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PO’d at Center Post Office, residents sound off on shoddy service, missed mail

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Elizabeth Toth outside the Center Post Office on Wednesday. Ms. Toth and many other residents whose Zip code is 11964 are fed up, they say, with poor service.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Elizabeth Toth outside the Center Post Office on Wednesday. Ms. Toth and many other residents whose Zip code is 11964 are fed up, they say, with poor service.

“I don’t want this to be a life’s campaign,” said Shelter Island resident Elizabeth Toth. “I just want my mail in a timely fashion.”

Ms. Toth has launched an online petition asking other residents to join her campaign to demand much needed improvements at the Center Post Office. She has found support from many Islanders who depend on the staff there that they say has been letting them down for months.

With the postmaster out on sick leave, postal workers said in December they were besieged by so many packages that they couldn’t keep up with getting regular first class mail delivery to boxes.

Since then, customers report they’ve been told by postal workers that with more people shopping by mail order, packages have tripled and they can’t keep up with the load.

In February, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) obtained an agreement from the United States Postal Service to assign an “officer-in-charge,” Joseph Federico, to oversee the operation until the regular postmaster returns.

ZELDIN DEMANDS ACTION

But whatever Mr. Federico intended, regulars who use the Center Post Office have seen no improvements, prompting Mr. Zeldin to send a letter on May 19 to U.S. Postal Service (USPS) manager Cosmo Infantolino.

“Apparently, these administrative changes instituted by USPS were only a temporary bandaid to a much deeper problem and require another, more permanent solution that will produce the type of service that the hardworking residents of Shelter Island deserve,” Mr. Zeldin wrote.“I am insisting that USPS look into this matter immediately and report back to me with your findings and a plan to correct this situation once and for all.”

There has been a breakdown in receiving packages in a timely manner, several residents contacted by the Reporter said. The procedure by the post office is that when a package is received, a slip is put into the mail box informing the patron to ask for the package at the counter. But many residents report that when they ask, packages can’t be found.

Those that have tracking numbers showing that a package has reached the Center Post Office still can’t get what was sent to them. Melanie Matz knows this from experience.

In January, a business associate sent her oranges and grapefruit in a box clearly marked “perishable.” She learned that the fruit had been sent, but she had no notice in her box and later went to the counter and asked.

No such package, was the initial response. Then a second look revealed the package was there, but it was not correctly marked by a postal worker who had written the wrong box number on the package.

By the time the error was revealed, she had a box of rotten fruit.

OPEN DOOR?

If the service wasn’t so poor, it might be comical. Saturday, May 21, when Ms. Matz arrived at the Post Office minutes before closing, an employee went out to pick up mail that had been dropped in outside boxes and locked the door. Four patrons, Ms. Matz included, were locked inside the building.

Her father was a mail carrier when she was growing up, she said, and hates to complain because postal workers have a special place in her heart. But the service she’s received is beneath what customers should expect. Certainly first class mail should have a priority with postal workers, she said.

“They’re supposed to be the postal service and we’re not getting much service,” resident Debbie Lechmanski said. She was awaiting a mail order prescription with a single day’s supply left.

Also, an expected credit card didn’t show up; a second card was sent and also didn’t show, but the issuer told Ms. Lechmanski it had been received back at the bank. She was told by postal employees that often mail is incorrectly addressed and put in the wrong box. But even if employees aren’t local, they should have a master list of names and box numbers to guide them, Ms. Matz said.

Irene Byington has experienced long lines at the counter and attempted to notify the officer-in-charge who has told customers he has an open door policy.

“I’ve never seen the door open yet,” she said.

When the Reporter went to the post office to speak to the officer on Tuesday, the initial response was that no one knew if he was there. Then he was heard telling someone else he wouldn’t come to the counter and she, in turn, said employees can’t speak with the press.

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

“Wait until the summer people arrive,” Mark Kanarvogel said. “These guys are just not up to the task.”
When he complains, he’s been told he’s the only one with a problem. There was one response to his concerns, however.

“When I complained, my service got worse,” Mr. Kanarvogel said.

A school district employee who usually picks up the mail at the same time every day and has done so for years was told recently he would have to come back later because it wasn’t sorted.

For many, later has turned out to be not an hour but days later.

Joanne Kresak, who operates Geo Jo’s in the Center, describes it as a game of Chutes and Ladders.

“Sometimes you get lucky and you reach the ladder and you actually get your mail and packages,” Ms. Kresak said. “More times than not, you fall down the chute even if you have a card in your box saying you have a package.”

It’s also like a shell game, she said. “Whoops, it’s not there today,” she said. “Wrong shell, try the game again tomorrow.”

Christine Dugas of USPS Corporate Communications told the Reporter on Wednesday that the district manager and his staff are committed to improving customer service and want to hear from customers with any concerns at 755-2850. Parcel lockers are being installed to allow package retrieval after hours, Ms. Dugas said.

This week, customers at the Center Post Office received forms to fill out “to better provide accurate customer service.”

The forms ask for updated listings of all names and businesses that receive mail at the specific box number. They carry a warning that “failure to update your information may result in termination of service.”

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