A Manhattan man and his roommates have gone over a month now without receiving a single piece of mail from the US post office, yet despite repeated complaints through official USPS channels, the post office’s responses have all boiled down to “Not our problem, buddy.”
Matthew P. shares a New York City apartment with two roommates, and wrote us to complain that, “from approximately August 5 through September 9, 2013, our apartment did not receive any mail via the USPS.”
When we spoke to Matthew on Sept. 11 the situation had improved slightly, if you call “getting two unwanted pieces of junk mail” an improvement. However, he has yet to receive any bills he must pay, magazines he subscribes to, or letters which various friends and business associates have mailed him.
On Sept. 7, one of Matthew’s associates sent him a digital photograph of an envelope which said associate had tried to mail: despite having Matthew’s correct address and sufficient postage affixed to the front, it was still returned to the associate with a yellow label reading, “Return to Sender/Not deliverable as addressed/unable to forward.”
Armed with this photographic evidence, Matthew promptly sent a complaint email via the USPS website, and got a case number in return. He also called the post office later that day and received a second case number.
And then ...
What happened next? The short version is, Matthew got the runaround.
Here’s the more detailed version: On Sept. 10 he visited the Gracie Station Post Office to lodge a complaint in person, and was told he needed to speak to a supervisor, who’d be available the next morning starting at 8 a.m.
Matthew arrived next morning at 8:30 and learned he wouldn’t be allowed inside until nine. Once inside he still wasn’t allowed to speak to a supervisor in person, only over the phone. But the supervisor assured him he’d get his mail from that point on.
Matthew wrote to tell us what happened next: “I asked about my missing mail from the previous month. First, [the supervisor] told me that the mail was missing and that if they do not have it at the post office, they cannot deliver it. I asked about my missing mail from the previous month. When I pressed him on why the mail was marked ‘Not Deliverable as Addressed,’ he told me that my regular mail carrier had been out for three weeks because of an illness in the family. He claimed that he did not know the specific dates, but that the carrier was out from approximately late July through mid-August.”
But surely the post office has alternate mail carriers to cover for colleagues who are out sick? When Matthew asked, the supervisor said that different carriers covered that route on different days, but there was no way to find out which carrier covered a particular route on a certain day, or who specifically marked Matthew’s letters “Not Deliverable as Addressed,” or why.
Don't fax us ...
That’s when Matthew grew frustrated enough to write us, but we had no better luck than Matthew at getting to the bottom of this mystery. Despite having Matthew’s address, case number, personal information and permission to speak on his behalf, the Gracie Station Post Office wouldn’t or couldn’t discuss specifics of Matthew’s case with us.
They did, however, give us a fax number so Matthew could fax them the same complaint he’d sent us, and the digital photo of the properly addressed and stamped envelope with the yellow “Undeliverable” sticker on it.
We gave this information to Matthew, and three hours later he emailed us an update: “I did try to fax them my information a couple times, but was having trouble -- the transmission connected, but failed each time with a ‘Transmission Incomplete’ error message. I know that there's not anything wrong with the fax I used, and it wasn't a busy signal, so it seems like there could be a problem on their end [….] I have a bad feeling that they tried the old ‘give them a broken fax number’ trick.”
Matthew emailed us an image of the fax and we tried sending it, but with the same results.
Matthew also told us that, shortly after his failed fax attempts, he received a robo-email from the post office, assuring him that, “In order to better serve you, your recently submitted inquiry was forwarded to an office that is better suited to address your needs. It is being investigated and you can expect a reply within 2 to 4 business days.”
Will the post office deliver the missing mail? Or at least figure out exactly who had responsibility for delivering letters to Matthew’s obscure little corner of central Manhattan throughout the month of August? We’ll keep you posted (pardon the pun).
Matthew's experience, though frustrating, is far from unique. Our database overflows with consumer complaints about all kinds of problems, including lost mail and mail simply not being delivered. These may sound like the same thing, and maybe they are, but some complaints are about individual letters or packages being lost while others, like Matthew's, are about a failure to deliver any mail at all for extended periods of time.