Tim Styer has lived in Germantown at the Wood Norton apartment complex at Wayne Ave & Johnson Street for six years. While his time in the neighborhood has been pleasant, his experiences with mail delivery have been quite the opposite. After waiting over a month for mail delivery, reaching out to the Post Office, and contacting Congressman Dwight Evans’ office, Styer took to a Germantown neighborhood Facebook group to organize residents who had similar experiences.
Styer recalls his conversation with the postmaster at the Greene Street post office as unproductive and “the most ridiculous conversation” he has ever experienced. The postmaster reached out to discuss an online complaint he filed the Friday before Memorial Day. He says the postmaster explained that the construction at his complex prevents the mail couriers from getting in and out of the complex safely because the Wayne Avenue exit is occasionally blocked. Styer then provided suggestions for how letter carriers could get around this. She agreed that they were great ideas and that she would talk to the carriers.
When he asked when mail service would resume at the building, he said the postmaster gave him an uncertain answer: “within two days, and that’s the best I can tell you.” Styer also took the initiative to visit the post office to pick up his mail, where he got to speak to the manager. After 40 minutes of waiting for the manager to emerge from the back, another clerk finally returned and told him they no longer delivered to his address and that his mail was returned to the sender.
“Are you kidding me,” Tim Styer questioned. “One, it is not undeliverable. And two, you shouldn’t send it back.” He emphasizes that this is problematic for an apartment building with many aging adults and disabled persons because some have medicine delivered via mail.
After posting in the neighborhood Facebook group, Styers saw that he wasn’t alone when he received more than 50 comments from residents expressing the need for change at the post office. The two most common occurrences within the thread are missing mail and non-delivery notices due to inaccessible properties. One comment said, “[The post office] lost [my] packages and letters. [I] Won’t have anything delivered to my house anymore.”
Another comment goes more in-depth about their experiences with package delivery, saying, “I get notices all the time that packages weren’t delivered because there was “no access to the address.” Yet our front porch is right there in front of God and everybody. We also get notices that a package WAS delivered when absolutely no one has been anywhere near our porch and there is no package anywhere in sight.” This user says they know no one has been near their property because they installed porch cameras. Various commenters said they, like Styers, have also reached out to elected officials on the matter, but mail delivery remains chaotic.
One Germantown business owner, who asked to remain anonymous, has had countless unsuccessful attempts to resolve her problems. She says the post office lost about $10,000 worth of checks last summer and told her they didn’t know where they were since they did not have a tracking number. She also mentions that in the year or so at her new business location, she has not received a single package that has been marked delivered by the post office. Like others in the Facebook group, she says video from her cameras contradicts messages she gets on when the postal service claims to have tried to deliver packages.
The business owner says that it’s clear this is a carrier issue. When she finally connected with management to discuss how they hold their employees accountable, they told her they “can’t fire any employees because then there wouldn’t be anyone to work.” When she stopped by the post office hoping to receive better feedback, clerks told her the managers didn’t feel like coming out to speak with her or didn’t bother showing up for work.
“Over the last year, the Greene Street post office has cost my business thousands of dollars and there has been no accountability, communication, or improvement. I have to pay to upgrade all of my shipping so that it doesn’t come [via] USPS, and have to eat the credit card fees that I used to be able to accept by check. They have lost hundreds-thousands of dollars in products for my shop that I’ve either had to write off, or my suppliers have had to eat and reship. I have spent countless hours in line, or on hold trying to speak to anyone in charge at that location, and have not yet had any positive change.”
Congressman Dwight Evans says that his office has received several complaints about the issues surrounding the neighborhood post office and that it is concerning given that postal service is vital for residents and businesses. “We have an active inquiry into the delivery issues that constituents have shared,” he says. “I’m awaiting a response from the Postal Service headquarters.”
In March, Evans voted for the Postal Service Reform Act, which he hopes will help improve service. The law, signed into law by President Biden on April 6, 2022, is supposed to guarantee six-day delivery, provide transparency surrounding USPS service issues, repeal the pre-funding requirement related to postal retirement benefits, among other things.
Evans encourages residents to continue to reach out to his office about any mail delivery issues.
In response to the lack of assistance and communication residents say the post office management has displayed, Styer has planned a demonstration and press conference in front of the post office at 5209 Greene Street this Saturday, June 11, at 10 a.m. He hopes that this demonstration will bring more visibility to the issue and alleviate some of the problems that residents have been experiencing.
He is hoping the demonstration makes two things happen. The first is new management, as he says the current leadership has not been helpful. He and other residents reported long wait times in the post office without resolving their problems. Styer also mentioned that attempts to call the post office are almost always unsuccessful, noting that they hang up immediately when they pick up the phone. The second desired outcome is an advisory board or council that can liaison between the post office and the neighborhood. As a former organizer of a community advisory board for the 14th District Police Department in the ’90s, he says that community liaisons helped resolve some of the issues between residents and the police. While he has never heard of an advisory board for a post office, he believes it could be helpful.
“They’re a part of the community,” Styer says. “And you know, there’s synergistic effects between everything in our community whether we realize it or not. And it all makes up a community. The post office is an institution in the community. We have a lot of seniors, and we have a lot of people who are shut-in. Mail is an essential service, and that’s the message.”
Germantown Info Hub made four attempts to call the Greene Street post office management to get their comments. Every time the call went unanswered. We also contacted the official postal service spokesperson in Philadelphia, Paul F. Smith, via email to respond to reports from the neighborhood.
Smith says his office apologizes for inconveniences to their customers and suggests that residents enroll in Informed Delivery. This service lets customers see when they can expect to receive their mail. He also encourages customers to call 1-800-ASK-USPS with any comments or concerns. He also promised to relay information shared with Germantown Info Hub with consumer affairs staff in the postal service.