Are You Happy with Service from Our Post Office?

Editorial from the regional USPS chief includes details of all the fiscal challenges facing the post office.

How do you feel about your service from the U.S. Postal Service? What have been your experiences recently at the Novato post office? Is your letter carrier doing a good job delivering accurate mail to your address?

Rosemarie Fernandez, district Manager for the San Francisco Postal District — which includes Novato — recently distributed an editorial to local media to explain the challenges faced by the post office. Have a look and let us know what you think by adding a comment to the bottom of this story.


“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night…..will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds.”

For more than 235 years, the U.S. Postal Service has adhered to this unofficial creed.  But now, the agency that is responsible for delivering mail to every citizen at affordable rates is facing a financial crisis.

The increased use of the Internet, combined with an ongoing recession, has had an unprecedented impact on our country’s mail volume — and on the Postal Service’s bottom-line. We have responded by pursuing every available option under our control to aggressively cut costs, including slashing annual operating expenses by more than $12 billion and reducing our size by 110,000 career positions during the past four years.

We also continue to consolidate our processing facilities and right-size our expansive retail network. At the same time, the Postal Service is continuing to work with local retailers to expand access to postal products and services at more convenient locations where people already shop, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, office supply stores and other appropriate retailers.

These aggressive efforts, however, are insufficient to close projected budget deficits and ensure the survival of the Postal Service beyond our current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. The Postal Service needs Congress to enact legislation by this September that would eliminate the current mandate requiring retiree health benefit pre-payments, which costs the Postal Service $5.5 billion annually. If it were not for the unique health benefit pre-funding requirement, the Postal Service would have recorded a cumulative profit of $1 billion from 2007 to 2010.

We also are exploring legislative proposals that would enable us to establish our own health benefits program, administer our own retirement system, and adjust the size of our workforce to match operational needs and the changing marketplace.

Legislation also is needed to return a $6.9 billion overpayment into the Federal Employees Retirement System. In addition, legislation is needed to give us the authority to determine the frequency of mail delivery, which can save the Postal Service roughly $3 billion each year. 

The Postal Service is not seeking tax subsidies. We receive no tax dollars for operating expenses, and rely on the sale of postage, products and services to fund our operations. Moreover, the Postal Service is not seeking additional borrowing authority. Indeed, the absolute last thing that Postal Service wants or needs is to incur additional debt.  What the Postal Service needs is access to the money we already have overpaid into our retirement fund. 

Even in an increasingly digital world, the Postal Service remains critical to the economy, supporting a mailing industry that represents more than 8 million jobs and more than $1 trillion in commercial activity annually.

Regardless of how many people use the Internet to pay their bills and send documents, the core function of the Postal Service and core need of its customers — the physical delivery of mail and packages to America’s homes and businesses — will always exist. And despite doom and gloom headlines, the Postal Service can have a bright future and be put on the road to profitability if given the flexibility from Congress to operate more like a business does.

It’s time for Congress to swiftly complete its rounds, and pass substantive legislation to transform the Postal Service business model — which will put it on a sound financial footing for generations to come.

Frank Keenan September 30, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Our service has been superb. Delivery is prompt; vacation starts and stops are done accurately; larger packages are always delivered to the door; our carriers over the years have always been friendly and service oriented. The occasional miss-delivered junk mail is understandable, given the volume of that stuff they handle. Delivery time each day may vary somewhat, but less so than UPS. I am a big fan of the on line parcel postage purchase program with carrier pick up of outgoing packages. As an aside, I find it ironic that the Federal government is willing to bail out certain banks, but not our postal service.
elaine thornton September 30, 2011 at 02:40 PM
I have taken to using the Terra Linda post office or Petaluma if need be when I am in the area. The lines, parking issues and abrupt service in Novato are horrible! However - love my mail carrier.
Judy Loringq September 30, 2011 at 02:47 PM
My experience with the post office has been 98% positive. As a small business owner sending packages to my clients, USPS offers me much more competitive pricing than UPS. Over 12 years, I have only had one package go astray. I really appreciate receiving mail at my home, 6 days a week, and having pick up at my home/office at no additional charge. Over 12 years I have had perhaps a half dozen letters get delivered incorrectly. I have had several different letter carriers over the time I have lived here, and only one was inefficient. I did send a complaint to the post office about this person and she was gone a few months later. I agree with this article - the Postal Service is critical to our economy, and Congress should pass legislation to allow it to transform its business model, so it can become financially sound. Do we want a monopoly of UPS and FedEx?
Barbara Madrid September 30, 2011 at 02:53 PM
I use the bulk mail service for a nonprofit group I work for--Claire in the Bulk Mail group is helpful, friendly, and just a real asset to Novato P.O. My mail carrier is great, and I've never had issues with missing mail or incorrectly delivered mail. I must admit I do not stand in line for packages- I use the self-serve. Parking is another story...it's badly configured and I have seen several near collisions. If you had a drive-by/drive-through mailbox drop like they do in other p.o.'s you'd probably cut the parking issue in half. People try to park there just to drop a letter in the mailbox!!
Steve B September 30, 2011 at 02:54 PM
I think this is a great time for the USPS to make some long overdue upgrades. Unlike their competitors, UPS and FedEx, the USPS cannot properly track a package. Also, they should gang mailboxes at the ends of streets, this would allow them to cut half their staff on delivery routes. The wait times in the offices are excessive too. On a personal note, the delivery person on my street is incredibly unprofessional. If I don't get my mail EVERYDAY, they have put me on vacation hold without my consent! I've missed all kinds of mail and been forced to take time off work and wait in their line at the office! We complained and the postmaster came to our door and chewed out my wife, barking at her about some non-sense. These folks have cushy jobs on our dime, they should respect us. (The customer is always right, eh?!?!?)
JB September 30, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Agreed, the service outside of the actual post office is great. Novato needs to work with the USPS on a new location as the current parking lot situation is a huge deterrence for folks.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr September 30, 2011 at 03:44 PM
I am pleased with our local post office service. The clerks are friendly and pleasant, though over worked. I have suggested that what would improve the service would be to provide sofas and a wine bar.
Susan Wreden September 30, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Seriously people! For a mere $0.44, they will pick your letter up at your house and deliver it anywhere in the country. What exactly would you do for $0.44?
Tony Elshout September 30, 2011 at 04:12 PM
Other than periods of misdirected mail which always seem to happen when a substitute carrier is working, the Post Office is a bargain and the service is very good.
Rick Fraites September 30, 2011 at 04:20 PM
There is no question that the current location of the Novato post office is poor and it can be difficult to find a parking spot close to the building. Parking is a form of Russian Roulette for cars. So, do what I do...find a spot in the large parking lot and WALK to the post office. It takes a few seconds more to get there and back. Plus, you receive a tiny bit of exercise, which is always good. However, the real challenge to the USPS is the heavy handed attempt by the extreme right in the US Congress to shut down as many post offices as possible under the guise of saving money for the American people. Of course the opposite is true. Millions of people in rural America will be forced to travel several miles to pick up their mail in a larger city. Who pays for that? Why, it's the American people! What is even more sinister is the politics behind this ill-conceived plan. It's another attempt by the far right at voter supression. Vote by mail will suddenly become more difficult for many of those who cast their vote throurg the use of an absentee ballot. We must not allow this planned mass elimination of America's post offices.
Lloyd September 30, 2011 at 04:22 PM
My postal carrier service is excellent. I applaud any cost or benefit savings measure outlined in the article to allow the postal service to compete and proper. That said the service in the Novato main post office is abysmal. Typically there are 12-16 people in line with one clerk. The counter is horribly undermanned and there doesn't seem to be any supervisor oversight. I was recently there to mail an express package. I arrived at 9:10 was 8th in line. There was only one clerk and although she was pleasant totally unable to handle the load. She was dealing with one customer that had about 24 individual packages to be weighed and processed. I actually called into the back for someone to come out and help this poor single person. At 9:30 someone came out and said someone else would come out and help. At 9:40 I left about 5th in line with no new help on the horizon. I did go to the post office by the civic center, 8 people 2 clerks 8 minutes total. Unfortunately this is typical for the service at the Novato counter. If there is a post master/manager someone needs to explain the concept of customer service to them.
Brant September 30, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Our home delivery service is excellent and the service at the post office is good, but slow. It would appear from the letter that the PO's financial difficulty is based on a Congressional requirement that retiree health care benefits be funded during the retiree's employed years. That seems reasonable unless the benefit program is to be run as a ponzi scheme. However, it might be worth looking at the cost of that benefit. Many people who are retired from industry receive only limited health care cost support from their former employers - on the order of $2,000 per year. Public employee health care costs seem to be much higher. Why is that?
Lauren September 30, 2011 at 04:41 PM
My mail carrier is so professional and friendly. He even flagged me down the other day and apologized for not waving to me in my car the day prior because he couldn't see me due to the reflection on my windshield until I had passed. He cares about delivering the mail and the people on his route. I can't say I've had the same experience at the post office. Well, I can say the people are very friendly and fast, but they just don't have enough working the volume of customers. The lines are excruciating. The few times that I can't use the self service station, I am completely frustrated by the wait. Hopefully help is on the way.
Lou Judson September 30, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Like others, I dislike the Novato PO office, but love our street carrier. I read recently that something was done nationally a few years ago that is directly causing the PO to begin to die - I'll try to find it. It seems like direct sabotage was done somewhere along the way. I worked at the PO few less than a year in college, and even then it was the lest efficient organization I'd ever seen, exceeded only by the army when I got drafted). They do everything in the most costly way, as proven by UPS and FEDEX being to wonderful in contrast.
Kim Vogee September 30, 2011 at 04:58 PM
My ONLY complaint with our Post Office is that the employees behind the counter in our main post office would not last a day if they worked for me. They move like molasses in winter! If they would HUSTLE there'd be no long line snaking out the door. It is possible to be polite, efficient, AND fast! I have taken to using the automated machine in the lobby area and dread it if I have to go in and get in that inevitable line. Really...I have watched them behind that counter and perhaps being diligent is the rationale for the sluggish pace of their work...but it is hugely annoying to me how they work.
Lou Judson September 30, 2011 at 05:04 PM
That sluggishness seems endemic - when I lived in Sausalito, they were not only slow, they had a problem with English, being mostly Asian. It seems to be part of the culture to make all the counter people be that way, slow and not enough of them at any time on duty. In this way Novato seems solidly average to me, and the ONLY superior POs I have seen have been one-woman operations such as Caspar, and Albion, CA in the 1970s.
Norma Dawson September 30, 2011 at 05:08 PM
The home delivery service is fine, it's the post office that is horrible. EVERY time I go there there is a line out the door and it always seems like there are only two people working the counter! I now do everything to avoid the post office, I would rather pay the extra couple of bucks and go to the UPS Store. As a previous poster stated, some sort of drive though mail box system would really help the parking situation there.
honu September 30, 2011 at 05:44 PM
One post office is not enough for Novato, Ignacio, Hamilton, Bel Marin Keys, and Black Point and Green Point and Bahia. Novato has grown and the P.O. needs to expand with it. Service is good at our P.O. but just plain overloaded. Please open a few new branches.
Jessica Moylan September 30, 2011 at 06:33 PM
My carrier is awful. He keeps delivering the prior tenants mail, even though there is a change of address on file. He won't return the mail to the sender of the prior tenant. I actually have to track him down on his route to get him to do it. After discussing this with him he still continues to do it. I won't even send mail from my box, he might pick it up. I called the 800 #, and the lady that took my complaint we extremely rude and yelled at me. The PO itself is a shambled mess. Displays are random and pointless, there's no pricing listed anywhere, and they move incredibly slow. I'm going to start using ups, fedex, at least they have it together!
Lou Judson September 30, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Fat chance, Allen! There used to be two or three grocery stores with small branches in them between my house and the PO - one of them the Bell market right in the same strip mall as the PO - but they are all gone now. They are talking about CLOSING, not opening, branches.
Abe September 30, 2011 at 10:49 PM
The post office itself is fine. My bug is about the parking. Ever since Ghiringhelli opened its doors, the parking has been awful, even late into the evening. Vehicles park in front of the post office and remain there as people enjoy a meal next door. There is one small sign designating the parking for Post Office only, but it is ignored. Perhaps they should walk some of that pizza and beer off by parking out in the parking lot and leaving the post office spaces for the folks that need to zip in and out.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr September 30, 2011 at 10:50 PM
The ultimate question is, what's it worth to you? I would gladly pay 50 cents per envelope for first class mail to have three clerks at the counter all day long, but that is not the problem. The problem is that business bulk mail is greatly discounted, and greatly lobbied. It is very easy for a carrier to carry 70 lbs of mail for a single block, and an additional 70 lbs of bulk (junk) mail for the same block.
Robert Rus October 01, 2011 at 02:43 AM
Bulk business mail is not a problem for the Postal Service; it is what's keeping the Postal Service in business. It is priced based on volume, density, level of service and machinability. Most bulk business mail bypasses most of the processing that single-piece First-Class Mail requires. Bulk business mail is still one of the most cost effective and best targeted forms of advertising and a major source of revenue for the Postal Service.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) October 01, 2011 at 03:03 AM
I did not think this story would strike such a chord with everybody. I'm sensitive to this because one of my best friends is a carrier in town and I know he works his tail end off and is committed to excellent service. I used to receive 'wrong mail' regularly, like once a week, but that hasn't happened since we got a new carrier in my neighborhood.
Kevin October 01, 2011 at 03:28 AM
Our regular carrier does a great job, but on his days off I receive mail that has the correct number but wrong street name, double junk mail(also my neighbors). I have a secure locked mail box,but they stuff it in so half of it is sticking out, do you think I spent the money and bought one with a lock so they can have half of it sticking out.
Thomas October 01, 2011 at 08:18 AM
The only part of your political editorial here is that the USPS has long complained of the issues in revenue, on going expenses, and retirement funding for quite a long time, and also through many years of Democratic party controlled Congresses. Up until 2010, a Dem Congress and a Dem President to sign any Bills. No, the issue is a little more broad than what you are saying.
Thomas October 01, 2011 at 08:26 AM
Without Bulk/second class, the USPS would have had trouble a long time ago. It truly brings a lot of money into their system. Now perhaps the rate should go up on these services, but this also might reduce those buying into it - which I would be interested to know what the trend has been for them for the last 10 years. They can't survive on a dwindling first-class service pool.
Thomas October 01, 2011 at 08:29 AM
This issue is largely operational. The friction of increasing labor expenses and cost of business is difficult, while the USPS operates with a form of mandate. It would be absolutely embarrassing and a tragedy for our country to not be able to maintain our base mail service. It should survive - but it seems major reforms and changes need to be implemented, but politics will muck up what a real business lead might require to be done. And yes, I am happy about our post office. Novato's USPS runs very well and courteous.
Cindy October 01, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Brent, they must have moved your carrier to our neighborhood, the mistakes are regular and horrendous! Kind of like the Catholic Church, they just move the problems to another location and hope for the best. Our carrier also can be seen sleeping in his mail car at various times in different locations in our neighborhood. I think the thing that upsets me the most is that the complaints really fall on deaf ears, they do nothing to fix the problem.
David Randolph October 05, 2011 at 10:07 PM
Rick, buy a clue. The "extreme right" is not trying to shut down the P.O. The P.O. itself is shutting down non-profitable operations. It lost $9 billion last year and is facing default if it doesn't soon make a $5.5 billion payment into its bloated retiree medical plan. The use of email, online bill paying etc has reduced the volume of first-class mail 22% since 2006. Online catalogs make another dent. You obviously know little about the subject. And BTW, voting by mail increases voter fraud, and all voters across the U.S. should be required to show a photo I.D. to be able to vote. Where's the problem with that? You have to show photo I.D. for just about everything these days.


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