Postal Service customers frustrated as Steamboat office seeks solutions
Despite her best efforts, Jennifer West struggles to hide the frustration in her voice when she talks about the inconsistent — and sometimes nonexistent — mail service in her Blacktail neighborhood south of Steamboat Springs.
“I want to get my mail, and I want to get answers,” West said. “I don’t want to get lies and be told to go in and wait an hour in line and get on some list because it’s clear that they’re sorting some things — a lot of junk mail is getting sorted — but the packages are sitting somewhere.”
Since early December, West, who operates Off The Grid Designs out of her home, has been doing everything she can to find a way to get the mail that she knows has been sent. However, it is not getting delivered to her mailbox that sits next to her neighbors’ in a long line of mailboxes just down the road. She said, like many of her neighbors, she is missing packages, checks and other mail she needs. It also makes it difficult to run her small business making jewelry components.
“The worst thing is they are returning it, so then it goes into a black hole and you can’t track it,” West said. “This is people’s livelihoods. I have a small business. I’m not rich, and my friend isn’t rich, so we count on rent checks and other checks — this is not cool.”
She said she has been trying to work with the U.S. Postal Service since December, and she admits she is running out of patience.
The frustration is not limited to the Blacktail neighborhood because, across the county in the lower Elk River Valley, Sherry Yates is also experiencing mail delivery problems.
“I don’t blame the clerks, and I don’t blame the delivery people,” Yates said. “They are on the frontlines and they’re getting the brunt of complaints, I’m sure.”
She said the issues in her neighborhood began the first week of January after a longtime driver left his position. She said the issues have affected her as well as many of her neighbors.
“I run my business out of my home, and my clients are wondering why I am not cashing the checks and is it because I haven’t received them,” said Yates, who owns Yates Yachts and brokers charters. “I tell them that I can’t get the checks, and they are wondering if they need to have them canceled.”
Yates said she also gets her prescriptions through the mail and they need to be refrigerated within hours of arrival. She is concerned for others who might be waiting for the their prescriptions to arrive.
“Luckily, I got my prescription before this happened,” Yates said. “But some people’s medicines are just sitting there in the back of the post office.”
A neighbor recommended that Yates contact Rep. Joe Neguse, who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District that includes Steamboat Springs, to let his office know what has been happening. Yates sent an email to Neguse and was encouraged that a staff member responded, though she’s still skeptical it will improve the situation.
James Boxrud, who works with Strategic Communications for the U.S. Postal Service, said they are aware of the delivery problems in the area. He acknowledged that these type of problems are particularly bad in mountain resorts communities like Steamboat Springs, where it has been difficult to recruit and hire employees. He admits that the local office is understaffed at this point.
“This week in Steamboat Springs, we’ve been short as much as half of our office staff and our current employees are doing all they can to serve their customers. We lost commitments from two highway contract carriers, which has exacerbated the delivery delays,” Boxrud said. “The other contract carriers are working to fill the gap until we can permanently fill those positions. We have also sent employees from around the state to Steamboat Springs to assist in getting mail and package delivery caught up.”
Boxrud also said those staffing shortages have curtailed services.
To apply, go to USPS.com/Careers, click on “Search Jobs,” select “Colorado,” click “Start,” then click on the link for the appropriate job to see general overview of USPS employment requirements, specific job requirements, hourly pay and other details.
Job postings are updated weekly, and available positions include mail handler assistant, mail processing clerk, and more.
“We know we have not met service expectations of the community and are working hard to restore the respect of the public,” Boxrud said. “For many months, we have been aggressively seeking both clerks and carriers to stabilize our workforce.”
Boxrud said there are numerous positions available in Steamboat Springs, and he encourages all interested applicants to visit USPS.com/Careers.
West and Yates said they understand the challenges but are hoping the U.S. Postal Service will offer solutions. They would also be thrilled if the Postal Service provided a way to pick up the undelivered mail they are waiting for.
“It sounds like we have to make a lot of noise with the higher-ups because I don’t blame the clerks and I don’t blame the delivery people,” West said. “I’m pretty patient and my neighbors are pretty patient, but we’re kind of done. We’re tired of getting these lies and to have the guy say, ‘We’re going to try to make sure nobody goes two days without mail.‘ Well, that clearly is a lie because it’s not happening.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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