COLUMBUS, Ohio — Viewers have sounded off to the 10 Investigates team over the past several months about frustrations and complaints about the United States Postal Service in central Ohio. Over the past two months, 10 Investigates tried to take those concerns directly to those in charge.
10 Investigates spent an entire day (June 3) dropping off letters to nearly 40 different mailboxes spread out across Columbus and its surrounding communities. Each mailbox was found through the postal service's website. We dropped off two letters in each mailbox.
Initially, the plan was to send the letters to 10TV, but we were concerned we wouldn’t be able to have access to the mailbox every day at the same time.
Instead, letters were sent to a reporter’s home, which is in the city limits. Our reporter checked the mailbox every day, in the 2 o'clock hour for 10 days straight, weekends included.
Melinda Poling is just one of several complaints sent to 10 Investigates about the postal service.
“The most recent thing is I was missing a letter from the bank. I have no idea where it is,” Poling said.
Poling said she has been having issues with the postal service throughout the pandemic. She sent several emails asking them for answers and that her issues haven't been resolved.
“I had actually ordered a birth certificate, a copy of my birth certificate. I needed it for some reason or another and it never came, though it showed it was supposed to be in the mail,” Poling said.
So 10 Investigates put them to the test, dropping off two letters to 39 different blue boxes. We numbered and put addresses on each letter to keep track of them.
We went to the post office and asked how long it would take for letters to arrive, a worker said two to three days, but the pandemic could change things.
The letters were sent out on a Friday, most arrived on Monday, so within the expected 2-3 day window. Several others arrived throughout the week—on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But five letters did not show up.
Two did not arrive from the box on East Fourth Avenue and another two did not arrive from the box on North Cassady Avenue. One other letter was returned to sender — that letter was sent back to 10TV from the post office on Twin Rivers Drive.
The following map pins every mailbox location visited for this story. Blue pins are indicative of mailboxes from which we saw shorter wait times to receive our letters. Longer wait times have orange pins. And red pins indicate there was some sort of issue, everything from return to sender to could not find mailbox to did not arrive.
10 Investigates reached out to the postal service multiple times over the past four months, most recently this week, requesting to speak with someone about mail delivery to try to get viewer questions answered. 10 Investigates told them we had open availability. A spokeswoman has repeatedly denied our interview requests, and sent us a statement that reads in part:
"We are experiencing employee shortages in some areas so that may cause residents to receive mail at a later time in the day...We gladly work to address any specific issue from the community when brought to our attention and we encourage customers to reach out to their local postal station."
10 Investigates also explained our experiment to the postal service more than two weeks before our airdate and asked for an interview once again. USPS pointed us to their latest numbers, showing that across the country between April 1 through June 24, about 94% of mail was delivered on time — which on the postal service's website says is up to five days. In our experiment — about 92% of mail was delivered on time.
Back in March, the Inspector General's Office completed an audit of three Columbus stations because of late mail:
The audit reported over 34,000 pieces of undelivered mail at the South Columbus post office and over 9,000 delayed letters and flats.
And postal customers, like Poling, they want to know where's their mail?
“To be perfectly honest with you, it's a little disturbing I'd like to know where this mail is that I never received. What's happening with it? Where did it go?” she said.
10 Investigates revisited one of the boxes that we did not receive our letters from and found the box was taped closed and customers were unable to drop off letters. 10TV reached out to the postal service to find out why and have not received an answer.
If you have a tip for our 10 Investigates team, just email it to 10Investigates@10TV.com.