A Dickens of a time of with the USPS

by John Derr, Publisher
Posted 9/30/21

“It being one of the principles of the Circumlocution Office never, on any account whatever, to give a straightforward answer.”

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A Dickens of a time of with the USPS

Posted

It being one of the principles of the Circumlocution Office never, on any account whatever, to give a straightforward answer.”

Little Dorrit, Book 1, Chapter 10
 by Charles Dickens

When Charles Dickens parodied bureaucratic government agencies with his portrayal of the Circumlocution Office in his novel Little Dorrit, he might very well have been foreshadowing the current United States Postal Service consumer experience. The September 9 issue of the Local was finally delivered to homes in Chestnut Hill on Tuesday, September 22nd. That was two weeks to the day since they were entrusted into the hands of the Philadelphia Bulk Mail Distribution Unit (BMEU), hands that turned out to be all thumbs. Despite what I can only trust were their best efforts, no one from the USPS could tell us where the September 9th Chestnut Hill Locals were. We only knew where they weren’t:  in your mailboxes. Delivering a letter or package late is bad enough.  Delivering a newspaper two weeks late is unacceptable.  To paraphrase a familiar adage: Old news is no news. 

The first intimation we had that the September 9 Locals had been recovered was the delivery of our subscriber copy to our office by our truly superb mail carrier Jen last Tuesday. After all of my contact with the USPS over the previous several days, I would have thought that someone there would have called me in breathless excitement to let me know the papers had been found, that they were safe and in good spirits, and that they would be delivered to homes as quickly as humanly possible. In fact, no one from the USPS called me with an update until Wednesday, and that status was, “I’m still looking into it. It appears the papers were erroneously shipped to our facility in New Jersey.”  I informed him that the Locals had been located and were delivered to subscribers the previous day. 

Later that same day, I finally received a return email from Nathan King, USPS Consumer Advocate Director. He had been ghosting me since our conversation more than a week earlier, when he had called in response to my email to Louis DeJoy. At that time, he had promised to call me the next day. (I’ve learned through this experience that “tomorrow by noon” is USPS jargon meaning, “never again in this lifetime.”) What had prompted him to finally get back to me? Apparently, it was my mention of our Congressman, Dwight Evans, in an email I had sent just thirty minutes earlier, totally unrelated to the Local’s issue. His emailed response, in essence, was, “Who told you that?”  Thanks a lot for your concern about the delivery of a product protected by the First Amendment. 

Almost immediately after that email, I received a call from Donna Graham DiLacqua, who identified herself as the Customer Solutions Manager for the Pennsylvania and Delaware District of the USPS. Unfortunately, again, she was not calling about the Local’s problem. Instead, she was more interested in the other issue. Still, she said that she does believe the Locals were shipped to their Network Distribution Center in Jersey City, New Jersey and that there had been some delays there because of Hurricane Ida. Still, there was no definitive answer, but this seems the most likely scenario.

A trip from the Philadelphia BMEU to the Chestnut Hill post office is less than 17 miles. These Locals traveled about 194 miles to go that same distance.  Another circumlocution, this one of miles instead of words.

So, the case is as solved as it is going to be. My primary contact over the past couple of weeks, John Bard from the USPS equivalent of SEAL Team 6, left a message last Thursday telling me he’s found out everything he can find out about this issue, and the only piece that remains is the question I have raised about compensation. He informed me that senior management told him to direct me to the MSSC (Mail Solutions Service Center.)  He also gave me their 800 number and told me he would “call me tomorrow by noon.”

We know we are not the only ones with horror stories about our postal service. We intend to stay on top of this continuing problem. You can help by sharing your USPS experiences with us. Just send us a note explaining your situation and let us know how we can contact you.  On second thought, maybe you should email us.

John Derr,
Publisher

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