By Justin Wingerter – November 28, 2015
The U.S. Postal Service has changed its collection times at hundreds of points across Kansas since August, an adjustment critics say is causing a slow degradation of postal quality in the state.
Brian Sperry, a regional spokesman for the Postal Service, said 340 collection points west of Topeka have seen their collection times adjusted in the past several months. The service operates 1,527 collection points west of the capital city as part of its Central Plains district.
East of Topeka, the number may be even larger. Though the Postal Service declined to provide a list of affected collection points, an agency document obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal shows 364 collection points that have been changed in the eastern part of the state, which falls within the service’s Mid-America district.
A collection time is the time at which mail carriers pick up mail to be processed that day. Any mail dropped off at a collection point after the collection time won’t be handled until the next day, delaying arrival at its destination by up to 24 hours.
In Olathe, a collection point that previously had a collection time of 1:45 p.m. now gets picked up at 9:30 a.m. In Ottawa, a collection time has been changed from 6 p.m. to just before 4 p.m. In Lansing, a collection point that once was emptied at 5:15 p.m. is now picked up about 3 p.m., according to the Postal Service spreadsheet.
Jim McAnerney, a retired postmaster in Wathena, says the changes are causing “a great consternation” with rural businesses, such as banks and law firms, which must mail their documents hours earlier or face delays.
“It’s not hitting the big cities, so the Postal Service is letting people in rural areas be treated like second-class citizens,” McAnerney said.
Sperry, meanwhile, notes that most of the collection times were changed by 30 minutes or less.
“The vast majority of collection times in the state did not change,” Sperry said. “When we change collection times, we post the information at the collection point 30 days in advance so customers can make adjustments to their mailing schedules as necessary.”
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s office says it has heard from people whose bills were paid belatedly or checks deposited later than expected because of the changes. As a result, the Republican senator sent U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan a letter on Oct. 22.
“While I recognize the Postal Service is forced to make tough choices in an environment of limited financial resources, this policy bears harmful consequences that threaten to further degrade customer experience and undermine the accuracy of data reported by the Postal Service,” Moran wrote.
The changes to collection times were necessary, Sperry said, in order for the Postal Service to continue meeting its service standards.
“The USPS regularly evaluates its transportation and mail processing windows and makes adjustments as necessary to ensure we continue to meet our service standards, which were adjusted in January 2015, eliminating local overnight delivery and implementing a two day standard for local First-Class Mail nationwide,” Sperry said in an email.
By picking up mail several hours earlier, rural mail carriers are able to ensure that two-day mail arrives at its destination two days later, according to the USPS, but McAnerney considers that a deception.
“They are hoodwinking the public by weakening the standards to make themselves look good on paper,” the former postmaster said.
Moran’s letter raises many of the same concerns, arguing the expedited collection deadlines come at the expense of customers and cause a “subtle but certain erosion of experienced service quality.” The senator recommends that the Postal Service consider reopening some of its facilities if it is unable to achieve its service standards.
Moran’s office said the senator still does much of his business, such as depositing checks, by snail mail in order to support the Postal Service.