Postal Delivery a Mixed Bag Over Holidays

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While the U.S. Postal Service says it improved service over the holidays, Standard A mailers report mixed results.

Though no statistics have been tabulated nor volume numbers noted, Doug Ruth, marketing specialist of customer relations at USPS, said the postal service made additional drop-ship appointments for busy mailers and found extra mail-transporting equipment during critical times. It also improved its well-recorded sluggish in-home delivery track record in a few cases.

These results stem from an initiative the postal service began last fall after receiving reports that Standard A delivery was slower than usual and that the problems were centered at Sectional Center Facilities and other delivery units.

With problems reaching critical mass during the busy fall season and customer complaints growing each day, postal officials assigned "problem resolution teams" in early December to ease potential logjams and to resolve in-home delivery issues.

Each week, key customers were called to find out about anticipated volumes and reported delays. These resolution teams, under the auspices of the year-old Business Service Network, focused on preventing and fixing problems for individual customers.

David Hochberg, vice president of public affairs at Lillian Vernon, New Rochelle, NY, received several calls from USPS over the holiday season.

"We were very pleased with the service," he said, "and we found that there definitely was an improvement over prior Christmases."

But the holidays were not so rosy for Tyrol International, Cleveland, GA, an international gift cataloger that blamed postal service delivery problems for significantly decreased sales.

President Bernd Nagy said Tyrol dropped 226,000 catalogs to its best customers on Nov. 21 and three weeks later noticed sales were down 30 percent on the number of orders they should have received. The company finally received its in-house catalogs on Dec. 30, though its office is located only 70 miles north of the Bulk Mail Center, where the catalogs were originally dropped.

To make matters worse, Nagy said, Tyrol's catalogs had this message stamped on them: "Order By Dec. 19 for Guaranteed Holiday Delivery."

Postal officials are aware that delivery problems still exist and that the crisis procedures set up this past season did not solve everything.

"In some cases, the system we put in place allowed for on-time, in-home delivery, and in some cases it did not, " Ruth said. "There were some problem areas out there -- and no matter how much mail our customers sent or what they did, until the backlog was cleared up, everything was delayed."

While the postal service was resolving Standard A mail delivery problems, it also had its hands full with other types of mail as well -- between Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Eve, USPS received 5 billion pieces of First-Class mail.

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