“The packages are returned with the stated reason that the apartment is “vacant.” (Note: I’ve lived in the apartment 1.5 years)”

by Prince Of Petworth July 13, 2016 at 2:55 pm 49 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user nevermindtheend

“Dear PoPville,

Over the last several months, I’ve had sporadic USPS package and mail delivery to my apartment in Petworth (in a small 6 unit building). The packages are returned with the stated reason that the apartment is “vacant.” (Note: I’ve lived in the apartment 1.5 years). After making dozens of phone calls over those four months (yes, really, I only got a relevant phone number from a disgruntled employee at the USPS ombudsman office who told me not to tell anyone), I finally today spoke to the local manager with the mail carrier in the room.

I was shocked to learn that my regular mail carrier stopped delivery of my mail four months ago because a “Caucasian male” in my building told him that my apartment was vacant. I asked if they had any evidence (such as a hold notice, forwarding address, any written notification, or even a name of the individual) and was told “no” and that typical USPS practice allows them to stop delivery of the mail based on verbal communication with a resident of the building. Therefore, he decided to halt delivery of my mail without any notification. When I asked why I continue to receive some packages and mail on some days, he responded that those must be the days that he takes off and his replacement must deliver them. (Note: I receive mail at least 3 times per week). Completely disgusted…

Anyone else having similar issues in Petworth? I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that this is a pattern of behavior.”

  • anon

    It may be their practice to rely on anything a random stranger tells them, but it can’t be legal.

  • anon

    It’s also stupid – as vacant apartments in buildings generally get rented again soon.

    Hope the conversation with the mail carrier clears up your problems – that’s usually the best way to clear up problems fast, I find, that telephone calls.

    • OP

      Unfortunately, the phone call did nothing to reassure me, in fact the opposite. The manager couldn’t understand why USPS would need something more the word of a “resident” and she refused to acknowledge the basic logic. She thought it was simply a misunderstanding. The conclusion was that she told the mail carrier to deliver my mail, but it was clear throughout the conversation that the mail carrier could care less what she said and that there would be no repercussions. I said that I was not reassured and that I am considering video taping the front door next time I expect a package. She said that I should be careful because there are legal restrictions against videoing mailmen.

      • textdoc

        “She said that I should be careful because there are legal restrictions against videoing mailmen.” Whatttttt??

      • Anon5

        There are no lawful restrictions on video recording anyone or anything in public view.

  • zandunga

    Even if it was vacant (which we know it wasn’t), can the mail person just assume no one will ever live there again?

  • Richard
  • mpr

    Our current postal carrier does a really good job, but the guy before him was awful. We would get mail mixed up with random other houses— just random houses, not our same address but in NE, or our house number with someone else’s street, just completely random. And he’d throw packages up the stairs from the sidewalk (and then walk up the same stairs with envelopes that he would gingerly place on top of the boxes he’d just thrown).

    I’d lodge a complaint with the Postmaster’s Office if I were you.

  • James

    Petworth USPS is a joke. The other month they lost a certified check sent by certified mail. System still says out for delivery.

    No one took any responsibility. USPS does not refund lost certified mail.

    What’s the fucking point. It’s not actually certified and there’s no guarantee. I’m done with USPS forever after that. Good riddance.

    • Marty

      yes, I agree USPS here is a joke. Fortunately the only semi-important mail I receive is from Amazon. I complain to them vehemently whenever the package is tardy, dented, etc. I hope that they have a more direct route to the manager than I do.
      Our current lady is nice and all, but one day a week we have mail for a neighbor.

      • timmyp2353

        Somehow two visitor parking passes that I’ve had sent have disappeared this year yet I seem to get all my junk mail. Strange how that works.

  • EnPetworth

    We live in Petworth and I adore our mail carrier, Darryl. I had to pick up a certified letter at Lammond Riggs and other than getting sass from another customer and waiting a while since only one person was working, I found the USPS employee very nice and professional.

    • SeventhStreet

      I was going to say exactly the same thing about Darryl! He’s delivered our mail for many years and is great. He knows us and our kids and always says hello. Totally professional as well and we’ve never had any issues with our delivery. We live in South Petworth not far from the Farmer’s Market.

  • abdc

    Not the same thing, but I had an issue with the previous tenant having a similar last name as myself. That tenant forwarded their mail, and so then my mail was then forwarded to that them too…except of course when I needed my driver’s license sent to me and USPS will return DL back to DMV if a forwarded address is listed. So after numerous calls to USPS and DMV trying to figure out what the deal was, as well as asking USPS to remove the forwarding address multiple times…USPS told me that the mail sorters only go by the first 4 letters of the last name, so that is why my mail kept getting forwarded or returned. That was a fun few months, and additional $fees for resending my license a few more times.

  • Darryl is the best

    I also live in Petworth and have Darryl deliver our mail. He is the best. After we had a baby he switched his knock to a gentle knock to avoid waking up the baby.

    • wdc


  • SweetBabyRae

    That is so frustrating. I’ve had to complain to USPS several times for delivering me mail where I only get half a letter. One was a wedding save-the-date where call you could read was my building number and my first name. I have no idea how they were able to figure out that it was even intended for me when the street information was missing!

  • Hoodley Park

    This is not surprising. I live in Arlington now, and once didn’t have mail delivered for 2 weeks. When I inquired after 3 days, when USPS status showed that a package had attempted to be delivered but “I wasn’t home” (I was), the person working that day told me the mailman had lost the key to my apartment building, so instead of stating that, just said that I wasn’t home. Long story short- none of the purchases I made arrived in time for my OCONUS trip. Thanks USPS!

  • nancy

    Complain to the USPIS (Inspection Service) https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/contactUs/phoneus.aspx – It is certainly not appropriate practice to stop delivery based on someone’s say so. If your post office supervisor won’t take this seriously, knowing inspectors are being informed can help.

  • Hill Denizen

    Disgusted? Really? Frustrated, sure. But disgusted? Maybe someone did actually think the apartment was vacant, or meant a different unit, or perhaps that person just hates you and wanted to make your life more difficult. I don’t necessarily disagree with the practice of going by word that an apartment is vacant, but there should be a straightforward way to fix it.

    • textdoc

      If I’d jumped through as many hoops as the OP has in his/her quest, I’d be disgusted too.

      • FridayGirl


    • wdc

      I also find the current state of our postal system pretty disgusting. It used to be good. But ingrained laziness and complete lack of accountability ruined it. And people like the mail carrier and his manager are directly, disgustingly to blame.

    • Anonymous

      I definitely disagree with it. The notion that I could stop getting my mail only because someone else told the mail carrier no one lived in my house is pretty crazy – especially since it might take a while for me to figure out exactly what was going on, let alone fix it.
      A while back I stopped the mail carrier at my house and told him that the house next door was now vacant (which it really was, sadly.) They kept bringing the mail until the city slapped a vacant notice on the front door. Who knows what official or ‘typical’ USPS policy is, but verbal notification is not sufficient in every case anyway.

      • Anonymous

        FWIW I live in Petworth and our mail service is generally very good.

  • Brooklander

    Mail service in much of DC is unreliable. My office went through a weeks-long period of sporadic mail delivery and pick-up. We called multiple times to complain, but were told that there was nothing that the postal service could do. I know that the USPS has budget problems, but they still have an obligation to deliver the mail.

  • FridayGirl

    One time in my old apartment complex (in Glover Park) someone somehow put a hold on my mail, and it stopped being delivered for almost a month. I only found this out after calling and talking to a million people at USPS (most of whom just transferred me to someone else), yet I could never figure out WHY a hold was enforced because they said holds go by name, not apartment number (so no typo from neighbors) — and I couldn’t get any info about who submitted it. After calling around for a few days it magically started showing up again.
    Long story short, I have absolutely zero solutions for you, OP. But I feel for you. That really sucks.

  • We live in Petworth and have Jimmy as our mail carrier. He’s pretty good and very friendly. I hope it wasn’t him!

    • Jimmy was mine as well – he was/is the best!!

      • Grant Circle

        I love seeing Jimmy!

  • Ms. D

    I’ve had extreme problems in Brookland – to say my first-class mail is sporadic is generous – but packages have always been fine. Despite complaints going to a bunch of different offices (yes, including the inspector general, where I insinuated that the missing mail contained highly personal information that the carrier would benefit from stealing), I still don’t get easily half my mail, and that’s resulted in me missing everything from legal documents to tax forms to checks. I recently tried to send something certified, and the PO just refused to attempt home delivery. The person expecting it sat home on 3 separate days (original delivery and two requested re-deliveries) and NO ONE CAME. For the re-deliveries, the system even said that no delivery attempt was made.
    For many documents, there’s a legal requirement to send by USPS (certified mail). Businesses are generally not going to pay 10x as much or more to send UPS or Fedex to make sure you get something. I used to have sympathy that Congress was playing games with USPS’s budget, but now the situation is costing me large amounts of time and some money. Something’s gotta give.

  • aktodc

    We will have cards/letters from family returned to sender because “No Such Address Exists” even though the address is correct on the letter. Very frustrating.

  • textdoc

    I can’t find online the saga of the PoPville reader who had lengthy complaints about the Brentwood mail facility — the “I am the author of this post” guy. I wonder if he asked PoP to delete the thread.

  • PJ at MtP

    We give our mailman and UPS man gifts for the Holidays (Christmas) and always get good service.

  • MidwestMisanthrope

    OP, I feel your pain. I had the same issue re: undelivered mail for a couple of months at the end of 2015 (I live in g
    Glover Park and have lived there for 2 years now). All I can say is, keep calling your local post office when your mail delivery seems off. My tipping point was when a hold was put on one of my credit cards because my bank’s statements were being returned to sender.

    Sorry that you’re dealing with this, OP, and hope this gets resolved eventually!

  • Andi

    It is not just a Petworth problem. I have had the same problem as well. I sent 2 certified letters, which was required by DC, that were also never delivered. They basically just said oh well. I paid more than $5 each to make sure that they were delivered and they would not even give me a refund for it. Useless.

  • Anon

    My home (u street) and office (DuPont) mail service is horrible. Home, I’d say 15% of my mail is for a different unit in building, and many thing never arrive. My grandmother stopped mailing birthday cards bc pointless. Work, I usually get EVENTUALLY but routine for it to take 7-10 days for mail to arrive from cross town. Which is terrifying bc I’m a lawyer, MD doesn’t have electronic filing, and I have deadlines based on when mailed to me.

  • lucie

    our mail carrier once lost our building key and didn’t report it for weeks. She just kept calling people to see if someone was home to let her in. We eventually told us that we weren’t going to let her in any more so she was going to have to report it to her supervisor (this was probably the third time she’d lost our key in a 6-month period).

  • Amanda

    I had that issue previously in Georgetown. I lived in a group house and one of the girls was tired of receiving mail for old tenants so she told the mailman to only deliver mail that had her name on it. As such, he followed her directions and my mail was never delivered to the house. About a month before moving out, and after a year of paying for a PO Box in Georgetown, I was chatting with the mailman and that is how I found out that information.

    I live in Bloomingdale now and its another group house, but we also have an english basement. There is no “official” A and B apt designation, but randomly my mail will get returned for insufficient address which makes no sense because when the downstairs people do designate that they are B and/or the bottom level, we still get their mail.

  • FridayGirl

    The mail in Glover Park was pretty bad. I moved to U Street and haven’t had a problem since, despite not having a regular mail carrier for my apartment complex. I’m glad you got it figured out and I hope it doesn’t happen again… yeesh…

  • Romapa

    +1000 for Darryl! He’s the absolute best and a total professional. Our daughter waits for him everyday and always remembers the books he delivers to her.

  • FridayGirl

    Oops — that was supposed to be a reply to MidwestMisanthrope above. Sorry!

  • FridayGirl

    … And it looks like something on this chain was deleted? Because all the reply posts are now just going to the bottom. Confused.

    • Nope nothing deleted here. Sometimes the chains get glitchy on their own – sorry about that!

  • Vanessa Flores


  • Itsovernow

    They’re doing you a favor listening to your neighbor (who is the real problem here). They are avoiding your mail being left at the door for someone to take, or someone moving in after you and keeping your packages. Then your packages say delivered and you get to argue with the sender about how you didn’t get it and you put your old address on it. Just be glad they are returning them and they aren’t being misdelivered or stolen.

  • Here’s the mail it never fails…

    Received a birthday card from the in-laws two days ago. Post marked April 21, 2016. It was coming from Connecticut. Hooray for extended bday celebrations!

  • anon&confused

    Yep, hardly ever received my mail in Brookland (always got the junk though!). Wedding invites, bank statements, personal cards, etc, would just never show up.


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