The Daily Press

Delayed postal mailings create issues with billing, shipping

- By Mike Reuther Williamspo­rt Sun-Gazette

The holiday season normally brings a rush of shopping and the mailings needed to get out packages and letters.

This year, the U.S. Postal Service is gearing up for an expected crush of deliveries amidst a time of nationwide hiring shortages.

“Every year we urge customers to plan ahead and ship their holiday gifts early because the longer you wait, the more limited your choices of shipping options become,” said Freda Sauter, of the U.S. Postal Service. “In a normal year, the Postal Service processes billions of packages and mail pieces during the peak period, the time between Thanksgivi­ng and New Year’s Day. The 2020 Holiday Season was record-setting for the Postal Service with more than a billion packages delivered.”

Sauter noted that the Postal Service has been planning, investing and hiring every day for the past 12 months.

Preparatio­ns include the leasing of 7.5 million square feet of additional space across more than 40 annexes with multiyear leases to address space constraint­s due to parcel growth, as well as a national drive to hire an additional 40,000 seasonal workers by the end of the year.

In the meantime, organizati­ons and businesses feel the strain of getting out mailings.

Lycoming County Water & Sewer Authority Executive Director Christine Weigle noted that the past year has brought issues with putting out timely customer billings.

“I think it really started last year during the month of November,” she said.

Many water and sewer customers frantic over receiving bills past their due dates flooded the water and sewer offices with phone calls.

“We have been having problems for over a year now,” she said.

To counter the problems, customers are being urged to go with email billings.

In the meantime, water and sewer employees remain busier than ever dealing with customers and the problems associated with late mailings.

“We bill the first of the month,” Weigle said. “Those bills are due the 20th. We have customers calling us that they haven’t received their bills.”

Customers have the option to prepay their bills for a full year, allowing them to avoid delays in monthly billing and, by doing so, receive 5% discounts on their billings.

Weigle noted that officials do their best to work with customers facing mailing issues, including waiving late fees.

“We’ve waived late fees based on the postmark,” she said.

The Sun-Gazette has experience­d its share of mailing problems, according to newspaper publisher Robert O. Rolley Jr.

“We understand the USPS is facing the same difficulti­es that many employers face: A lack of manpower. That puts any business or, in this case, a federal agency in a very difficult spot. We’re hopeful the Postal Service can overcome this,” he said. “Too many of our subscriber­s are mailing in their payments and we’re not getting them until a month later. That causes issues with delivery. We’re talking with our patrons and making changes to adapt, but that’s not sustainabl­e.

“We also recently saw a forwarding sticker placed on people’s mail to us and that’s concerning as we haven’t moved and we’re certainly not going anywhere. At the same time, we sympathize with the Postal Service and will continue to work with them as the mail system is so integral to our business and to all of us. It is critical that the Postal Service achieve more manpower and proper resources so, for example, payments by mail are received on time. We had examples recently where it took almost four weeks to get customers’ payments by mail, and a payment we were making was not received in the usual 3 to 4 day period and a critical service we rely on got shut off.”

PPL Electric Utilities has escaped some of the aforementi­oned issues with mailings. The utility company also doesn’t expect any problems arising, according PPL Regional Affairs Director

Tracie Witter.

However, there is a push by PPL for customers to go with email billing.

“Thirty-four percent of our customers get bills through paperless billing,” Witter said. “It seems to be growing. We are encouragin­g people to do that.”

With concerns over postal delivery times, it’s not a bad idea for customers to switch to email billing, she noted.

Customers also have the option to choose the day that’s best for them to receive bills.

“They can do this online,” she said.

Since April, the Postal Service has installed 102 of 112 new package sorting machines, Sauter said.

In addition, more than 50 package systems for sorting large packages are expected to be deployed prior to December.

The new machinery, Sauter noted, will allow the Postal Service to process an additional 4.5 million packages daily.

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