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Postal standards are unacceptable

Along with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season comes a complaint that seems to get bigger and louder each year: frustration over the United States Postal Service.

Along with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season comes a complaint that seems to get bigger and louder each year: frustration over the United States Postal Service.

Customer service, or lack thereof, at post office locations throughout the U.S. has been a growing problem for the last decade.

With the influx of cell phones and email, people have changed the way they communicate with each other, and much of the handwritten mail has gone to the wayside. Because of that, the postal service has seen a large decrease in mail volume throughout the year.

But, there is one time of year that the volume remains high - Christmas. This is due to the increasing popularity of online shopping, as well as to the tradition of sending Christmas cards, which has somehow so far survived the changing, technology-driven times.

Over the years the government has dealt with the fall off in mail volume by cutting services, cutting post office hours and closing some post office locations.

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Meanwhile, the government is sinking billions of dollars into overfunded health and pension accounts for retirees. Employees with more than six years of service are protected from cuts or layoffs due to agreements with four separate postal unions. To compensate, there are few new hires, overtime is limited and employees are often encouraged to take early retirement.

All of this leads to a severely lacking customer service base, which in turn douses the flame of the holiday spirit for many frustrated customers.

The post office argues that it is combating the service issues by providing many more online services. But for many people who still want the person-to-person service when it comes to buying stamps or sending a Christmas gift to their grandchild across the country, this isn't giving them what they want or need.

The most common complaints we hear from post office patrons is that the lines are long, the service is slow, and the employees simply don't seem to care.

If a private business offered that kind of service, customers would leave and patronize a competitor who offered better service. Where are these customers supposed to turn when the U.S. Postal Service has a monopoly on this service?

Rural areas have been hit with the biggest impact with the decline of the postal service, with reduced hours of operation, yet many patrons have been driving to post office sites in rural Douglas County to avoid the long lines and slow service provided in Alexandria.

Holiday patrons aren't the only ones frustrated with the postal service. The decline in service has also impacted periodicals, such as newspapers, which account for a large part of postal mail volume. Postage prices for these mailings continue to increase while the service with which they are delivered continues to decrease. It has become the new standard that snowbirds and other subscribers living states away will receive their paper more than a week late.

When did it become the expectation that customer service is something only meant for privately-owned business?

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The current postal standards are simply unacceptable. We encourage you to write to your legislators to demand post office reform.

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