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Postal Workers Steal, Burn, and Hoard Mail

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Remember the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry takes over Newman’s mail route? Near the end, Newman gets a phone call from headquarters telling him that he will not receive the promotion he was after. The reason: “They knew it wasn’t me doing my route. Too many people got their mail. Close to 80%. No one from the post office has ever cracked the 50% barrier! It’s like the three-minute mile!”

Apparently, Newman’s rant isn’t all that far from the truth. According to the Washington Post, a recent watchdog report states that some postal workers steal, hoard or burn mail and others have claimed thousands in fraudulent workman’s comp.

In Kentucky, authorities found over 3,300 undelivered letters inside one postal worker’s truck. She hid the mail all over her vehicle but left an opened envelope and the money she’d stolen from it sitting on the front seat and dash. She was sentenced to four months in prison.

Meanwhile, a Maryland letter carrier pled guilty to burning many of his deliveries in an abandoned lot. Another worker got into the holiday spirit by stealing gift cards. After the inspector general received complaints of undelivered cards in Cincinnati, it was discovered that one worker had stolen over $10,000 in presents between 2007 and 2009.

The report contains a number of other crimes. For example, one brilliant station manager had the idea to steal stamps and sell them on the street at a discount.

Some carriers have been convicted of various types of fraud, from misstating medical bills to cashing their dead relatives’ social security checks. One, in Michigan, fraudulently reported 20 work related injuries over 16 years.
     
Of course, it is important to remember that the vast majority of postal workers work hard and don’t cheat the system. That said, there’s a more pressing reason to worry about Postal Service performance.

Planned service cuts will eliminate next day delivery for first class mail and close about half of the US’s 487 mail processing centers. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, quoted in the New York Times, says he plans to cut $20 billion from the office’s budget by 2015, primarily through layoffs and thousands of post office closures.

The USPS seems to be in an impossible position, as reduced revenues force it to reduce service, but less service will only serve to drive more customers online or to competitors. Still, for the everyday consumer, UPS and FedEx are starting to look like the better way to send Grandma a singing Hallmark Christmas card.

If cuts continue, it won’t be long before many Americans try to do this.
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