“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
It’s the gloom-of-night deliveries that bug the heck out of some Northeasters. Dinners are interrupted by a mail carrier with a package. Elderly residents are spooked by an unexpected clink! from their mailbox door after dark. “What’s going on with the postal service? I didn’t get my mail until seven o’clock last night,” is an oft-heard rant on Northeast-related Facebook pages. The Northeaster contacted the U.S. Postal Service to find out.
According to Peter Nowacki in the downtown office, Northeast has several vacant postal routes due to attrition – retirements, moves to stations in other parts of the city, promotions. “If we have a vacant route, carriers may have to double up [on routes] to deliver the mail. So instead of doing just one route, they may deliver to two. Newer carriers don’t know the routes as well, so it takes them longer,” he said. And, hence, the evening deliveries.
It’s not just Northeast, however. There’s an overall shortage of carriers throughout the Twin Cities.
Mail carriers serve 46,000 households and businesses a day in the 55413 and 55418 Zip codes. According to the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General’s website, each carrier had 500 to 600 “delivery points” per route in 2008. Their “targeted return time” to the local station is 6 p.m. Double routes significantly affect that deadline. Letter volume has decreased dramatically, but package volume has increased with the expanded use of internet shopping. During the holiday season, expect after-dark deliveries.
Aiming to lighten the carriers’ loads, the USPS is busy recruiting, interviewing and hiring new carriers. “We hope to have this finished by early December,” Nowacki said. “Just in time for the Christmas rush.”
Package theft is becoming more common in Northeast, too. Workers have returned home to find an empty box on the doorstep or an open, abandoned package several doors down. If you’re expecting a package and can’t be home to receive it (UPS, United Parcel Service) alerts its customers via email about upcoming deliveries), make arrangements with a stay-at-home or work-at-home neighbor to pick it up for you.
As winter sets in, give your mail carrier a hand. Keep sidewalks shoveled and ice-free, and make sure there’s a clear pathway to your mailbox. Some Northeasters even clear a house-to-house trail on their lawns so the carrier doesn’t have to go up and down steps. It could speed mail delivery, just a tiny bit.
What’s it take to be a mail carrier in addition to a strong back and a healthy pair of legs? Here are some of the basic requirements:
• 18 years old at the time of appointment or 16 years old with a high school diploma
• United States citizen, permanent resident, or citizen of American Samoa or other U.S. territory
• Recent employment history
• Able to pass a criminal background check, drug screening, and medical assessment
• Safe driving record (if applicable to the position)
• Must be registered with Selective Service, if applicable
(Applications are available at usps.com/careers.)