Shellie Falls lives in the Tanglewood area of Roanoke County. Lately, she’s been having problems receiving mail. So on April 27 she went on Reddit.com and created a post on the subreddit, r/roanoke.
The title was, “Anyone else not getting mail?”
“I have the USPS Informed Delivery that shows what’s coming in the mail, but the items never show up,” Falls wrote in the post. “Been going on about a month now.”
Informed Delivery is a free Monday-through-Saturday email notification service that sends photos of mail destined for delivery that day to customers who’ve signed up. That’s how Falls knew she was missing mail. The Postal Service advance-emailed her photos of mail that it never delivered, she said.
People are also reading…
In a subsequent email to me, Falls added: “There has been correspondence [from the Social Security Administration] regarding my husband’s disability that we never received, court documents, and other very important pieces of mail that have shown as scanned, but then disappeared.
“Those are just a couple of the dozens of pieces of mail that have never shown up.”
In all, Falls estimated she and her husband have missed 30 or more pieces of mail that Informed Delivery had told them to expect, but that never showed up.
Not all of it was important, Falls acknowledged. Some of the stuff was junk, such as credit-card offers. But one thing that never showed up was an item she’d ordered (the sender gave her a refund). Another was a gift card from Tyson Foods.
The Reddit.com post quickly racked up 26 replies. A couple of respondents said they’d experienced no mail-delivery problems. But others from Gainsboro, Tanglewood, Hollins, downtown Roanoke and the Grandin Road areas noted deliveries were regularly late.
“It’s the same here,” the reply from Gainsboro noted. “Informed Delivery will say Wednesday, but I don’t see it until Monday. I had a letter about Jury Duty.”
Another response, from a person who moved from Roanoke to Richmond, said they were experiencing late mail in Richmond as well.
George Hodges, who lives in The Orchards community behind the Bonsack Walmart, didn’t see Falls’ post. But he’s been missing mail, too.
Hodges said his street, Rome Drive, didn’t get daily mail deliveries from April 13 to April 24, although the Postal Service delivered Amazon packages during that stretch.
“We tried to call the post office in Hollins. It just rings and rings and then cuts off. Nobody ever answers,” Hodges told me.
Hodges asked a Postal Service package delivery guy in his neighborhood what was up with daily deliveries. The man told Hodges his regular mail carrier had gone on vacation the week of April 16. Daily deliveries finally resumed April 25, Hodges said.
“One person, going on vacation, should not stop the mail flow to an entire neighborhood. They should have more carriers to pick up a guy’s route when they go on vacation,” Hodges said. He noted that many people get their medicines delivered by mail.
And then there’s my next-door neighbor, Jordan Balke, here on Tillett Road in Grandin Court. On April 28, she invited me over for Friday happy hour. She wanted to show me some mail that arrived April 27.
One item was an advertising flyer for Schewels that pitched an “April Fool’s Weekend” sale on furniture and mattresses. The promotion ended April 3, more than three weeks before the flyer was delivered.
Balke also showed me a “Home Energy Report” sent by Appalachian Power that arrived April 27. Good thing it wasn’t a bill with a balance due. It was dated March 13, roughly six weeks earlier.
Although First-Class postage has increased twice in the past year (from 58 to 60 cents in July, and from 60 to 63 cents in January), stories such as these abound in the Roanoke Valley and elsewhere.
Lots of people are telling me they’re receiving mail only twice per week, in large batches. In other words, service seems to have gotten worse since the price increases.
That’s despite a federal law, the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022. Among other things, it mandates residential delivery six days per week.
Thursday I sent an email to Postal Service spokesman Philip Bogenberger regarding the three customers above. (In an earlier email, back in January, Bogenberger told me the Postal Service had 20 openings in the Roanoke area.)
I asked how many of those January openings have been filled. He didn’t answer the question. Another query asked how many current openings USPS has in Roanoke. That one went unanswered, too.
All Bogenberger would say about hiring was the Postal Service is holding weekly job fairs here. The next one is May 10 at 3601 Thirlane Road.
“Most post offices are adequately staffed, and delivery routes are covered in the Roanoke area. We have contingency plans when employees are on leave,” he wrote. “Still, staffing challenges can arise, which has resulted in brief periods of sporadic mail delivery on a few routes.”
The quote above is a “canned” response. I know because it’s the same reply Bogenberger sent in January.
A third question I posed was: “Are there exceptions in [the Postal Service Reform Act] that allow the Postal Service to ignore delivering 6 days per week? If so, under what circumstances does the law permit that?”
Bogenberger totally ignored that one. Fortunately, I was able to get answers from the offices of U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.
“There is no language in the bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act regarding exceptions for the six day delivery requirement,” said Janine Kritschgau, spokeswoman for Kaine.
“Senator Kaine has been hearing from many constituents about this issue, and has been preparing a letter to the Virginia District Manager at USPS to share their stories and to learn more about whether USPS is taking adequate steps to address the issues Virginians are experiencing,” Kritschgau added.
Warner’s spokeswoman, Valeria Rivadeneira, said his office had experienced a surge of complaints about mail from the Charlottesville area, but not from Roanoke, although “that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
Rivadeneira said Congress is paying attention, and soon it will have a new tool at its disposal that should give elected officials and the public a better look at what’s happening with our mail.
It’s a website, a searchable online “dashboard” that’ll give anyone who cares to look a good idea of Postal Service performance in their area, she said. The 2022 law also required that tool, to add transparency to Postal Service operations.
“This will be the biggest thing that will provide clarity to people and allow Congress to look at the broader picture in terms of what is going on,” Rivadeneira said. She said she expects the dashboard to debut in mid-May.
I can’t wait. How about you?
Contact metro columnist Dan Casey at 981-3423 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter:.