CLEVELAND — The frustrations of many people across Northeast Ohio have only continued to grow in recent weeks as shipments and daily mail from the United States Postal Service have experienced frequent delays. The postal service's own internal performance tracking suggest those delays are far from isolated as the USPS Northern Ohio District ranks in the bottom three for on-time deliveries of single piece, first class mail.
With the ongoing pandemic, a surge in mail-in voting and a record number of people shopping online, the vast network of postal service distribution centers, post offices and mail carriers has been stretched beyond its limits in many cases. For the past week, a long line of semi trucks have been parked along Broadway Avenue south of downtown, flanking the USPS distribution center in Cleveland. Multiple drivers said they have been waiting to deliver their cargo for days.
Chances are, on one of those trucks are the medical supplies that Marcia Pressman has been eagerly waiting for.
"I think it's finally at the distribution center," Pressman said. "Obviously, I'm not going to get that today or even this week. It's been very, very, very frustrating."
Pressman, who has COPD, said the delays in her medical supplies and medications are the latest in a long string of frustrations with the postal service dating back to the summer when her longtime mail carrier was re-assigned to a different route. Since then, her street as well as neighboring streets would often go days without mail service.
When mail is actually delivered, Pressman said it will come well after 6 p.m. When Pressman tried to go to the post office in person to check on a vital shipment of her COPD medication, she was told it was going to be delivered that day.
"I was told the carrier had it and I would get it that night. Well, I didn't get any mail that night," Pressman said. "I was just frantic. I was livid that I wasn't getting straight answers."
According to USPS performance evaluation data, the Northern Ohio district, which includes Cleveland, Youngstown and Toledo, ranked the third worst district in the country for on-time delivery within two days of 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.
For pre-sorted first-class mail, the Northern Ohio district also lagged far behind other districts. For on-time package services, the Northern Ohio district ranked in the middle of the pack. Additionally, according to USPS data, the on-time delivery of first class mail has dropped precipitously since the fourth quarter of the 2019 fiscal year.
According to USPS data, the Northern Ohio district's on-time delivery percentage for first class mail has dropped roughly 20 percentage points.
"This has been an extraordinary year of unprecedented challenges. The Postal Service is experiencing significant volume increases, while at the same time employee availability has been reduced due to the impacts of COVID-19," a USPS spokesperson said in a statement. "We are flexing our resources to process and deliver the mail as quickly as possible. We are committed to making sure gifts and cards are delivered on time to celebrate the holidays."
The rush of the holiday shopping and shipping season cannot explain what happened to Randy Needham's package, however. A package shipped from New York that he was eagerly awaiting has been lost in package purgatory... since Labor Day. According to the tracking number, Needham's Ebay purchase has remained at the distribution center's annex building in Cleveland since the first week of September.
"At the time, I contacted the post office to find out what's going on with it. My reasonable expectation was [it was late] with it being the holiday," Needham said. "But the post office gave me no answers besides, 'just be patient, it will be there.'"
He followed their advice, he said, and waited. And waited. And waited.
"I still have no straight answer on why it disappeared. They closed that [missing package case] out without resoultion, other than saying, 'we're still working on it,'" Needham said. "I followed up and spoke with a couple of people from the post office. They said they weren't sure what was going on. One person told me there's a backlog. Another person I spoke with at the Annex was more concerned with how I got their phone number rather than helping me."
The entire ordeal has made him increasingly frustrated because Needham said he has gone through the proper channels to open a missing package report with USPS. When he follows up on that case, the USPS representative closes and 'resolves' it without resolving anything. Making matters worse, he said representatives frequently tell him that they will be in touch but never do.
"It's almost like Groundhog Day, the movie. I'm in this loop with the post office," Needham said. "I'm going to stand up for everybody. My package is the line in the sand."
Luckily, Ebay and Paypal refunded Needham's purchase. However, the seller that he purchased from no longer has the item nor the money for the item. Needham said he reached out to his local congressman, Rep. David Joyce, whose staff reached out to the USPS on Needham's behalf. Unfortunately, not even a call from a congressman's office has yielded any results, Needham said.
"If I have to, I will come down with a shovel and dig out my package somehow," Needham said.
When reached for comment, a USPS spokesperson said a representative would be in contact with Needham and Pressman. News 5 will keep you updated.