Mail Can Be Sluggish


POSTED: Sunday, March 01, 2009

Question: Several weeks ago there were articles stating that first-class stamps will be going up 2 cents. However, when I recently sent items out using both the flat-rate priority parcel and my own packaging, I noticed that the rates appear to have already gone up. Can you check to see whether this is true? If it is, I wish the U.S. Postal Service would notify us of all changes, not just first-class stamps.


Answer: It did announce increases in shipping rates three months ago.

On Nov. 13 the USPS announced that it would increase shipping prices for Express Mail, Priority Mail, Parcel Select, Parcel Return Service and some international shipping products beginning Jan. 18.

Flat-rate priority rates would have been included in those rate increases.

On Feb. 10 the Postal Service announced that the price of first-class stamps would increase to 44 cents from 42 cents on May 11.

That same announcement said the prices of Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services (including Parcel Post) and “;Extra Services”; also would go up in May.

See usps.com/prices for what the current prices are, then click on “;new mailing services prices”; to find out what they'll be in May.

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 changed the way rates are set, explained Lynne Moore, manager of consumer affairs for the USPS in Hawaii.

The act sets procedures for pricing “;competitive products,”; which are the shipping services, and separately for noncompetitive or “;market dominant products,”; which are the mailing services.

The mailing services include postage stamps and first-class mail.

Rates for mailing services change annually, Moore said, with changes tied to the Consumer Price Index. The Consumer Price Index is set in December, and rate changes take place in May.

For the competitive shipping rates, “;that can be changed at any time, with at least 30-day notice to the public,”; Moore said. “;We don't do this secretly. ... We don't do these (increases) without public notice ... and it's all overseen by the Postal Rate Commission.”;

The shipping services rates are for products in which the USPS faces competition (as opposed to postage stamps, for example, which are issued only by the USPS).

Historically, the USPS raises its shipping services rates in January because that's when its competitors usually raise their rates, Moore said.

Question: What has happened to our local mail delivery?

I live in Honolulu. On Feb. 12 I mailed a Valentine's Day card to my great-granddaughter. It was postmarked Feb. 12, but she received it in Ewa Beach on Feb. 21! This wasn't an isolated incident. Two other cards that I mailed the same day to a P.O. box in Honolulu 96825 were received on Feb. 18. With this kind of service, how can I ever get birthday and holiday cards to someone on their special day? What about the local businesses and city and state mailings? Important documents, notices, payments, etc. must be received in a timely manner.

Answer: It's difficult to say what happened to your three cards because there is no way to trace or track them through the system, said USPS spokeswoman Lynne Moore.

However, with the information you provided, she surmises that the cards were put in one mailbox and ended up in a bag that somehow “;got waylaid”; - accidentally being sent to the mainland, processed, then sent back to Oahu.

That seems like a probable scenario because it wasn't just one piece of mail that was affected, but three.

If it were just one card, Moore said the delay in delivery could possibly be attributed to a processing error, where it was misforwarded or misdirected.

“;We don't like it to happen, but if you handle as much mail as we do, errors or problems sometimes crop up,”; she said.

If the recipients still have the envelopes, you might ask them to check the postmarks.

“;That could give some clue as to where the mail ended up,”; Moore said.

She apologized for the delivery delay, especially because it involved a Valentine's Day card that missed the holiday.

“;It's not something that occurs frequently,”; she said. “;We want the mail to get to its destination as quickly as possible with no problems. We try to streamline operations so we're efficient with as little possibility to make errors or mistakes, but it will happen. We just try to keep it down to as small a minimum as possible.”;


Write to “;Kokua Line”; at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).