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Mail mess still plagues Islanders

REPORTER FILE PHOTO|There's been little improvement in mail delivery to Shelter Island.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO|There’s been little improvement in mail delivery to Shelter Island.

A year after a United States Postal Service official promised Shelter Islanders better mail delivery, and more than a year since the Reporter brought the issue to light, there has been little improvement.

Example: Visit the USPS website and ask for a Zip code for Shelter Island and you’ll be told it’s 11964; type in Shelter Island Heights and it will return the 11965 Zip Code. Yet still, Islanders seeking delivery of mail and merchandise can’t be sure their town is recognized when placing Internet orders. Last year the USPS blamed companies that sell address lists to other companies for the mess.

Only a few of these list merchants could be reached and fewer still would take any responsibility for the problems.
Despite intervention last spring by Congressman Tim Bishop, who engineered a meeting with USPS official Randy Sauber at Town Hall, it’s apparent the Town of Shelter Island still doesn’t exist on many mailing lists. A request for further intervention this spring to Mr. Bishop’s office has not yet been answered.

Simple matters send residents into black holes of confusion. Ask Quinn Hundgen. The Shelter Island High School senior asked T-Mobile to send him a new SIM card for his cellphone to his address in the Heights, but finally had to have it sent to a relative in Southampton because T-Mobile rejected both his box number and his street address.

The teenager’s simple request wasn’t just case of a cellphone provider refusing to ship a telephone to a P.O. Box number, something many won’t do. It was the company’s database failing to even recognize that a place called Shelter Island even exists.
T-Mobile acknowledged responsibility. Viet Nguyen, senior manager for corporate communications, promised he’d follow through with the company’s supply chain organizations, vendors and partners who perform data matching tests “to ensure that shipping data aligns appropriately with USPS information.”

So far, no other word from Mr. Nguyen.

But the student’s problems didn’t end with T-Mobile’s denial of his hometown’s existence. When Quinn’s mother tried to pay a deposit to secure a place for him at college for the fall semester, the school’s website didn’t recognize Shelter Island Heights.

She had to change it to Shelter Island to make the payment.

Postmasters at both the Center and Heights Post Offices have said they continue to make efforts to cooperate with one another in shuttling misdirected mail between the two branches.

What happens in too many cases, residents have said, is they enter the correct information when ordering goods or government documents, for example, only to have automatic data services change Zip codes between the Center and the Heights.

That seems to continue to happen even if residents who get mail in the Heights enter the address “Shelter Is Ht, NY 11965,” as the USPS instructed them to do last August.

Christine Dugas, the Postal Service’s newest communications agent for Shelter Island, said she will look into the situation to determine what can be done to improve mail service here.

At the same time, while she works to troubleshoot the situation, she advises people who do receive mis-addressed mail to contact senders and request changes.