Speed Reads

snail mail fail

The U.S. Postal Service had a terrible Christmas

The U.S. Postal Service had a very rough December, as did anyone hoping to get their Christmas cards delivered on time, The New York Times reports, citing delivery data from the USPS and outside companies that track mail service. Only about 68 percent of first-class mail was delivered on time around Christmas, and it was considerably slower in some areas. "This is the worst I've ever seen it in at least the last 10 to 20 years that I can recall," Angelo Anagnostopoulos at mail-tracking firm GrayHair Software told the Times.

In Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, only a quarter of first-class mail was processed on time in December, and less than a third of mail was delivered on time in the Baltimore, Eastern Pennsylvania, and Northern Ohio districts, the Times reports.

Things were worse for large-scale mailers, often stuck in line after packages and first-class letters. "Some mail sent in early January was delivered sooner than mail sent in mid-December, when letters piled up in processing plants behind newly arriving packages and mail," the Times reports. "Delays like these had further consequences, in bill payments that arrived past due, in coupons that missed the sale window, and in nonprofit fund-raising pleas that weren't opened before the end of the tax year."

December's delays marked the second severe drop in service in 2020, after an initial decline over the summer following policy changes enacted by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. After the Postal Service reversed many of DeJoy's changes under pressure and court order, USPS deliveries rebounded enough to deliver 135 million mail-in ballots mostly on time, the Times reports. But then a deluge of 1.1 billion holiday packages started arriving, the post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 wave hit postal workers, and USPS had to compete with other stretched shipping services for temporary workers. "December was the perfect storm," said Paul Hogrogian, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.

Read more about the USPS's tough December, and how much was just a bad confluence of events, at The New York Times.