Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You

February 21, 2011

business, help, weather woes, winter

My husband is a part-time mail carrier. It’s not an easy job, especially in Upstate New York in the winter. Since the United States Post Office is in the news a lot right now (with all their financial problems and the threat of cutting Saturday delivery to make ends meet), I thought it would be cool to mention a few things about the post office– things you may not know because the media fails to report it.

Just for the record, I am against the USPS ending Saturday delivery. I think it would be fatal to the USPS, a really stupid move. What they SHOULD do is end the mandatory (super-expensive) pensions and perks that they dole out to retirees and veteran workers. [Note: I know this is a touchy subject, especially in light of the hooplah going on in Wisconsin. I feel the same way about things in NY– it’s too expensive to maintain a top-heavy government, and painful choices are being made.] There’s also quite a bit of waste in the USPS that can be slashed, but it takes acts of Congress to make these changes. The USPS is under government control, but they don’t receive a PENNY in tax money. Another example of waste is that some postal areas blend delivery areas– this doubles the expense of delivering mail because TWO or more offices serve ONE area.

Anyway, I saw a list at 13 Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You at the Reader’s Digest website, and thought it was very worthy of passing on. These are all things my husband has brought up in one way or another. I include the best here. My own comments are in regular type.

  • Maybe your dog won’t bite you. But in 2009, 2,863 of us were bitten, an average of nine bites per delivery day. That’s why I wince when your Doberman comes flying out the door. My husband has told me quite a few stories of some VERY close calls he’s had with dogs that “wouldn’t hurt a flea.” Uh huh. Folks, do you want your mail? Keep the dog inside. My kids need their dad home, not in a hospital.
  • Remember this on Valentine’s Day: It takes our machines longer to read addresses on red envelopes (especially if they’re written in colored ink).
  • Photo from Wikipedia

  • Media Mail is a bargain, but most of you don’t know to ask for it. Sending ten pounds of books from New York City to San Francisco through Media Mail costs $5.89, compared with $16.77 for Parcel Post. Besides books, use it to send manuscripts, DVDs, and CDs; just don’t include anything else in the package.
  • The USPS doesn’t get a penny of your tax dollars.
  • UPS and FedEx charge you $10 or more for messing up an address. Us? Not a cent. My husband will even make up the difference if an envelope is not properly stamped.
  • Paychecks, personal cards, letters—anything that looks like good news—I put those on top. Utility and credit card bills? They go under everything else. Junk mail, flyers, and mail for stuff like is cased at the bottom.
  • Mail carriers also have to endure- day after day– the smut and glut of porno and “ladies” magazines. Some magazines, like Playboy, are required to conceal their magazine covers with plastic or paper, but the “ladies” mags like “Shape” or “Cosmopolitan” do not, and those covers are sickening. I feel so sorry for mail carriers who have to endure that junk. You know, if the USPS forced such magazines to pay a little extra to cover their stuff, I’ll betcha that would solve the USPS financial problems in a one week, not to mention a whole lot of consciences and marriages.
  • Sorry if I seem like I’m in a hurry, but I’m under the gun: Our supervisors tell us when to leave, how many pieces of mail to deliver, and when we should aim to be back. Then some of us scan bar codes in mailboxes along our route so they can monitor our progress.
  • Yes, we do have to buy our own stamps, but a lot of us carry them for customers who need them. Very true! My husband always has a stash of stamps and he adds them gratis. He’s such a swell guy. Sad thing is, no one ever seems to realize how generous he really is. He also gets out of the car and moves your trash cans that have blown out in front of your mailbox, even though he does not HAVE to legally deliver your mail if there’s an impediment to your box.
  • Please dress properly when you come to the door. A towel wrapped around you doesn’t cut it. And we definitely don’t want to see you in your underwear—or naked! My husband has had a few very uncomfortable encounters with ladies who treat the mailman as if he was some kind of nobody, not worthy of respect. It’s not fun to have to deliver mail to jiggly ladies who wear less cotton than an aspirin bottle. :-p
  • We serve 150 million addresses six days a week, so we’re often in the right place at the right time. We pull people out of burning cars, catch burglars in the act, and call 911 to report traffic accidents, dead bodies, and more. My husband actually came to the rescue of an older, heavyset gentlemen living in a rural area who had fallen and couldn’t get up. His wife was trying to help him, but she was too weak to lift him. Together, my husband and the lady couldn’t even lift him, so my husband waited with the couple at their home until a rescue team arrived, because the wife was so stressed. It took the rescue team half an hour to get there, and that was time out of my husband’s day (and he was late for his second job, too).
  • Most of us don’t mind if you pull up to our trucks while we’re delivering and ask for your mail a little early. But please get out of your car and come get it. Don’t just put your hand out your window and wait for me to bring it to you.
  • We go to great lengths to deliver to every address, no matter how remote. That’s why, in the most rural areas, even UPS and FedEx rely on us to make their final deliveries. True. And some places are VERY remote. I have had to rescue my husband out of some places, too. One rural place, he ran out of gas. And another time, during a snowstorm, the van slipped into a ditch and fell in sideways. I had to try to tow him out (couldn’t) so we called a tow truck. All the while, the mail delivery was delayed. What was really sad was that, while we were out in the storm waiting for a tow truck, a customer on the route with a honking big SUV roared by us, didn’t even stop to help. 🙁 But he got his mail with a smile, anyway.
  • Those plants around your mailbox are beautiful, but I’d like them better if you kept them trimmed back. Please don’t plant flowers because bees and ants like them.
  • Is it hot enough for me? The heat index is 110 degrees. What do you think? (Instead of asking that, offer me a cold drink.)
  • Despite the “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” motto, we’re instructed not to deliver to a mailbox if the snow and ice around it isn’t cleared. Most of us take the motto to heart, though, and do our best to deliver in even the most hazardous conditions. My husband does everything humanly possible to deliver the mail, even for rude people who do not shovel their boxes out. And you know what? If the mail can’t get delivered that day, it has to be delivered the NEXT day– that’s TWO days mail that has to be delivered in ONE day in the same amount of time. And my husband has actually had to call in unavailable for his second job because the mail delivery was so heavy that day– so, he LOST money because he lost HOURS on his other job, because some folks didn’t shovel their mailboxes out and that made a chain reaction with the mail load. So give the mailman a break.
  • I have people who leave a letter in their box and tape 44 cents in change to it. I’ll take it, but the next day I’ll be waiting in line like everyone else to buy you a stamp.
  • It’s a small thing that makes my job so much easier: Please park your car in the driveway instead of in front of the mailbox. I live on a busy street, and while I never park in front of my mailbox, lots of people do. That means, I don’t get my mail because their car is in the way. 🙁

I hope this gives a little perspective on the USPS and the millions of men and women who work there. These people work very hard and deal with a multitude of mail products, people, weather and animals. I think they deserve our support! Thanks for reading. 🙂

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20 Responses to “Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You”

  1. Renee Says:

    Wow, that was very informative and interesting! You know what REALLY bugs me… when a free magazine subscription ends, and they decide that you would love to receive this disgusting raunchy swim suit magazine that you never asked for. Then you try to call, write, and everything else to get it cancelled, but they decide to send you a few more issues. And the last thing I want my mail carriers to think is that I asked for that stuff. 🙁

  2. Mrs. Mecomber Says:

    Same here, Renee! I could breathe fire, it bothers me so much. I hope the USPS cracks down on junk mail, they’d make a TON of money if they upped the fee by 1 cent and just forced everyone to cover their smut!

  3. Clara Says:

    I remember reading that article in RD. I had a lot of the same reactions as you. My dad was a rural letter carrier for many years. When I was a teenager and there was a snowstorm I would ride along with him and pop the mail into the box as he drove. He would deliver the mail even if the snow was up to the top of the box for about 3 days. Once the roads were cleared and things were back to normal (meaning I was back in school) he held the mail until the box was shoveled out. I always enjoyed going along just because I liked being with Dad but I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone because he could have been fired for letting me touch the mail.

    Dad also helped folks like your husband does. I went with him once when he re-set a box for an elderly widow on his route. Someone had hit her box and tilted it. He took his own time and materials that evening to go fix it for her and wouldn’t take a penny for it. Only a glass of lemonade.

    He also carried mace and Raid for the dogs and bees. He got terrible poison ivy from where it trailed over some boxes but he delivered the mail anyway.

    I think our mail carriers are very special people. I knew the other carriers in my small hometown and all were terrific folks. Give your husband a big hug for me. Thanks for bringing back some very happy memories of Dad.

  4. blueyes Says:

    Actually I think they’d save tons if they cut the saturday delivery. It really makes no sense when most everything else is closed on weekends too aside from retail. All normal businesses will not be going in just to receive mail on a saturday

  5. Mrs. Mecomber Says:

    Clara, thanks for such a touching tribute to your dad!

  6. Mrs. Mecomber Says:

    Blueyes, no, I think some other company will come in to fill the gap if the USPS ends Saturday delivery. And it would throw a number of things out of sync, such as banking and credit statements, etc. Businesses do like their Saturday mail. And even if they DID end Saturday mail, that would not mean less mail. Mail is mail and must be delivered. If there was no Saturday delivery, all the mail from Saturday AND Sunday AND Monday (for all those federal holidays) would have to be crammed in on Tuesday. That would be impossible for mail carriers to accomplish– they’d need more hours, and how would that save the USPS any money?! It’s an insane idea. While regular working people have Saturday off, and even if postal workers got Saturday off, the actual mail count does not go on a holiday– it bunches up and STILL must be delivered before midnight!! In snowy regions for half the year, the weather is very inclement and disrupts mail delivery. My husband works 7:30am to 5:30pm without a break on most days, and that’s for regular delivery, per day. There is just no way the carriers could handle another day’s worth of mail and try to cram it in on some other day.

    One thing to note– while first class mail may be lower for the USPS, third-class and parcels have been on the rise. And third-class mail and parcels consume MUCH more time, because third-class is generally bulkier, and parcels require that the carrier get out of the car, deliver to the door, get a signature, scan the tracking code, etc. There are many more steps to the mail that just dumping it in a mailbox.

    The great thing about the USPS being government owned and regulated is that our most private pieces of information– our mail– is federally protected, and employees are closely monitored. A private company could unwittingly hire thieves or kooks, and our mail could be compromised.

  7. blueyes Says:

    But the necessity of all the statements is for not. I don’t get a single bill in my mail as they are all emailed as is my bank statements. I literally just get the junk mail which has been dwindling down fewer and fewer finally and the weekly ads from the grocery stores on wednesdays. Not getting these bills saves paper, postage and time on everybodies parts.

  8. Pam Says:

    Our mail carrier is the sweetest thing! (Thank goodness we got her because the last one was a JERK- I tried doing the following things for him but he was the rudest thing EVER so I quit). I always take her cold, bottled water when I see her in the summer time and even run out so she doesn’t have to leave her truck when there’s a package coming. AND she always takes a minute to chat when I’m out there. However, my MIL’s carrier was not so nice. My MIL was legally blind and asked him if there was any way he could possibly bring her a book of stamps if she gave him the money. He told her that was her problem not his. While that is true and I realize he was under no obligation whatsoever, but geez, be nice about it. I guess it’s the luck of the draw.

  9. Mrs. Mecomber Says:

    Blueyes- hm, your situation makes me wonder. Could the USPS cut Saturday deliver for folks who want to opt out? I wonder…

  10. Mrs. Mecomber Says:

    Pam- UGH that is awful! You know– if you have a nasty carrier, complain to the postal manager, or to the regional branch manager! That’s just awful.

  11. Karen, author of "My Funny Dad, Harry" Says:

    I like mailmen and think they do a great job! Some days I think it would be a nice job to have but not on wintry days or very hot days. Only in nice weather.

  12. Beth Ann Chiles Says:

    I have the best postal carrier now—he is very considerate and always makes sure that I get the mail. We travel a lot and have the mail put on hold quite often—never have had a problem with that whatsoever! The paper delivery on the other hand was a nightmare so we just stopped getting the local paper! But I digress. I think that I have lucked out with mail carriers over the years! My biggest issue is with the snowplows taking out our mailboxes…:-(

  13. Mrs. Mecomber Says:

    Karen– yes, I think every mailman’s dream is delivering mail on a partly sunny day with temps in the 70s… what part of the year does that actually happen? 1/8th? lol.

  14. Mrs. Mecomber Says:

    Hi Beth! Thanks for your comment.

    A good mailman, I have found, is a real blessing. It seems like people either have very good ones or very poor ones!

    By the way, have you ever heard of the swinging mailbox? Lots of folks around here have them because of the snowplows, too.

  15. Beth Ann Chiles Says:

    I researched those swinging mailboxes and just can’t see how it will work in our neighborhood—we kind of have “rules” or expectations maybe is more accurate and I am not sure how the swinging ones I have found will work with how we have to have our box. Last year I bungee corded it on the post and added a Christmas bow till the thaw. This year they just took out the door so we have an open mailbox till the thaw! It could be worse!

  16. Rena Says:

    I have always had great respect for mail deliverers. They have to suffer many things while we sit in our warm homes waiting for them to get to us. While we sit, drink our coffee and look through our mail… they are on to the next house in all kinds of weather and facing all kinds of obstacles.

    God bless your hubby and his fellow mail deliverers.

  17. Al Says:

    I’ve heard your opening complaint a million times ! Your husband is a “PTF “..Part Time Carrier. That’s really what your entire article is about , he has no guaruntee of becomining a “Full – Time Carrier unless he shows that he is up to the task. That’s why you want Saturday delivery dropped ….you feel it would force early retirment of what you call “those highly over paid veteran carriers and perk given retiries ”
    Well thank you for thinking “WE ” are doing so well !
    As a 38 year retired Letter Carrier ,I started at a pay scale of far below normal labor , as our pay was controll by congress since Ben Franklin, and this was 1966 !It was our Labor Union who scaped for any tiny bit we got …… we worked the job , as most of us were Veterans , and we wanted to continue out Federal service , and be a service to our country .
    In 1970 it came to a head and we went on strike , [ good for all of you ] as it forced the Post Office to redign itself , not only in it’s dealings with labor , but with new and better service standards !
    As you openly slander me and my fellow retireries , and older carriers still working , you show your stuoiduty for ” NOT ” knowing what you’re talking about at all .Our pay scale is at current labor standards ….. as inflation has risen rapidly these last years , we’ve yet to reciece and cost of living increase or raise ! As a retirerie , I have recieced “NO “adjustment for the last 2 years for inflation , rather my taxe withholdings have increased , leaving me with less and less money like everyone else .
    If you wish to bash the Post Office because you fear your husband may t ” recieve a full time postion from the post he now holds [ which he was told when he accepted the position !!! ] NOT NOT DO IT UPON FALSE STATEMENT YOU WISH TO DREAM UP WITH OUT FEELING THE RATH OF NOT ONLY ME , BUT THOUSANDS OF OTHER HARD WORKING LETTER CARRIERS WHO DO A STELLERJOB EACH DAY …. DISPITE WHAT MANAGEMENT TRYS TO JAM DOWN OUR THROATS ! It is up to you the people who are entitled to 6 day delivery, to voice your opinion to your elected officals and demand that the Post Office stay the way it is …. a 6 day service to “EVERY HOUSE-HOLD in this country !
    As to the woman who wrote this original comment …..get your facts straigt before you are held accountable for them in the form of liable ! …… Decorated War Veteran / and 38 year proud Veteran Letere Carrier of the USPS !

    • Mrs. Mecomber Says:

      Gee, um “Al,” SORRY!!! I in no way am slandering you or your service. Just like ALL government positions, they have become too large to sustain. It’s pretty obvious across the nation, this is affecting EVERYONE. This issue is pretty flammable right now, with what’s going on in Wisconsin. I don’t think anyone is saying that hard-working veteran employees should not get paid! Hello! Just that the unions and all the other mountains of perks will have to come to an end to make ends meet in this economy!! I don’t think that’s rocket science. Things are changing in this country, we can no longer sustain it. Don’t get me going about Social Security, huh? That’s a crock– I’ve been paying tons of money into it and we all know I’ll never see a dime of it. It’s stuff like that.

      I am very much in favor of ending pensions and fat perks to all government positions, including teachers, government politicians, etc. OUR COUNTRY CAN NO LONGER SUSTAIN this kind of spending. Yeah, everybody deserves a bucketload of money…..

      P.S. Just because my husband is a part-time carrier doesn’t mean he wants people to be fired or laid off so he can get full-time work. It means that ending Saturday delivery is a stupid move for the post office!

      Let me repeat that– YOU ARE WRONG. YOU SAID THAT I WANT SATURDAY DELIVERY DROPPED. I DO NOT. Your entire comment slanders ME with YOUR accusation that I want to see other hard-working men get dumped! That’s a lie. If you knew my husband and what a great guy he is (hmmm), you’d know that’s an outright lie.

      P.P.S And since when is it “liable” to state an opinion about something in this country? Are you trying to bully me?

      • Mrs. Mecomber Says:

        P.S. I just found out that some post offices are replacing full-time positions with temp positions. This is so that the USPS can hire workers who work full-time hours but get no benefits/pensions. No wonder some FT carriers are angry. I hope the USPS is not laying off older workers because of this. So I can understand the anger and concern that older PO workers may have.

        While I am not a proponent of pensions, I think positions like mail carriers should have benefits, because the job is so physically demanding on men and women’s bodies. Plus, I think it’s very hypocritical of the government to force health insurance on Americans yet not provide health insurance for their own workers!

        I have always been, and always will be, against government pensions, teacher tenure, big labor unions, etc. And now with the Baby Boomers soon to retire, Social Security will soon topple. Our country cannot sustain the kind of economy it once did. It’s obvious changes will have to be made. All these changes are due, in part, to government economic policy that encourages profligate foreign trade at the expense of the American worker.

  18. Rena Says:

    I agree with you regarding excessive perks, and that is with ANY workers. In this horrible economy, everyone is going to have to take a blow. Being compensated for work is one thing but receiving things beyond that only puts the burden on the rest of the people. The people who are working for minimum wage or slightly above it. The families that are struggling. The elderly who go without medications in order to pay rent.

    I am taken aback at how Al attacked you and twisted your post.

    In this day and age, unions are pretty useless. They were good maybe years ago to implement safer working conditions and fair pay. However, there are laws and protections in place now. What can a union really do for the workers today?

    Regarding pensions, this may have been a good idea for a short time in the past but we can no longer uphold it due to the economy.

    I understand where you are coming from Becky, and 100% agree. We are following God’s Word and many will not understand that until they open their eyes and ears.