Some Mailers Complaining (Quietly) of Slow USPS Service

The U.S. Postal Service’s efforts to modernize and cut costs apparently are resulting in sluggish catalog deliveries this spring. And although some mailers say that mail to the West Coast, New Mexico, and Texas has suffered the most, “you can’t really define exactly what areas are being affected,” says Gary LaBarre, distribution manager for Maple Grove, MN-based printing and production services provider Banta Catalog Group. “It’s like trying to hit a moving target.”

LaBarre adds, “There have been rumblings from the West Coast that carriers are delivering mail as late as 11 p.m. In general, it’s difficult to get a straight answer.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one mailer says, “We’re not sure if this is a process problem, a union slowdown, or a combination of both, and the USPS has been slow to give a clear explanation.”

Another mailer who asked not to be identified reports that some catalog deliveries during February and March in Texas, California, and Florida were as much as two weeks behind schedule.

Why are mailers insisting on anonymity? One source says that mailers don’t want to draw too much attention to the problem because they want to see the Postal Service’s network consolidation succeed. The plan calls for the reorganizing, relocating, and possibly closing postal facilities throughout the country with an eye to improving efficiencies and reducing costs.

Kris Larson, director of postal affairs for Chicago-based printing and delivery services provider R.R. Donnelley, says that Donnelley fully supports the Postal Service’s efforts to modernize. “The Postal Service needs to streamline their overall operation and implement workforce reductions,” he says. “They also need to cut costs and modernize the overall system.” With a USPS mandate to close 33% of the postal sorting facilities during the next few years, rampant squabbling among various postal unions, and doubts about the future of postal reform, Larson believes that the mailing community must be patient with the agency’s efforts.

Don Landis, vice president of postal affairs for Menomonee Falls, WI-based printer Arandell, agrees. “There is a lot happening right now for catalogers to be nervous about,” he says, pointing to another round of rate hikes expected for next year. “However, while all of these changes are happening with the USPS, they are doing everything they can to accommodate all catalog deliveries in a timely manner.”

As of press time, no one from the USPS could be reached for comment.