Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mail speed and sorting changes

I learned, through casual conversation with the top-notch UPS store employees where I rent my mailbox, that the main mail sorting area near me (which happens to be Providence, RI) has changed its sorting schedule. This is third-hand information, but I believe that mail used to be sorted there three times a day, and now it is only twice a day. In any case, the lovely Katie knew this because other customers had also complained that mail seems slower, and she discussed it with the regular postal carrier who delivers to my UPS store (yes, my 270 Bellevue Ave address is a UPS store, so don't be thinking I actually live there among those famous Newport Bellevue Avenue mansions).

We subscribe to The New Yorker magazine. It used to come on Tuesdays, every Tuesday, like clockwork. Now we don't know when it will arrive... once it came as late as Saturday, and now we've missed a week entirely. This week's issue arrived, but last week's is AWOL. Hmmm. So it was in discussing this that Katie gave me the news about sorting.

I've also noticed that I tend to get all my postcards on one day - Tuesday or Wednesday (notably, NOT Monday) is like the Postcrossing flurry. And this week, Friday was all business mail. I tend to get personal letters now on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. It is interesting food for thought. I'm also tracking postmark dates vs. received dates, and things do seem to be moving more slowly, especially postcards. Now, I'm fine with that - I don't do this snail mail thing for speed - but it is interesting to note the changes. Domestic postcards, except those very nearby on the east coast, are taking a week or more to arrive. (I can now officially get a postcard from Europe faster than from California.) Maybe it just has to do with current mail volume, but I think the decreased sorting has something to do with it.

I know there aren't all that many mail geeks out there who actually track the correlation between postmark and delivery date, the way that I do, but I'm betting a fairly high proportion of my blog readers may be among them. So I'm curious: has anyone else noticed these changes, or learned about them from local postal workers?

I have long said that we have a real deal in our U.S. Postal Service, and I do not like to complain about it. I recall that, given the exchange rate and quality of service, our international letter rate in particular is the best value in the world. I'm not complaining here, just noting with interest the changes. I still say that I would be happy to pay more for a first-class stamp, even a special "personal correspondence" rate (which I know would never fly, because there just aren't enough of us to make that fiscally feasible), rather than give up Saturday delivery.

It's Saturday... and I'm glad I've got mail coming today. (At least, I hope I do!)

14 comments:

  1. I have not noticed a slower mail, but mail here has always been fairly slow. I noticed that when I moved here from Boston 6 years ago. Mail takes lots longer to get to Pittsburgh. I don't track postmarks (usually because I can't read them), so my observation is not scientific. I often get NO mail on Tuesdays. Mondays and Fridays are big mail days. I don't get bills in the mail because I do almost all online billing now, which I know is not helping the USPS.

    I would love a personal correspondence preferred customer card from USPS. It would only be available to those who spend, say, $30 a month on personal correspondence, and that would have to be documented over one month so that there would be no cheating. It might get more people to write mail if they could get special deals on postage, like a percent of their monthly postage purchase as a credit.

    I'm also willing to pay more for domestic postage, but not international. And I don't object to giving up Saturday delivery, either, if it means a better postal service. What I would hate to see go away is home pick-up. I just recently learned that the US is unusual in its home pick-up of mail. I thought everyone could put their outgoing in their mailbox and have the mailman take it for sorting, but that is not the case in many countries.

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  2. I have no idea if there've been any USPS operational changes in the greater St. Louis area, but I'll still take slower, government-run service with no complaints, rather than see the entire organization privatized.

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  3. Thanks for pointing this out, I was wondering about that too. I used the delivery estimation tool on the USPS website for some letters to Portland (from MA) and it told me delivery is 3-4 days. It's not accurate, 1 week is more like it.

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  4. I am not sure where my mail gets sorted, but two weeks ago I mailed 15 of those pre-paid Hallmark post cards from Warwick, and no further than Bristol, and almost all of them took over a week to arrive. I chalked it up to the pre-paid quirk, but now that you mention the sorting I'm not sure that was the reason for the delay. Thanks for mentioning it!

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  5. I have never noticed slower mail really to be honest with you but just a decrease in the amount of mail I used to get just not there anymore you know . sad .

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  6. It's probably different depending on the type of mail too. I ship all the packages for my business USPS Priority, and they get to their locations amazingly fast. Perhaps USPS is focusing more of its efforts on small businesses like mine to compete with Fedex and UPS, so the letters and postcards aren't as much of a priority (no pun intended)?

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  7. I have noticed slower mail, and getting my postcards in very large lumps on the same day. I thought maybe it was just my new area. I may have to see if I can talk to my mail person..I have not met them yet. but they took my thank you for your picking up of my mail post it :)

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  8. Your New Yorker is most likely coming via periodicals postage and that means it's delivered at the "discretion of the postmaster" at the DC or, possibly, at your local carrier distribution center. That accounts for the randomness as the postmaster can decide to or not to process mail in those classifications based on whatever whim or case is in play at the time. I know here in Roswell, Ga., that some periodicals take a week or two weeks longer to get to me than the same ones do to others in the area. I track this as I edit a magazine delivered under such a postage permit and I've noted folks much farther away from the press plant get their copies a week before I do at times. You can, of course, complain to the local postmaster. It may or may not help. Or it may help for awhile and then slip back to the old way. I've seen both things happen. As for the postcards, those are first-class mail. They should be processed as if they were letters and handled and expedited as first class mail is. Of course, that doesn't mean they will be ...

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  9. I don't have enough incoming mail to really track the speed, but it seems to me that mail from Hawaii is getting slower and slower. (Almost a week between postmark date and date of receipt!) Honestly, I think because I don't get as much that I get a little bit every day of the week, rather than have them all clumped up. Which I rather like better... :)

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  10. Stephanie, I have kind of the opposite experience - I used to get mail every day, and now it's all clumped up!

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  11. Oh my gosh!! I am one of those mail geeks who compares the postmark to the arrival date!!! I didn't know there were other people like that out there!! Like Steph said, I don't get enough mail (yet) to say if it's slower or not... but that is interesting!!
    ~misha

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  12. I just found your Blog today, and have been reading backwards from the most recent posts... so forgive me, I feel kind of horrible posting a comment this far back in your Blog, but I really wanted to share my story! I tend to date all my letters the day I write them and the day I drop them in the postbox, so that the recipient can track the mail if they want XD

    *note* I live in SoCal (err Southern California)
    : I received two pieces of mail from the same person 3 days apart. The first had been sent 1 day before, and the second had been sent 3 weeks before. odd? yes.
    : I get mail from the east coast anywhere between 5-9 days, I think.

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  13. I thought about this post today when I checked my mail because I got a postcard from Portugal addressed to couple in the Bronx (aka "Papa and Nana"). I live in Arkansas. No idea how that happened, but I put it in an envelope with a note and sent it along to the proper address.

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  14. Wow, Margie, that's incredible! A similar thing happened to me. My grandfather, back when he was alive, sent me a birthday card with a check as a gift inside. It was delivered to a company in Connecticut, and eventually mailed back to him. He had addressed it correctly, it just got delivered to someone else in an entirely different state. A little scary, eh?

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