Dear PoP – Postal Service Problems

“Dear PoP,

We live in NW, not far from the T Street Post Office. Since moving here 9 months ago, we’ve been having terrible trouble with our mail. We regularly get mail for our neighbors (which we hand deliver, even blocks away.) I just realized that two checks that were sent to us have never arrived. I confirmed with both senders that the checks were sent over two weeks ago, but we never received them. We’re talking about hundreds of dollars, not to mention any other pertinent mail that has gone wayward. I can recover the checks, of course, but how do I get this fixed? Is there a way to register a complaint at our post office? I’m not sure whether it’s the sorting or the delivery causing the issue, so I’m not quite sure how to pursue.”

Back in Jan. when we spoke about the post office at 14th and T St, NW possibly closing, well, there wasn’t a lot of love for that particular location. But to the question, Hmm, I think I would talk to your mailman/woman next time you see him/her. My mailman is a super cool and friendly guy. I’d chat them up a bit and mention that you’ve been having some problems (in a non accusatory way) and ask the mailman/woman for their advice. Anyone face similar problems? What would you do about this situation?

64 Comment

  • I’ve lived in 3 DC locations over the last 10 years (Adams-Morgan, Dupont, and U St.) and had delivery problems at all of them. Never had these problems in MoCo.

  • Is it the norm in DC to have a regular mail carrier? I’m all for the “talk to the guy” approach, but it seems like a different person delivers our mail each time.

    Tangentially-related: how do you get the mail carrier to pick up outgoing mail? I have a mail slot, and each and every time I balance something outgoing in it (usually a netflix envelope) the carrier just shoves it back into the house with the incoming mail. When I’m home, I run after them with it, at which point they’re happy to take it. But I’m rarely home at that time of day.

    • houseintherear

      “Pickup of outgoing mail is a courtesy, not a right.” This is what I was told by my mail person years ago in Petworth. She also said it was very difficult for them to take it because of the volume of mail they carry in the trucks, and there would therefor be a risk of losing outgoing mail.

  • DC=Worst mail service in the country.

  • Since moving into a house from a condo, we have been receiving an onslaught of mail that does not belong to us. The house number will be the same, but the street is completely different, oftentimes, in a different zip code. If it’s too far to hand walk the mail to its proper owner, I put the envelopes back in the mailbox, oftentimes to find it has been re-delivered back to us. It’s as if the mail carrier or the person at teh post office sorting the mail looks at the number and doesn’t read the full address.

    • We often have the same issue – getting mail for a different number on the same street, the same number on a different street, or other seemingly random mail. I make an effort for insurance, pay stubs, etc, but I just assume at a certain point that Mr. XYZ doesn’t care about getting Real Simple all that much. For whatever reason, we are on a route that gets a different mail carrier constantly, so speaking to the carrier does not help alleviate the problem on a consistent basis.

    • One tip to avoid this is to cross out the barcode before remailing it. If you get a letter misdelivered twice it is probably because whoever keyed in the address made a typo and so the wrong barcode got attached. When you remail it, it just reads that same incorrect barcode. But if you cross out the barcode, then they they have to reenter it and hopefully they get it right this time.

  • I’ve lived in Shaw for the last 12 years and have only had three different carriers in that time. All of them know me by sight and name, even though I may never have seen or spoken to them. The mail carriers are proud people who respect their jobs and their clients. Speak with your carrier, hopefully you don’t have the Newman of DC as yours.

  • I live in petworth and one time I went up to the big office off Kansas by Blair Road and filed a complaint for all the reasons listed above. They said it’s the carrier’s fault, the carrier says it’s the sorter’s fault…I don’t really care WHO’S fault it is, it’s just that for years now I don’t get mail and I get mail for other houses. Anyways, things got slightly better after I put in the complaint, but then back to normal again.

    I think the complaint has to be made at the main post office branches though, not the little satellite branches.

  • I have tried to switch almost all of my transactions, especially financial, to online because of this very problem. Misdelivery of mail seems to be the norm, not the exception. Each week I receive several pieces of neighbor’s mail. I dread the possibility of identity theft if an important document of mine ends up in the wrong hands.

  • I have had a similar problem. I noticed it when I went on vacation for a week and returned home to maybe 5 pieces of mail without even a catalog. Regularly mail would be dropped at my doorstep from by other tenants, or left on the table by the mailboxes (I live in a 34 unit condo building). The breaking point came when I found my W-2 not in my mailbox, but on the ground in the hallway of my building.

    There is a complaint department that you can register a complaint with (poke around on the postal service website to find the link). I did this, twice in fact, because the situation did not get better. I also tried speaking to the letter carrier, which got me nowhere, as it was clear that she had been spoken to by the complaint department (I believe when I asked whether she was our usual letter carrier and told her I was having a problem with my mail making it into my mailbox, her repsonse was something to the effect of “Oh, I know who you are. You’re the one that complained I didn’t know how to do my job. You don’t tell me how to do my job.”).

    In any event, it was nice to know that someone actually followed up on my complaint, even if it didn’t solve the problem.

  • I recommend, if it’s appropriate, having things delivered to your business address. The post office seems to assign the most efficient postal workers to the office routes. For six years the same, particularly fabulous mail carrier delivers to my workplace in Van Ness. In the meantime, I’ve had all sorts of carriers at home in Columbia Heights – and have all the problems described above. My favorite? Seeing my postal worker making out with someone in her truck outside my house – and my noticeably “used” magazines that are several weeks late – month after month. It’s a bummer.

    • I live in DC and have ridiculous mail problems as well.

      Delivering to your work address might be appropriate…unless you work for the federal govt. Our work mail gets scanned and x-rayed and inspected to the point that by the time we get it, it’s visibly singed and mutilated in other ways. Quite a few people in my office have their work mail sent to their home address.

  • Everything that’s been said and more. I live in Shaw and am fed up with the mail issues.

    Mail gets picked up from our box inconsistently. And when it does, there’s no predicting how long it will take to get to its destination! On two separate occasions I’ve mailed letters short distances (MA and CT) and have had them take 1 month and 1.5 months respectively to get there.

    I’ve also had mail I’m expecting never arrive at my house (including a credit card mailed from my bank, which was subsequently stolen and used fraudulently).

    I don’t know where the problem falls, but it’s incredibly frustrating! I’ve filed multiple complaints, but they have not made any difference. I now mail everything of significance from/to my office.

  • This isn’t a comment meant to say Arlington is better – merely to point out that what has been described above is not “normal” for USPS and shouldn’t be accepted as so. I have never experienced any of this in Arlington. I would definitely make a complaint at the branch office or check online.

    It’s pretty scary to think what important mail you could be missing and have no idea about.

    • I’ve experienced this in Fairfax County, and I sometimes got other people’s mail when I was in Arlington. I don’t think I ever had something really important not arrive, but who knows what not-really-important things were going to someone else. Anyway, I’m pretty sure these mix-ups are normal everywhere, except maybe in a small town where the mail carrier knows everyone by name (do those even exist anymore?).

      • I experienced it maybe once every 5 or 6 months but not to the extent that they are describing for issues in D.C.

        I do get a lot of mail from previous tenants but none for wrong addresses.

        And my mail always seems to arrive and get delivered promptly.

        If you’re having to have your mailed delivered somewhere else it’s obviously worse than what we are experiencing in Arlington or Fairfax.

        • I get something intended for a different address much more regularly, about once or twice a week, but I agree it doesn’t sound quite as dire as what DC folks are experiencing.

        • Also, I’m thinking it probably has a lot to do with how common your house number is and whether there are other streets with similar names.

          • Yeah that could play a big part. Although I live in an extremely large apartment building and have only gotten a piece of my neighbors mail maybe twice.

            Maybe I’m generalizing by saying they don’t have these issues in Arlington. This probably does vary on a Mail Carrier basis.

  • OK, here’s what you need to do to get mail problems sorted out:

    1.) Visit your local post office in person sometime in the middle of the morning (10-ish) after supervisors straggle into work but before carriers set off on their delivery rounds.

    2.) Ask to speak to the carrier supervisor. Make sure you get this person’s name and direct phone number. You will quite possibly be told s/he is not in, but at least make sure you receive the name and number. If the person you’re speaking with resists, say you will file a complaint with the postmaster if you do not get the supervisor’s name.

    3.) Get the necessary information to file a written complaint about your service. The postal employee will probably try to dissuade you from doing this by saying the supervisor will handle it, it doesn’t do anything, etc. – DO NOT BELIEVE THAT. The postal employees don’t want anyone calling them out on their poor performance. This step is critical – and of course, FILE THE COMPLAINT.

    4.) Badger the carrier supervisor incessantly – every day if necessary, multiple times, whatever – until s/he gets the situation sorted out.

    5.) If necessary, escalate by contacting the DC postmaster. This is the equivalent of going nuclear.

    6.) Keep the supervisor’s contact details on file because, almost certainly, the problem will reappear when your regular carrier (a) goes on vacation, (b) gets transferred, (c) goes on medical leave for some probably nonexistent health condition, etc.

    I had service problems for months in Silver Spring because I put a vacation forward on my mail for two months, but they didn’t know how to take the hold off. I would get half my mail, a portion of it was delivered to the friend I had asked USPS to forward it to, and some just vanished. NO ONE at the post office would do anything at all about it until I got the supervisor involved and he tracked down the problem.

    • What “area man” said is true but to a point, First the Post office located at 14th and T is NOT a carrier station. Mail carriers do not come from that station but from Curseen Morris Station located on Brentwood Rd for zones 8,9 10 as well as some others so going to 14th and T does no good . The mail that the carrier gets has been sorted for them thru a machine called a DBCS that is controlled by computerized sortation . Also it needs to be noted that when you place a letter in a mail box it goes all the way to Gaithersburg Md for sorting then returned to the delivery station for the carrier to deliver to your home .

  • I frequently get mail in my mailbox for the wrong apartment in the building and even the wrong address occasionally. It makes me wonder what I’m not getting! I always slip the mail I get under the recipients door, even junk mail, and hope anyone else does the same.

  • Funny, when I first started reading this I wondered whether I had emailed PoP and forgotten doing so! And it served as a reminder to call my bank to find out what do do about the box of checks I ordered a month ago that still hasn’t arrived.

    No advice, unfortunately. We’re still getting mail, including W2s, for the people who lived in our house before we bought it – in 2006. We can’t get the mail carrier to regularly pick up our out-going mail, either.

    • If you’re getting mail for the previous tenant, it’s probably because they didn’t provide a forwarding address to the post office

  • My favorite, most recent, postage experience was sending out something via a flat rate box and having it returned for postage due.

    Granted it wasn’t my local post office’s fault (it was sent back from someone in Atlanta), but still has be scratching my head.

  • About a month ago I mailed 30 invitations *from* a post office for a bridal shower. The shower is this weekend and only about 1/5 of the people I sent the invites to ever got them. Some people out of town got them, when others didn’t, some people in DC got them while others didn’t. I do not trust the USPS to deliver or pick up anything within DC with any kind of regularity. I’ve even had a piece of certified mail from the IRS never arrive.

    • Yikes, I’m about to send out 30 invitations for a bridal shower. They’re handmade so I really want to make sure everyone gets them! What do you recommend I do?

      • For some reason, when I was sending out my wedding invitations, I decided to take them to the post office in the Palisades. I had this gut feeling that the service would be better since this was a well to do neighborhood. All my invites arrived. This is purely annecdotal.

  • As with (seemingly) everyone else in Petworth, we’ve had issues. At one point a couple of years ago I got a hold of the “delivery services supervisor” at the post office on Kansas/N Cap which, apparently, services us.

    I complained but I’m not sure if did a whole lot.

  • I live on the Hill and had a similar problem a few years ago. It got so bad that if I absolutely have to have something mailed to me I ask that it be delivered to my office.

    Also, it seems the mail that does come to my house takes forever. It usually takes a minimum of 7 days to get a card or the like delivered to my house from my parents in AZ.

  • I live in Columbia Heights and I experience this problem as well. I’ve been noticing in the past two months, bills that I have been expecting never arrive. I was also wondering how to proceed with finding out what’s going on with the mail. It’s been okay in the past week though, so maybe it really depends on whoever the mail carrier happens to be at the time.

  • my postman off of Sherman avenue is excellent, so I would say this isn’t just the way it is. he works extremely long hours too but we always get everything, even if at 7 or 8 at night. I have never had any problems. he told me that all the mail is actually sorted in Maryland and he picks up the truck their. i would say that it probably IS the postman’s fault if you are getting other people’s mail–he shouldn’t stick other’s mail in your box (they have to check the address before putting it in). If you aren’t getting your own though that could be the sorter, the postman, anything. not sure what complaining will do, other than maybe getting your current man fired if there are enough complaints. they are union though, which is good and bad.

    honestly sounds like you have plane old bad luck. good luck.

    • oh and if you have a good one definitely get them a Christmas present or something, not having to worry about this crap is priceless. don’t take it for granted.

      • We pay taxes – hell yes we should take the USPS for granted!

        • Actually, the mail system is supposed to be self-funding, so it’s not paid by our taxes.

          • houseintherear

            This is SO true. My mail person, Nicole, had some issues getting us our mail, which was frustrating. One day last year I received a postcard from my brother overseas, and ended up leaving her a thank you note because I was so relieved it wasn’t lost. Now I leave her little McDonalds gift cards or things like that on holidays, and we always chat when I see her outside… and no more mail problems. It makes a difference, it seems, to be friendly and make sure they know they’re appreciated. As with any job, a person puts forth the most effort when they’re regularly told they’re doing well.

        • Agreed. Can you imagine if your boss had to ‘incentivize’ you with little gifts to get you to do what you’re being paid to do?

  • I had a series of run-ins with our mail carrier and the god awful branch on Georgia Ave. I won’t even start listing all the nonsense that went on.

    But! I shopped around on the USPS website, started emailing and calling random people and I eventually found someone who was a supervisor and got the direct number.

    If any of you are serviced by the Georgia Ave location, I might could dig that number up for you…

    melanie underscore j @ hotmail dot com

    • even if georgia ave. is the closest one to you, your incoming mail doesn’t come from there (according to my postman).

      but that post office is pretty crappy, it’s got 2 employees max, one of them is always tinkering behind the scenes, and they take lunch from like 10am to 11…

      on the flip side, despite all that they always do manage to send my mail where it needs to go within 15 minutes…

      • I once sent a package for xmas to my dad and his wife from the Georgia Ave PO. One calendar, one CD, one chocolate bar. What arrived was an envelope with a notice in or on it stating that it had been opened by the Post Office, and containing only the calendar. No statement about what had originally been in the envelope, nor why it was removed. Hope they enjoyed the chocolate and the CD… That said, my former carrier in Petworth was fab, and twice dug out wayward packages that had never been delivered to me but also didn’t get sent back to the original vendor — they were just sitting in a corner at the Lamond Riggs PO. Current carrier is rather less fab, and mixes up mail a fair amount, but is good natured.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I have a great mail carrier in Adams Morgan. Never any wrong mail and things get delivered promptly. They only time I’ve noticed inconsistencies is when he’s been on vacation and the mail is delivered later in the day.

  • Wow, I guess I’ve just been really lucky living in Columbia Heights and having all of my mail delivered as its supposed to be? Didn’t mean that to rub it in other people’s faces, just to give credit where it’s due. I do always use drop boxes for mailing and am constantly surprised by how quickly they are serviced (Netflix receives movies within 6 hours of dropoff). Perhaps that’s the best way to go for you guys mailing invitations?

  • I stopped having my work checks delivered to my house, because they never make it here. I now have to get them from my boss in Falls Church.
    Other issues I’ve seen with my mail carrier:
    1. Once we saw a kid delivering mail (like a ten year old kid)
    2. I watched her drop mail look at it, and not even bother picking it up.
    Conclusion. Don’t ever send me something important in the mail.

  • I kept calling credit card companies because I was dinged for late fees all the time even after I mailed the payments out over a week in advance. One of the companies said, “Oh don’t worry, you’re in DC and the mail there is always late so we know not to charge a fee unless it’s 6 days overdue!”

  • aside from constantly having others mail sent to my house.

    i recently sent my tax payment to dc tax and revenue to the address provided.

    not personal income but business and i got the check back saying that the fowarding period has expired.

    DC is a freeking zoo. we need to fire every lazy POS that works for dc and get some peeps from suburbs.

    and these same lazy people complain about not getting employed no wonder unemployment in DC was 2x the regional average. how would hire them? not i.

  • What is this thing you call “mail” and “delivery” person?

  • My brother works for the postal service in New Mexico and explained the whole problem to me. Most of the carriers are temporary and don’t normally do one specific route. They’re moved from route to route, so notices like stop mail, start mail, forward mail, don’t get checked. They’re just trying to get out and finish the route. If you see them bounding over your flower beds, it’s because that’s what they’re trained to do. They’re told to get the mail out as fast as they can and if that includes walking through a flower bed, then so be it. And when complaints seem to fall on deaf ears, that’s because they do. The permanent postal workers no that they won’t be fired, they have a really strong union that will prevent it. They will pretty much hold their job until they retire (there’s no reason to do this. they’re getting paid a lot of money to not do their job), or until they die. My brother commiserated with my pain, but said there’s not a lot that can be done with my mail situation. I have as much sent to me online as possible.

  • What do expect in DC?

  • I have a great mail carrier here in Mt Pleasant. There was a brief time when I’d get a few pieces of mail that should’ve gone to NE instead of NW, but I don’t fault my carrier. Every great while I get something for my next door neighbor.

    Maybe ignorance is bliss, but I’m not aware of mail or packages going missing or seriously delayed in delivery.

    And although she’s not my mail carrier, someone who works in my neighborhood carries treats for dogs. My dog loves her!

  • This is the post office for our house as well, and we have multiple units in our house and never get the right mail. many times they even leave a package slip by the mail boxes without specifying whom it belongs to and there are over 20 of us combined from the units! we have left notes for our mail man to put things in the correct mail box, but it has yet to work. I would love to see a new mail men staff for this location!

    • Depending on the type of mailboxes you have, the carrier might not see the apt. number once he opens all the boxes. He should still sort it correctly, but you can help by having everyone put their name and apt. number on a sticker inside the box.

  • Since moving to my house in 16th St Heights over 6 years ago, I’ve had more problems than I’d ever imagine. I’ve continually not received car registration notices, tax bills, etc- things than one cannot receive online.

    A few years ago I was temporary transferred to another state and tried to forward my mail. The entire time I was away, I didn’t receive a single piece of mail (despite making numerous phone calls and filing inquiries and complaints) For some reason they couldn’t figure out how to forward my mail and they ended up either returning it all to sender or hording it at the post office. The mail carrier arrived at my house about a year later with crates of mail and a few packages.

    The postal delivery system has cost me so much time, money and anguish. Their incompetnace is truly stunning!

  • I’ve had fantastic service from UPS and FedEx drivers while USPS has been spotty at best. I’m sure the USPS people get paid much more.

    It’s clearly a question of having pride and the will to provide proper service. That really sucks.

    People have actually heard of direct deposit and E-bill pay, right?

  • The mail delivery is actually handled by a post office located in NE. The post office on 14 and T does not deliver the mail, they merely facilitate pick up and drop off, etc. If you are trying to file a complaint, you need to find out the office that handles the delivery for your neighborhood.

    I learned this information after numerous days of phone calls when the USPS “misplaced” a package containing my great grandmother’s wedding ring.

  • I’m surprised anyone didn’t mention that the “T Street station” pictured is actually located on 14th Street between T and U Streets. It kept the original name, however, from the 1920s era post office on T Street, which is at 1403-5 T Street, most recently used as a back sales room for the Ruff N’ Ready junk store.

  • I’m surprised more people haven’t commented on how late the mail delivery can be sometimes.

    When I lived near 13th and T, I used to regularly get my mail delivered as late as 8 or 9pm.

  • Shockingly, the US Post Office on Georgia and Lamont is closed between 10:30 and 11:30 am and on Saturday mornings. I have no other option but to use the friendly UPS store in Columbia Heights…

  • I live right there and my Postman is great and super nice, He is a proud hard worker. Every business I deal with these days makes mistakes that would not have been tolerated 20 yrs ago. I can only image the Nouveau Business Model some brain has put in place to torture these workers.

    That being said I feel like the Post Office days are numbered, btwn email and Overnight there’s just so little that really needs to be mailed in my view. I’m not of the view that tax dollars should be used to fund delivery of my twice weekly Cap One / Citi credit card offers, just threw away that annoying Wash Post stash that also comes in the mail.

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