(USA TODAY) - If you've been driving your spouse to drink with questions about your missing Publisher's Clearing House entry, or you falsely accused your agent of failing to mail the book contract from your latest bestseller, you need to settle down. The problem is not them, it's with the post office.
It's no secret that the U.S. Postal Service has been consolidating and shutting down mail sites as more people abandon mail for communicating and paying bills through the Internet. But the agency had no idea that its cost-saving measures and other delaying complications would push the envelope.
Mail delays rose by almost 50% to the tune of almost 500 million pieces of mail in the first six months of the year compared to last year, the U.S. Postal Service self-monitoring office said in an audit report to managers. In the 12-page document dated Aug. 13, the agency's Office of Inspector General blamed Post Office organizational changes and the brutal winter.
Winter storms from January through March affected mail delivery, including storms that shut down East Coast highways and closed a contractor's hub in Memphis, the report said.
Many cities in the central and eastern United States logged record low temperatures, according to Weather.com, and snowfall was so great that in Boston, snow had to be plowed to a section of the city to get it out of the way. At least 72 cities reached record lows during one day in February, according to the website.
The report is just the latest in a series of bumps that the Postal Service has experienced in recent years as it struggles to survive. The public has scrapped birthday cards for birthday texts and many pay bills on their phones. In some circles, people will ask if you are serious if you pull out a checkbook. For the Post Office, this has meant frequent warnings from agency leadership that it is bleeding money.
Despite the problems, consumers had mostly good things to say on the Postal Service Facebook page. They praised carriers for the work that they do. Some customers said they understood mail delays, and some said they noticed a significant difference.
But there are still many naysayers. In Texas, mail services are "no good," griped Rosa Isela Pacheco. "It took a month for this post office to deliver my package and it had tracking."
Complained Angelo Thompson, "Stop advertising 2 day priority mail when in fact it's like 3-4 day mail."
The post office is trying to act, however,
After drastic delays took place in January, the agency sent teams to 20 Postal Service sites to try to fix the problem, the report said. It also added transportation.
A statement from the Postal Service from earlier this month shows the agency is continuing to lose money but also continuing to revamp itself.
The agency reported a net loss of $586 million from April through June, but that was $1.4 billion less than its net loss of $2 billion for the same period last year. At the same time, shipping and package revenue and volume rose by
And there is relatively good news. Since the delivery dive in January, delayed mail has decreased each month, the audit said.
The report made a number of recommendations, including making sure adequate transportation is in place and making sure there is appropriate staff and they are trained to insure mail is delivered on time. Management responded that it already is following a number of the recommendations.