CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Why is our mail running so slow?
Several union postal workers from the Processing Center in Cape Girardeau say, they hear this question all the time.
"As postal workers we have friends who say hey, what's going on with the mail?" Greg Davidson said. Davidson serves as the local postal union president.
To try and find out, we conducted a series of mail tests.
Ten bill-sized envelopes all made it from Cape Girardeau, up to St. Louis, and back down to Cape in two days. That's the standard now that your mail is processed up there.
But bigger, magazine-sized envelopes were a much different story.
"As soon as people find out who you work for, you become the local complaint department,” said postal worker Terry Meier.
Your local mail is not staying local. Even if you mail it at the Cape Girardeau Processing plant, or at the Cape post office.
"We could take them right inside, work them on our machines, get them delivered the very next day,” said Greg Davidson. “But instead, the very next day we send them to St. Louis and hope that it comes back in a day or two after that."
A spokesman for the Postal Service says me our mail is delivered on time. In fact, they have a 94 percent service score, he said.
But, that's not what happened when we conducted two mail tests using those larger envelopes. A Postal Service spokesman said these "flats" represent about 6 percent of total USPS volume.
In the first test, initiated by Davidson, I received ten larger yellow envelopes at my home address.
"I mailed all 10 of these envelopes on that Wednesday morning, on the 8th, before the pick up times,” said Davidson. “And I'm not responsible for when they come back."
Postal workers say the envelopes should have taken two days to get to me, and three of them did, but without the post mark many of us rely on to prove we mailed something on time.
The rest trickled in over the next several days.
And the five with postmarks went all the way to Springfield, Ill. That's some 400 miles out of their way to get from one side of town to the other.
I got the tenth envelope one week later, no postmark, not even a barcode showing it was processed.
That Postal Service spokesman says no postmark is unusual. He says it makes it impossible to determine if these were even mailed unless a bar code was included.
By that standard, the unmarked tenth envelope somehow magically appeared in my mailbox!
Postal worker Robert Stevenson suspects a backlog at the processing center in St. Louis may be why five of these went so far out of their way.
"The volume that St. Louis now has to deal with, I can only imagine how overwhelmed they must feel up there," Stevenson said.
Dozens of you took to Facebook to share your mail delay stories with me.
Tinea Ortega, who owns a photography business in Cape Girardeau, sent a package from Cape to Poplar Bluff priority mail. Instead of taking two days, it took 10 when it was sent to Baltimore, Maryland instead.
"Sometimes, it takes days for it to get back. And I really don't know what's going on with that but we're seeing an awful lot of that," said Davidson.
Robert Stevenson suspects a backlog at the processing center in St. Louis may be to blame.
In our second mail test, we used the same envelopes and same mailboxes at the plant and Cape's main post office.
Three actually arrived in just a day, but had no postmark and no barcode. Another magic delivery? Nope. We have video of them going in the mailbox!
The rest took between two and three days. Three made it to St. Louis for sure. The rest? No postmarks mean we have no clue.
"I see newspapers that are five to seven days old," Terry said. "First class flats, four to eight day delivery."
How long should it take? I asked.
"Two to three."
These local union members know, the USPS isn't too thrilled about them speaking out, or helping conduct one of the mail tests we just showed you.
In fact, one postal spokesperson suggested that test may actually be tainted, a comment she probably shouldn't have made, given what her boss did next.
"I actually expected that," Greg Davidson said.
Davidson says he's not surprised the Postal Service would question the mail test he initiated.
"They type out these emails and respond from an office far away from here. I'm from here. Born and raised here. I have friends and family here. I put my reputation on the line."
Not only did a U.S.P.S. spokeswoman suggest Davidson somehow tainted his mail test, she said union workers have a different agenda than the postal service.
Here's the exact email quote: “If any union representatives assisted in your “test” that certainly can potentially taint the results since union representation often times have a different agenda than USPS.”
"I think it's one of our most important services that we get,” Vern Davidson said.
He's the guy who put his job on the line to tell you he and others witnessed your mail being intentionally delayed last year.
Davidson says his only agenda is to tell you what's happening to your mail.
"And if it was about my job, I wouldn't have laid my neck out there like I did," he said.
Vern Davidson says he no longer sees your mail move, but Terry Meier does.
Meier says it's still bouncing back and forth from Cape to St. Louis without being processed.
"Sometimes it takes a couple days of bouncing back and forth before they finally work it."
And that's still happening? I asked.
"Yes. It's actually sickening to watch."
"You can only get so much done in a 24 hour period,” Robert Stevenson added. “And that, I only suspect, is going to get worse as St. Louis continues to absorb what operations used to be done in Cape Girardeau.”
Now, back to that email. It apparently did not sit well with the spokeswoman's boss. He called and emailed to tell me I received it by mistake. Then he made this offer, if I didn't use it, he would travel from Colorado to give me a tour of the Cape plant, so I could show you exactly what's going on with your mail.
Great offer, but we opted to tell you the full story. And these guys will tell you, the moves designed to save the Postal Service money and improve service simply aren't working.
"Things aren't going that smoothly. We're facing a lot of uncertainty right now," Greg Davidson said.
Is there local mail that's still staying here? I asked.
"Lately, we've been trying to keep some of that mail here rather than send it on to St. Louis because we've seen so many of those delays. But, the majority of it still goes to St. Louis."
All these guys agree, Congress will need to step in to fix a broken postal system.
"They are actually going to have to take Congressional action to reverse this trend that we're seeing right now. And what they want to do is go back to the standards we had back in 2012 that would give us overnight delivery again and keep plants like ours open because it's really rural America that's getting hit hard on this," said Greg Davidson.
"It goes back as an example to our interview last year when the images were up of the mail actually being physically locked up so that we weren't able to process it,” Vern Davidson said. “That's no longer going on, but through the logistical changes it's kind of the same thing without the lock."
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