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In-Depth: Holiday delivery delays continue as customer patience wears thin

Posted at 5:39 PM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 18:19:32-05

CLEVELAND — From bills to beanie babies, missing mail and the postponed delivery of packages have been a common problem nationwide this holiday season. Even after the holiday shopping and shipping rushes, however, the woes continue for the United States Postal Service as customers continue to grow increasingly frustrated.

A post on the News 5 Facebook page Tuesday afternoon garnered more than 1,000 responses from customers that have yet to receive their holiday cards and deliveries. The delays range from a few days to a few weeks. There does not appear to be a specific, central theme behind some of the delays as many customers reported some orders arriving on time while others were delayed despite the orders being placed at the same time.

That's precisely what happened to Mandi Tubbs of Ashtabula. Her order from an online retailer was split into two different shipments. One arrived in a reasonable amount of time, she said. The other half of the order has remained at the USPS' Cleveland distribution center for more than two weeks.

"As soon as it got to Cleveland, it stopped. It literally stopped. It scans it and it says that it is scanned but it's 'in transit' every single day," Tubbs said. "She's been asking, 'Mommy, is it coming today? Can you check it? Is it coming today?'"

Unfortunately, Tubbs didn't have the answer and neither did the USPS. Calls and emails proved to be an exercise in futility, she said. On Christmas morning, Tubbs had to be resourceful.

"She literally had to look at pictures of what she's supposed to be getting," Tubbs said. "She sees all of her older sisters actually with their things, getting to wear them or play with them or whatever. She's said, 'okay, I guess I'll get this one day.'"

Tina Newton placed her online order with a major retailer on December 5, nearly two weeks before USPS' recommended shipping deadline to ensure delivery by Christmas. Instead of arriving at her doorstep, the package has taken a bizarre and circuitous path across the Midwest, including multiple stops in Indianapolis and Cincinnati, according to online tracking.

"Who knows when I'm going to get it," Newton said. "This item that has traveled all over the place. I ordered it at the beginning of December. Anyone with any reasonable [mindset] would say, 'okay, at the beginning of December, you'll have plenty of time.'"

As News 5 first reported, the issues with on-time mail and package delivery in the USPS' Northern District, which includes Cleveland, Toledo, and Youngstown, started well before the holiday shipping season. According to USPS performance evaluation data, the Northern Ohio District ranked the third-worst district in the country for on-time delivery within two days of a single piece, first-class mail. Only 78% of those deliveries were on-time. For the on-time delivery of single piece, first-class mail delivered within three to five days, the Northern Ohio district ranked the fourth worst, data shows. Those pieces of mail were delivered on schedule only 65% of the time.

The quarterly performance data spanned the time period of July 1 to Sept. 30.

A USPS spokesperson previously stated the agency, which has been inundated with surging package and mail volume as well as the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, hired 500 employees for the holiday season. Additional equipment was also brought in.

USPS also recently opened a temporary warehouse in Twinsburg designed to handle overflow.

"The U.S. Postal Service, similar to the broader shipping sector, continues to face near-term pressure on service performance across categories as it manages through a historic record of holiday volume this season. This negative impact is compounded by the temporary employee shortage due to the COVID-19 surge, as well as ongoing capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving this historic volume of mail," the USPS said in a statement. "The Postal Service’s 644,000 employees continue to work diligently to address issues and remain focused on delivering the Holidays and beyond for the nation. Amid the historic volume, the Postal Service continues to flex its network, including making sure the right equipment is available to sort, process, and deliver a historic volume of mail and packages this holiday season. Our entire Operations team, from collections to processing to delivery, worked throughout this past weekend and continues to work around the clock to address the historic volume. We are accepting all volume that is presented to us which is adding to our challenges."