Mail on a conveyor.
Mail on a conveyor at a postal facility.
(Via Pixabay)
Government

Next level ‘snail mail’? Reports of USPS delivery problems abound in Santa Cruz County

With multiple reports of mail going undelivered amid the pandemic, one Santa Cruzan can only quip “whatever Trump’s postmaster general did to gut this essential service has come to fruition.”

Allison Niday, a longtime resident of unincorporated Santa Cruz County, said she and her husband went a week in early December without getting any mail.

Niday knew something was wrong. She uses USPS’s “informed delivery” service, which allows users to digitally preview mail and track packages. She saw some were set for arrival, “so I know I have mail,” she said.

Her husband, Paul, went to the Santa Cruz downtown post office last week to try to figure things out. But postal workers told him they couldn’t find the missing mail and blamed the problem on understaffing, Niday said.

Only in the past few days have deliveries started to trickle back in.

The Nidays are far from alone. Reports of mail delivery issues — with some Santa Cruz area residents saying they have gone up to a week without receiving mail — have been spreading on social media even more so than usual in recent weeks.

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United States Postal Service officials concede the agency has been dealing with a surge of mail since the pandemic began in March and is ramping up hiring. “We’re seeing an increase in mail volume overall,” said Bay Area USPS spokesman Augustine Ruiz, noting that the holidays and higher-than-usual mail traffic during the pandemic have “inundated” the agency.

Ruiz said the agency has been starting carriers as early as 6 a.m. and brought on more workers, some 500 since October. He said the agency would like to add another 400 employees in the Bay Area, which includes Santa Cruz County.

“We’re staying on top of it,” he said.

As for the Nidays, the couple has experienced mail-related snags in the past, being skipped multiple days, but never had a full week without mail. “It’s an issue and it clearly needs to be resolved,” Allison Niday said. But she stressed that she didn’t think it’s the letter carriers’ fault.

“I feel bad for the carriers,” she said, adding that deliveries are now “sporadic.”

For others, mail-related issues in Santa Cruz County have taken on a different form.

Cindie Ambar lives about 40 yards from her mailbox on a private road in Aptos. The local post office used to deliver her large packages to her home, she said in an email to Lookout.

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“We have a row of mailboxes on the road,” Ambar wrote in an email. “A couple of weeks ago, they started leaving my packages on top of the mailboxes on the road, where anyone could take them. In fact, we have dealt with mail theft on this road over the years.”

When she called and spoke with the postmaster, he told her that if she didn’t want that, they would simply leave her a note to come pick up her boxes, Ambar said.
But even that process has been confusing, she said, and things have gotten to the point where “I am no longer going to order from companies that deliver with USPS,” she wrote.

Some have taken to Nextdoor, the popular social networking service for neighborhoods, to see if they weren’t the only ones experiencing issues. Among them was Ann Winters, who hadn’t received mail for three days in early December.

She quickly realized it wasn’t just her block that was dealing with problems. Winters said she was surprised to learn how widespread the problem had become, “but also kind of relieved not to be alone in this.”

“It was very strange to have three days with no mail,” she said.

Winters, who has lived in Santa Cruz for 35 years, said she has “never” been three days without mail. But after the three-day drought and a call to the post office, the mail returned.

“Just from one day to the next things were back to normal,” Winters said.

While her husband was waiting on his mail-order medication, she was looking for her magazine to be delivered. “I have to have my New Yorker,” she said.

Boxes
(Via USPS)

On Facebook, some Santa Cruz County residents, especially in Scotts Valley, shared similar issues, while others said they hadn’t encountered any problems.

To be fair, there has been praise and appreciation for mail carriers, too.

Lauri Martin wrote that their mail hasn’t been delivered in a week and that their regular mail carrier “who is wonderful” was out for the week and “USPS did not have a substitute to handle delivery.”

Their mail was held until his return, which means he will now have to “deliver a weeks worth of mail on top of his current deliveries on his route,” she added.

“We were told the USPS is understaffed, underpaid and unsupported by our government,” Martin wrote. “Whatever Trump’s postmaster general did to gut this essential service has come to fruition. Please support your mail carriers. They have an impossible job.”

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