Observation About the US Mail

We do payroll at headquarters and send checks all over the country.  We built the payroll process years ago to allow for one week for the US Mail to carry the paychecks from our office to arrive at their destinations in time.  Steadily, over the last five years, office by office, we have had to replace the US Mail with UPS.  It apparently is increasingly impossible for the US Mail to get a letter across the country in a week (which is six working days for the USPS).

Today was the final straw.  For the third payroll in a row, the US Mail has not been able to get mail from our office in Phoenix to our office just outside of Los Angeles in a week.  The payroll was mailed last Monday and it is not there now onthe following Tuesday.  Pathetic.


  1. feeblemind:

    Why not go with direct deposit? Or do you have employees without checking accounts?

  2. David W:

    And, of course, in May they're going to raise the price again on this stellar service!

  3. max:

    WEll, what is interesting to me, is the question, why does us-mail get worse?
    I mean several years ago, you didn't seem to mind? Is it that the requirements have risen or is the service getting worse?
    And what is responsible for that?

  4. Matt:

    I have to say, that doesn't jive with my experience at all. I'm a card-carrying libertarian, but I've generally been impressed with the USPS cost-speed ratio. That doesn't mean I'm not in favor of deregulation of first class mail, but I just don't think USPS is all that bad.

  5. ici chacal:

    oh, they're that bad, matt. just last week i mailed a parcel from vegas to dallas. i opted for the cheapest, slowest method of parcel post, so i wasn't expecting overnight, but this is what i was told: "you don't wanna send it overnight? no? or express mail? no?" many frowns and shrugs hinting at impending disaster followed. "well, ok, if that's the way you want to do it, it should arrive in dallas in about 2 weeks."

    i'm aware that some of that was 'scare the customer upsell', (i just love it when the government tries to get me to give them more money), but they're telling me it'll take 12 working days to go 1500 miles. that's worse than back in the late 19th century.

    UPS and fedex aren't perfect - since i used to manage for ups, i know this to be so - but they at least *try*. when was the last time you walked into a post office and saw concerned, caring employees hustling to please the customer? "never", right?

  6. CheckedOut:

    is ADP any better? or even these payroll cards, it's 2009?

  7. BillS:

    There seems to be something going on with LA area mail. Sent 2 valentines cards from my kids in San Diego, one to Grandma in Long Beach the other to Great Grandma in LA proper... Great Grandma got her's last Saturday, Grandma is still waiting...
    same 'card' one seems lost in the postal service void.

  8. Fred Z:

    We all know that
    -it is possible to identify the USPS employees screwing up.
    -it is impossible to fire or discipline them.

    So what did you expect?

  9. jdt:

    Maybe they could get important pieces delived more quickly if people weren't sending so much crap that nobody wants. At least 90% of my mail goes into the trash in my garage without making it into the house.

    I know this isn't the real reason your mail isn't getting delivered quick enough but it just irritates me that trucks drive around dropping off garbage in peoples mailboxes so other trucks can come around and pick it all up.

    Anyway I see why you are using UPS. At work I use UPS for everything unless its something I can reprint if it gets lost.

  10. gadfly:

    The world has gone to direct deposit. If your employees don't have a bank account, all credit unions and many banks, routinely provide accounts for free for direct depositors. They will even come by and sign your employees up. BTW, as the employer, you can insist upon direct deposits.

    One final point. Stay away from payroll processors like ADP. The cost is absurd when compared to the cheap payroll software out there.

  11. Brad Warbiany:

    Warren, what did you expect to happen? Last Thursday was Lincoln's b-day (something I found out when I tried to go to the damn DMV), and government employees can't be expected to work on holidays. Then yesterday being President's day?

    Yeah, you'll be lucky if they arrive this week.

  12. Shenpen:

    But why do you have to mail checks? Doesn't something like this exist in the US?


  13. MGW:

    I stopped using USPS a few years ago. Back when I was in college, I received a job offer and was told to send it overnight via USPS (going from NJ to Dallas, the HR center for the company I was going to work for). I did my part and mailed it, but then the next day, I got a phone call from a random stranger who found my package laying in the middle of the road, crumpled. Keep in mind that this is important information that has my SSN, DOB, etc. Anyway, I asked the stranger to put it in a mailbox. He did, and then I called the Dallas post office (in my experience, it's almost impossible to talk to a local person). They weren't sure what could have happened or what would happen next. Anyway, I gave up on the package and sent a new one via Fedex, which arrived the next day on time. However, two weeks later, my original package also made it to its destination. I guess I have to give them credit for finishing the job (with the help of a stranger), but two weeks for an overnight package is pretty bad.

  14. Adam:

    Part of the issue mailing checks to your offices could result from the fact that (If I understand correctly) your offices are in fairly rural areas...but still inexcusable.

    Although I am not certain we should expect more from a government mandated monopoly. What I have never been able to understand is why Express and all that costs so much...unless I am just sending a small package priority or a letter first class, USPS is always significantly more expensive than UPS/FedEx for next day & second day transactions.

  15. Gresham:

    Good. You should have quit using that subsidized piece of crap years ago.

    And for those sick of junk mail, this service has done wonders for me:


  16. SmartDogs:

    Glad it isn't just me having these problems. In the last 3 years our mail service has gone from problematic to maddening. A few recent examples:

    *Having 15% of the promotional mailers I sent out - first class - returned to me marked "Insufficient Postage". Took them to the local PO and had the clerk at the window weigh each so I could get correct postage. The amount she gave me was the same amount marked out on each envelope. When I pointed this out all I got was a shrug.

    *Having two packages (one with a spendy winter coat in it) never arrive on my doorstep even though USPS delivery confirmation "verified" that both had been correctly delivered to my address.

    *Getting an electric bill returned to me in a shredded envelope. Sans postage -- and the check I'd included for payment.

    Oh gawd. And don't *even* bother to mark a package "fragile" or "do not bend" as this seems to be USPS code for "please stomp, crush and dump in a puddle."

    They're almost as incompetent as the boobs in Washington.

  17. Peter:

    Well out here on Martha's Vineyard I have heard of much worse. In the town of Edgartown where several of my employees live I regularly hear them saying how they are receiving final notices for payment for things they never got a first notice on. Others tell me they send out their mortgage payment on the first of every month so that it will be there by the first of the next month. The other towns out here seem to be better but not always. One friend of mine wrote letters to her US senators in Washington DC. She did not know the zip code and figured she would ask at the post office. When she got to the counter and asked for the zip code for Washington DC the person behind the counter responded with "What State?" Thinking herself not clear she re-stated Washington DC. Again "What state?" Getting frustrated she asked to speak to the manager to find out she already was.
    It makes me feel lucky to live in the town that seems to do reasonably well. It also explains why a town with a population of around 3000 has over 4000 Post office boxes.
    As far as efficiency being on an island we used to have three drop boxes for the mail. They were labeled "in town", "Other island towns" and "All other mail" and if the mail was being sent in town the recipient might even receive it the same day. Now however with the new computerized Postal service all mail goes off the island to be sorted. The computer sorters also prioritize from the bottom up on the mailing address. So if someone includes your post office box one one line and your physical address on the next they will try to deliver it to your physical address. This in turn can result in your mail being undeliverable because you don't have a mailbox at the street. UPS however will leave a package on your front porch for you unless a signature is required.

  18. Tom G:

    For some history, look up the "American Letter Mail Company", founded by American anarchist Lysander Spooner.
    Here is the Wikipedia page on it (the usual caveats about accuracy on Wikipedia apply of course) -

  19. elam bend:

    During law school one of my contracts professor pointed out that we had just read two cases that involved the apparently normal delivery of packages halfway accross the country, in the nineteenth century.

  20. LJB:

    Ever tried direct deposit into your employee's bank account??

  21. Allen:

    Unfortunately it's not surprising. I live in a high rise with @85 units. A lot of days are great. But about once a week I get a letter or three that isn't for my apartment number nor myself. About once a month, I figure it must be some sub in a rush or something, things fall apart. I'll get a bunch of mail for different apartments and seemingly none of mine (maybe I didn't get any that day). Those days it seems the same happens to lots of other people as there's an empty box people like to put mail in when it's not for them. That'll be full and a pile on top of the boxes. I always grab those and drop them back in the outbox. Some of it is junk mail but a lot of times there are important looking letters (paychecks, etc) in those piles.

    I get a couple weekly magazines. Now maybe it's a matter of how and when they're printed. But I used to be able to count on them to arrive Friday and if not then Saturday. Over time it's changed to the point where even though they used to arrive on Friday, they may not turn up until Wednesday or sometimes even the next Friday.

  22. Methinks:

    in their memoir, Milton and Rose Friedman mentioned that they wrote letters to each other while they were separated when he and Rose worked in Different cities. I believe she was in D.C. and he was in New York City. Anyway, they would mail the letter (regular post) in the evening and it would be received in the following morning.

    Today, it takes a letter almost a week to make it from White Plains, NY to Greenwich, CT. The two towns are right next to each other. Weirdly, mail from Greenwich to Chicago seems to arrive in two days.

  23. Brian Dunbar:

    when was the last time you walked into a post office and saw concerned, caring employees hustling to please the customer? “never”, right?

    In Drivepast, Wisconsin the guys at the post office are pretty good. They do hustle and they appear to care. Our home carrier is in the habit of giving our dog biscuits as he makes his rounds.

    The dog loves-loves-loves the mailman: you can almost see little hearts over her head when he shows up. Maybe those are cookies. She certainly drools.

    The carrier who had the downtown route at my wife's store was a goofy, friendly guy. He entered a pie-eating contest at a downtown fest .. and when he won the announcer said '... and the winner - Dan the Mailman!' Everyone knew Dan the Mailman. Dan died of a heart attack three years ago .. and the merchants clubbed together and bought a memorial park bench on the square.

    When we lived in Dallas I saw none of this. Surly help at the counter and iffy service from the carrier.

    I surmise that the small-town thing makes a difference. In Dallas you're one person in a huge crowd. Here you'll see each other again and again.

  24. SwampWoman:

    Unfortunately, my experiences with the U.S. Mail have been less than happy. Utility bills are late or don't arrive. Periodic bills such as insurance usually don't arrive at all.

    I have had to quit sending checks via U.S. mail.