Do dismount – and deliver the mail

Residents in some Gilroy neighborhoods are understandably upset with Gilroy Postmaster Penny Yates, who has told her carriers not to leave their vehicles to deliver mail to curbside mailboxes that are blocked by a parked car.

Why is Yates’ “do not dismount” order a bad idea? Let us count the ways.

1. It violates United States Postal Service policy.

Gus Ruiz, spokesman for the postal service’s Bay Valley district, told reporter Matt King that “When the approach to a mail receptacle on a curb is somehow temporarily blocked, our policy is for a carrier to dismount and effect delivery if it’s safe.”

2. It violates the postal service’s agreement with the sender of a package.

When the postal service accepted payment for delivery of a package, it promised to deliver the package. We’re sure that when Gilroy resident Jody Duell’s employer purchased first-class postage to mail her paycheck, they did not expect a four-day delivery delay caused by a do-not-dismount order.

3. It violates basic common sense.

Residents have no authority to prevent people from parking in legal parking spaces that happen to be in front of mailboxes. They have no way to control where the trash collectors toss their cans and recycling bins. It simply makes no sense to penalize them for factors that are beyond their control.

When you consider that the mail carrier that reporter Matt King profiled, Patricia Finley, has to get out of her vehicle for part of her route to deliver mail to some residents whose boxes aren’t placed at the curb, the nonsense level increases.

4. It places the postal service, already in a precarious financial situation, in further fiscal peril.

Bulk mailers, who often have time-sensitive advertisements, won’t like the impact of this policy on delivery of their product. Now called standard mail, bulk mail represents the second-largest category of postal service revenue. In 2004, the postal service earned $18.1225 billion of its $65.8687 billion in revenues (more than 27 percent) from bulk mail, according to its 2004 annual report. Especially in this age of increased competition from electronic mail, fax machines, and instant messaging, does the post office really want to risk this cash cow?

Yates says she has issued the do-not-dismount order to improve efficiency. While we laud the goal, this is an unreasonable way to achieve it. Every business has irritating facets that impede efficiency but that go with the territory. For medical care providers, it’s dealing with insurance companies. For the postal service, it’s the temporarily blocked mail box.

Yates and her Gilroy mail carriers need to see the big picture, need to comply with post office policy, need to keep the promise of timely delivery made when customers purchase postage. They need to drop the do-not-dismount order and start dropping letters in curbside mail boxes, even if that means getting out of the vehicle to do it.

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