without any mail at all," Lockett says.

So what’s happening to the U.S. Postal Service and the level of service it has provided for so many years?

“A lot”, says Gary Glazebrook, president of The American Postal Workers Union in Houston.

“We don’t think it’s adequate."

He says over the past few years, the Postal Service has shut down 82 major processing and distribution centers nationwide.
Four of those closed have been closed in Texas over the past year, including Corpus Christi, Abilene, Beaumont and The Barbara Jordan Processing and Distribution Center in downtown Houston.

Not only that, Glazebrook says the Postal Service has plans to close 11 neighborhood post offices in Houston over the next 12 months.

What does closing all of these facilities do?

“It slows the mail. ;It slows the delivery and the processing of the mail," Glazebrook says.

As if that wasn’t enough, on Jan. 5, the post office officially activated its plans to change the service standard for first class mail delivery.

“It means, if you live in the city of Houston, and you want to mail a letter across the city, the obligation used to be to deliver that piece of mail the next day. ;After Jan. 5, the obligation changes to two or three days.

The United States Government Accountability Office recently slammed the USPS for not even measuring the delivery times for 45 percent of the mail it delivers.

Channel 2 Investigates wanted to know how things got this way, so they contacted the Postal Service and requested an interview with Bobby Collins, the postmaster for Houston.  Channel 2 Investigates tried for more than a week to get that interview but were told by a USPS representative that wasn’t possible and the USPS would send a written statement instead.

That statement is included below.

In the meantime, if anyone has a complaint to register about the mail service in their neighborhood, there is a link below where anyone can get the phone number of the Postal Services Consumer Affairs Department. 
Go to the link, punch in a zip code and anyone can get the phone number needed to contact the Postal Service and register a complaint.

That link is https://ribbs.usps.gov/locators/find-cam.cfm

Here is the statement the USPS sent Channel 2 Investigates.

"As a part of the USPS network realignment program, the North Houston P&DC was expanded over the last year to accommodate additional operations and mail volume. This included additional sorting equipment and operations designed to address the growth in package volume.  In January, revised nationwide service standards took effect that resulted in significant changes to letter sorting operations for First-Class Mail.  These changes are part of one of the most significant operational changes in postal history, which have been undertaken to make the mail processing network more efficient, consistent with the drastic changes in the mailing practices of its customers.  Single-Piece First-Class Mail volume has declined significantly over the last decade.  Steep declines in overall First-Class Mail volume and revenues which fund postal operations have required that the Postal Service business model be adjusted to ensure that the network of processing facilities, Post Offices, transportation routes, and other interconnected infrastructure operates with greater efficiency than ever before.  Our goal is to make these operating changes in a manner that provides a level of service that is consistent with our new business model and that meets the expectations of our customers in the Houston District. We appreciate the patience of our customers, as we strive to meet (and exceed) these expectations.

"The Postal Service is in the business of delivering the mail – that is our core mission – and we are committed to ensuring our customers have confidence in the U.S. mail and that they receive the highest level of service.  We apologize to any customer who does not have a positive experience when doing business with us.

"Last year, the Postal Service, nationwide, handled 155 billion pieces of mail – 40 percent of the world’s mail volume.  The Houston District is one of the largest postal districts in the nation, in terms of population, delivery points, and mail volume and handles approximately 8.6 billion pieces of mail annually.  The 10,500+ employees of the Houston District work every day with one goal in mind – delivering the mail timely, accurately and safely.  The vast majority of the time, we meet and oftentimes exceed our stated goals for service.  We don’t wish to minimize or excuse those instances where we fail to provide that service – but in the larger scope, we perform exceptionally well, each and every day.

"Some of the steps we’ve taken to drive exceptional performance and make continuous improvements include:

•     Increasing staffing by adding hundreds of new employees, from February of this year and continuing up to the present time.  In fact, the Houston District is hiring right now and potential applicants can check www.usps.com for information.
•     Expanding our processing capacity by bringing in state-of-the-art package sortation equipment, and by increasing processing capability on existing machines, to maximize efficiencies.
•     Deploying special teams, consisting of national and regional operational experts, who have been brought in to assist with our drive toward continuous improvement of our processes.

"The North Houston facility is the cornerstone of our mail processing operations in Houston and it is our goal to continue making rapid improvements in our operations, in order to give Houston-area customers the service they deserve.  Customers who have concerns with their mail service are urged to contact their local Post Office. We want to hear from our customers so we can swiftly resolve issues and continue to provide the highest level of service."

The U.S. Postal Service on Dec. 10 sent a rebuttal to KPRC 2. The response is below:

Thank you very much for including portions of our statement in your December 3rd newscast and for posting the entire statement online.  We recognize that there have been issues regarding mail service in Houston, but we remain committed to our core mission of providing reliable and affordable mail service to every residence and business.  As a follow up to your recent segment, we are providing you with  additional information, in order to clarify and correct portions of the story.

Your newscast report specifically mentioned that three mail facilities have been closed.  That is incorrect.  The status of these mail processing facilities – the Abilene, Corpus Christi and Beaumont Processing and Distribution Centers – is that they remain open at this time and continue to process mail.  It is true that, over the last few years, certain types of mail processing operations have been moved to other facilities, but each of these plants continues to process specific types of mail.  These facilities are part of a multi-phase, multi-year effort announced in 2011 to balance mail processing infrastructure costs against current and anticipated mail volumes and to successfully right-size the postal processing network. 

Since 2005, the Postal Service has lost over 50% of our Single-Piece First-Class Mail volume,  primarily the type of mail for which we modified service standards.  We simultaneously put plans in place to minimize service impacts and we continue to work to improve service. 

In addition, with regard to the eleven Houston postal stations, the Postal Service seeks to streamline its network, we are, in some locations, evaluating whether to relocate retail operations. Retail operations includes transactions at our counters, such as the sale of stamps and other postage, the mailing of packages, purchase of mailing supplies, and other types of services.  Currently, in the City of Houston, seven postal locations are being considered for these changes.  The Postal Service follows established guidelines when considering relocation of retail operations, including holding a public meeting and soliciting public input prior to any final decisions.  Our commitment is to maintain the same level of postal services in any area where we propose to relocate operations.

Comments regarding service standard changes also need further clarification. In January of this year, the Postal Service changed its First-Class Mail service standards, affecting approximately 9% of the total mail volume. This was one of the greatest operational changes the Postal Service has implemented since the inception of automation, more than 20 years ago, and again, was due to the drastic decline in First-Class Mail volume over the past decade.

We would like to remind customers that they should contact the Postal Service directly as soon as possible if they experience problems with their mail service.

Our dedicated employees work diligently to provide exceptional service to their customers, each and every day. Thank you for allowing us to provide this additional information.

2015 Click2Houston/KPRC2