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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Friday, January 12, 2001

Confused by mail
delivery information

Question: In December, I called the post office information number listed in the telephone directory to find out how long it would take for parcel post to be delivered from Honolulu to Hilo. The first person didn't know, but the second person said it would take one day. That same day, I went to the Ala Moana Center post office and asked a clerk the same question. She said it would take two to nine weeks. I was dumbfounded. Then she said my parcel did not qualify for parcel post rates and that I would have to send it airmail. She did not mention first-class postage would suffice. Previously, another postal clerk suckered me into paying for priority mail to deliver items costing $5 to the outer islands. Why does it take two to nine weeks for parcel post delivery from Honolulu to Hilo? Does first-class mail go to Hilo by air or contract? What is the difference in cost between airmail and first class to Hilo?

Answer: You did not leave a name and number so we could get details because there obviously was some miscommunication.

In general, it takes a maximum of one week to send a package by surface mail (parcel post) to Hilo from Honolulu, said U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Felice Broglio. First-class mail is flown to Hilo and should arrive there the next day. There is no difference in cost between airmail and first class because the two now refer to the same thing.

Regarding the information you got from the telephone information line, Broglio surmises the clerk looked the answer up "under the wrong section. One-day (delivery) would be first class, so definitely one day is incorrect."

Also, Broglio said, "Nobody should be saying delivery is two to nine weeks unless they misunderstood the question. To Hilo, parcel post is up to one week," depending on when the barge departs Honolulu.

The clerk may have been referring to mainland delivery, although "nine weeks sounds strange" because the usual parcel post delivery period to the mainland is two to four weeks, she said.

Regarding the clerk saying you had to send your package airmail, postal workers at the Ala Moana station speculated you may have placed the item in a free "priority" box provided by the post office. If that was the case, you had to ship it by air, Broglio said.

Also, "We don't call it "airmail' anymore," she said. "It's priority mail and priority mail is first class."

"First class" actually refers to anything up to 11 ounces, she said. "Beyond that, anything heavier becomes priority mail, but it is technically all first class."

Broglio acknowledged that the postal classifications may be confusing. Also, the rates for parcel post vs. priority mail "are very close," she said. "Clerks are encouraged to inform customers that there is very little difference in price and they may be better served by going by priority."

For example, a four-pound package to Hilo would cost $5.40 by priority mail and $4.16 by parcel. That's only a $1.24 difference, so the clerks may think they are helping the customer to point this out, she said.

"And they are helping the customer, generally. But obviously, they need to be more clear so the person doesn't feel like (you do)," Broglio said.

Tax volunteers sought

The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii is looking for volunteers for its Low-Income Taxpayer Project, January to April. Volunteers will help low-income people who speak English as a second language take advantage of tax credits in preparing their tax returns. Training is provided. Call 527-8058.

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
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