Resident miffed by lack of mail

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The Pittsfield man failed to receive mail for two delivery days in a row. But, he said, he's most frustrated by the seeming lack of concern demonstrated by postal officials, none of whom sounded particularly penitent when he talked with them on the phone.

"The post office was unresponsive. Actually, they didn't really care," said the Beverly Street resident, who said he never got a clear, succinct answer about what led to the problem.

Pittsfield Postmaster Michael L. Witkowski called the delivery snafu "an aberration" that hopefully won't happen again.

"It was a big deal to us," he said.

Southeast neighborhood affected

According to Backer, some residents of Beverly, Wellesley and Andover streets in Southeast Pittsfield failed to get their mail on Saturday and Monday. And, he added, the poor service comes at the worst possible time -- as the holiday gift-giving season enters the home stretch and credit card bills start rolling in.

The Postal Service acknowledges there were problems with residential mail delivery in Pittsfield over the past several days.

But USPS spokeswoman Maureen Marion was unable to pinpoint the extent of the troubles -- particularly, which streets were serviced and which ones were skipped, and on which days.

No promises are made

"It's frustrating for us, as well, if we cannot give people the product they expect in a timely fashion," said Marion, who said there are no guarantees when it comes to home delivery.

"If you look at this very technically, only -- only -- express mail has a guaranteed delivery date," Marion said.

That goes against the USPS' unofficial credo to deliver mail through wind, rain, sleet and snow. However, customers can reasonably expect to receive their mail in a timely fashion, with most local mail delivered by the next day, Marion said.

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Asked why residents of certain sections of Pittsfield didn't receive mail on Monday and Saturday, Marion's response was: "Seasonal volume, and it became too long of a work day to be able to do it safely. We're not going to keep [letter carriers] on the streets for 12 or 13 hours in the dark."

Marion said some letter carriers simply were unable to complete their routes on time, despite working past dark.

However, she couldn't explain why someone such as Backer failed to receive mail for two consecutive delivery cycles.

"It is not the way that we would hope to do business on a routine basis," she said, noting that some individual delivery routes simply weren't completed due to darkness. "It becomes a safety concern. It's not safe for our carriers."

The Christmas season typically is the busiest time of year for the USPS, which usually manages to handle the increased volume.

But like any other federal agency, the Postal Service is beset by budgetary problems -- namely, a $7 billion deficit -- although recent cutbacks at the Pittsfield Post Office didn't call for any layoffs and weren't expected to affect mail carriers or delivery schedules.

"We really are redoubling our efforts to get it right," Marion said. "We know that's not the expectation of the customers of Pittsfield and Western Massachusetts."

Marion said she realizes the Pittsfield situation presents a public relations problem for the Postal Service, which is renowned for the can-do attitude of its weather-be-damned credo.

"We want to be something you take for granted because it happens so routinely," she said, referring to daily delivery of the mail.

In the Pittsfield case, she said, "We made a judgment call for the safety of our employees."

For Backer, it comes down to customer service.

"It's very disconcerting the way they operate," he said. "I mean, two days in a row without mail is pretty significant."

To reach Conor Berry: cberry@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6249.


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