“Neither snow nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That’s the unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service.
But something, be it COVID-19 or cutbacks, is disrupting mail delivery around these parts, with some residents of Riverside and North Riverside saying that they often go days without getting any mail.
Mail delivery seems to particularly bad in the area of Riverside south of the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad tracks and near Harlem Avenue, especially on Lawton, Gage and Olmsted roads.
Susan Mars, who lives in the 200 block of Gage Road, says she typically only gets mail twice a week, often on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“Seems like it’s always Friday and Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, they’re like five-day weekends,” said Mars of her days without mail delivery. She tracks the days without mail on her calendar.
Mars has complained to the North Riverside post office, which handles mail delivery for Riverside, but says she has only been told that COVID-19 has disrupted operations. Mars, who has worked at a Jewel grocery store in Oak Park throughout the pandemic, doesn’t buy that.
“It’s ridiculous and then they use things like COVID as an excuse, and that does not work for me,” Mars said. “I had to work through this whole pandemic myself.”
Elaine Kosiek of the 200 block of Olmsted Road had to pay a credit card bill late because she didn’t receive her statement until after the due date. Fortunately, when she called the credit card company and told them what happened, they waived her late fee.
“I’m getting more and more frustrated,” said Kosiek of her trouble getting prompt and regular mail delivery.
Mars has started sending $500 or $600 to ComEd and Nicor before she even gets a bill to make sure that she doesn’t miss a utility payment.
“Then I know I won’t get in any trouble,” Mars said. “It works better that way and when I do get the bill it just says ‘Amount Due: None.’”
Some say that their mail, when it does get delivered, arrives late in the afternoon or during the evening.
On May 13, a mail carrier was spotted by a reporter delivering mail on Shenstone Road after 6 p.m. When the carrier was asked why he was still out, he said that the North Riverside post office was short-staffed.
“We’re doing the best we can,” the mail carrier said, declining to give his name because he wasn’t supposed to talk to the press. “We just have a shortage of people.”
The carrier said that when a carrier is absent from work there is often not a substitute available to take their place. In that case, often a route just won’t get delivered that day. Or the route will be split among carriers who also have their regular routes to do.
A North Riverside resident named Trent, who asked that his last name not be used, said he has been having problems with mail delivery for a long time.
He said magazines that he subscribes to are either late or never delivered. Trent, who is retired and has spoken to a number of mail carriers, said he was told that a mail sorting machine was removed from the North Riverside Post office last winter and that carriers now have to spend more time sorting their mail, which could explain why carriers are out into the evening.
“When they come in in the morning, they have to sort their own mail for whatever route they’re doing. That’s why they don’t get out on the street until later in the morning,” Trent said.
On May 11, Riverside resident Amy Jacksic, also frustrated by irregular mail delivery, posted about her family’s experience on the Riverside IL Community Facebook group page.
She said a North Riverside Post Office employee recounted that the staff there is down to less than half of what it normally is, and that remaining staff are focusing first on getting parcels out and then first-class mail.
Another Facebook commenter said that he was told by a postal worker that there are five different routes in Riverside that currently don’t have a regular carrier.
When a reporter went to the North Riverside Post Office last week to try and find out what was going on, he was told that employees there could not talk to the press and that he should call the U.S Postal Service’s 1-800 telephone number.
The Landmark emailed questions to a USPS spokesperson in Washington, D.C., an received an emailed response from a customer services coordinator based in Bedford Park.
“All mail is delivered daily throughout the Riverside area,” said Sharrie Johnson, a USPS employee. “Some customers may experience a lighter volume of mail as we are flexing our available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We appreciate the patience of our customers and the efforts of employees as conditions change on a day-to-day basis.”
Some wonder if a new federal leave policy created by the American Rescue Plan Act is a factor in the apparent shortage of workers. Federal employees, including postal workers, can now take up to 600 hours of paid leave if they are affected by COVID.
The paid leave, which could begin no earlier than March 12, 2021, can be taken for any of eight reasons, including if a worker has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns about COVID.
Johnson did not immediately reply to a question about how many employees based out of the North Riverside Post Office are on paid leave.
Mail problems have disrupted delivery of the Landmark for many subscribers. The Landmark is delivered to area post offices every Tuesday night. It is supposed to be delivered on Wednesdays. But many subscribers say they either do not receive the newspaper or get it days, sometimes as much as a week, later.
“It’s a full week late on delivery every single week and has been for months,” said Jacksic.
Trent said that prior to getting his Landmark in the mail last week he had not received the paper for 11 consecutive weeks. Last week some people got both the May 12 and May 5 issues of Landmark delivered on the same day.
One group of Landmark subscribers who live in the 300 block of Lawton Road in Riverside say their newspapers are rarely delivered on time. Sometimes Landmark Circulation Manager Jill Wagner will drive to Riverside to deliver papers to those whose paper is not delivered on time, or at all. Wagner has heard from many subscribers frustrated about not getting their newspaper.
“It’s been really bad this year,” Wagner said about delivery problems with the paper.
To compound problems Dan Litton, who manned the small Riverside Post Office on East Burlington Street, retired at the end of 2020. For months Litton, who was beloved by many Riverside residents, was replaced by a rotating crew of replacements.
Customers often found the building closed when they showed up. When someone was on duty, the post office would be out of basic items, even stamps.
“It was crazy, no stamps, no money orders for months; not just a week or two, for months,” said Riverside resident Joan Weiss.
Things at the Riverside Post Office seem to have improved in recent weeks since a new replacement for Litton, Alexis Rivera, has been assigned to work there. But because Rivera is typically the only employee at the post office, window service is shut down when he is out for lunch or on breaks.
The Riverside post office is also closed on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. And if you want to pay cash, you better have exact change because no change is given there.
Some residents in Brookfield have also been experiencing spotty mail delivery. Brookfield resident Tina Corradino said that she received mail on May 17 for the first time in a few days.
“We got a normal amount of mail for the first time in a couple of weeks,” Corradino said Monday. “We haven’t been receiving a normal amount of mail for a while. Just random catalogs and maybe one piece of junk mail.”