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Amazon packages reportedly overwhelm small post offices, delaying other mail

Enlarge / Amazon boxes sit at a United States Postal Service facility in Fairfax, Virginia, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

Getty Images | Bloomberg

Amazon packages are overwhelming mail carriers in Minnesota, causing delays of other mail, according to news reports and complaints from a US senator. Amazon packages are being prioritized ahead of non-Amazon mail, postal workers have said.

Similar complaints have been made elsewhere, but reports suggest the problems are particularly severe in Bemidji, Minnesota, where carriers recently held early morning protests before their shifts began. A Bemidji Pioneer article on November 15 said that “rural mail carriers stood outside of the Bemidji Post Office before sunrise Monday and Tuesday carrying signs and protesting what they describe as unsustainable working conditions and the prioritization of Amazon deliveries over actual mail.”

The US Postal Service has been delivering Amazon packages for years, but this month’s protest reportedly came in response to local implementation of a new agreement with Amazon at the beginning of November.

The Bemidji Pioneer quoted longtime mail carrier Dennis Nelson as saying, “We’re being forced to work 12-hour days, six days a week. All of our days off have been canceled by the district manager. They’ve even gone so far as to say they will not honor sick leave. On top of that, we’ve been told Amazon is now our priority, that Amazon packages are the most important thing we do, the mail is secondary.”

Nelson said the Amazon rush has prevented timely delivery of other mail. “Mail isn’t being delivered on many routes because we’re spending 12 hours a day just delivering Amazon packages,” he was quoted as saying. “If you were to look [in the post office] right now, there’s probably five or six routes where mail wasn’t delivered yesterday because the packages had to go out.”

When contacted by Ars today, a USPS spokesperson denied that the agency prioritizes Amazon packages. “We do not prioritize Amazon packages. We deliver packages and mail in an integrated network,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

US senator blames postmaster general

US Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) sent a letter about the mail problems to US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on November 22. Smith’s letter said the “situation is particularly acute in Bemidji right now,” but that it affects multiple parts of Minnesota.

“I write regarding reports across Minnesota that the Postal Service’s service agreement with Amazon is interfering with timely deliveries and stretching the agency’s already-overburdened workers too thin,” Smith wrote. “As Postmaster General, you are responsible for ensuring that the Postal Service meets its service standards, and it is clear right now that things are not working as they should. Entering into contracts that your system cannot support is a breach of your responsibilities.”

A Washington Post article today described “chaos” at the Bemidji post office. “Mail is getting backed up, sometimes for days, leaving local residents waiting for checks, credit card statements, health insurance documents and tax rebates,” the article said. “Routes meant to take eight or nine hours are stretching to 10 or 12. At least five carriers have quit, and the post office has banned scheduled sick days for the rest of the year, carriers say.”

Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince was quoted as saying that mail carriers have “expressed a lot of concern about the volume of work.”

The USPS, which is funded by its own revenue, reported a net loss of $6.5 billion in the fiscal year that ended September 30. In a November 14 speech, DeJoy said the Postal Service expects to lose money again in fiscal 2024 “despite substantial planned reductions in our cost of operations and growth in our package revenues.”

The USPS has had a deal with Amazon since 2013, and Amazon in recent years “has increasingly come to rely on postal carriers to make ‘last-mile’ deliveries in harder-to-reach rural locations,” The Washington Post noted.

“In bigger cities, Amazon has its own distribution network, which takes some of the pressure off the post office,” the Post article noted. But the Postal Service’s Amazon deal “has caused problems” in rural areas where Amazon is less likely to have its own drivers.


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