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Virginia-Highland residents take problems with USPS mail delivery to the U.S. Senate

Without a car, Aidan Miller gets to avoid the recent roadway drama many Atlantans are now experiencing. But not being car-dependent has created another problem for the Old Fourth Ward resident.

Miller lives just a few miles from work and uses Lyft to get around, but he has household essentials delivered through Amazon Prime. It might have worked out well if he lived anywhere but at the end of Angier Avenue, a street that is intersected by a splash pad at the neighborhood playground.

The United States Postal Service (along with Fedex, UPS and the AJC newspaper delivery) all assume the road ends at the park and that his address is incorrect, so back to the sender goes his toothpaste, toilet paper, magazine subscriptions and other mail.

"Only one of the USPS employees in the area knows we even exist, so we can only get mail on days he is working," Miller said. He's called the post office and chatted with the carrier, who acknowledges that there is a problem when new mail carriers work the route. "All I can do is re-order, and hope I get the usual guy on the day it is to be delivered," said Miller.

Miller and his dozen or so neighbors on Angier Avenue may have special circumstances, but they aren't alone in their mail delivery woes. Other residents serviced by the post office at 822 Ralph McGill Boulevard NE, in particular, have similar complaints. Mail is mis-delivered, returned to sender, tampered with and lost, said residents.

In Dec. 2015, Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) and Atlanta Postmaster, Omar Coleman, held a meeting with neighbors and assured them changes were coming , but residents said little has changed. A post on the social media app, NextDoor, continues to draw new comments from locals who are having issues getting their mail.

Lewis did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement, the postal service said it has recently made management changes and readjusted delivery routes at Ralph McGill Post Office to benefit customers.

Postal service officials encourage customers in VA-Hi to call 404-765-7702 during business hours with questions about mail service, as well as utilizing the national hotline 800-275-8777 and completing customer insight surveys at the bottom of receipts after purchases at post office locations. Improvements, which began in 2015, are ongoing, said post office officials.

One solution that came out of the meeting was to put bar codes on mailboxes to track if the mail carrier has come, what time he or she arrives and how long it takes to deliver the mail. It took several months, but Stuart Platt got a bar code last summer.

"The folks in the post office have tried to be more responsive," he said. "It seems I am getting my mail every day." As a result, Platt has become the neighborhood resource for how to resolve postal service issues.

The 26-year resident is a heavy mail user who runs several businesses. He was determined to get his concerns addressed. When he asked the mail carriers what to do, they would tell him to call management. He called management and was issued six to 10 reference numbers for each of his complaints.

"When you call customer service they should be enabled to take care of a problem. I should not have to bring in a US senator or congressman to solve these issues," Platt said.

But that is exactly what ended up happening. Platt said he contacted the offices of Congressman Lewis, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, told them what he had done so far and asked what else he needed to do. That's when he began to hear from USPS to resolve the issues, he said.

At the town hall meeting hosted by Lewis , mail carriers said there was no way they could deliver all the mail they are given in a day.

"They said they would get more manpower and make sure people answered their phones and make sure mail got delivered," said Platt. But across the country, since 2008, USPS has been consolidating operations for delivery and retail and reducing the size of their workforce to reduce costs.

In 2016, revenue was $71.5 billion —a 3.7 percent revenue increase. That would have resulted in a net income of $610 million if not for the impact of a $5.8 billion mandated Retiree Health Benefits prepayment, according to the USPS annual report to congress.

Postal services are self-funded through postal products, not taxpayer dollars, so USPS competes with other delivery services that do not have to comply with government regulations such as mandates on pre-funded retiree health benefits and strict pricing caps on products such as stamps. Last year, for the third time on record, USPS was forced to reduce the cost of postage stamps from 49 cents to 47 cents. The change resulted in a loss of $2 billion in revenue, said USPS officials. In addition, First Class Mail -- USPS' most profitable mail product -- continues to decline, even as other costs go up.

Platt said his most effective move to make sure he received his mail, was to not get mail at all. He has reduced the amount of mail delivered through USPS by about 50 percent, he said, opting instead to communicate or make payments by electronic means whenever possible.

Robin Davis has also come to the conclusion that she can no longer do business using USPS. The photographer often receives payments from clients in the form of checks via US mail, but she said some checks never make it. At other times, she receives mail that has been opened and tampered with. During the past holiday season, things really got bad.

"About 50 pieces of mail around Christmas time were arriving to the house open. All the individual pieces of mail inside (a priority mail envelope) were gone through," she said.

The police couldn't do anything. The post office couldn't do anything. They said she needed proof that something of value had been taken.

The USPS Office of the Inspector General is charged with investigating claims of theft or fraud and claims can be filed through an online complaint form by employees, customers and the public. When a package from eBay arrived open and empty, Davis filed an official report in January with the Inspector General's office. She received a robo-reply telling her they received her complaint, but otherwise she has not received a response. USPS officials did not comment specifically on Davis' claims.

"I have important stuff that comes through the mail," said Davis. "It has gotten to the point where I can no longer use the post office to do work."

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.