No Buffalo Puzzle, Yet. What’s with the U.S. Mail? Rep. Lieu Addresses the Problem.

At the end of July, under musings, Circling the News posted the following story:


While in a Thermopolis, Wyoming, bookstore, I purchased a really cool 1,000-piece puzzle in the shape of a buffalo. I also purchased a couple of books by a local author, and a t-shirt that said Wyoming had been “socially distancing since 1890.”

My sister offered to mail the package, so I wouldn’t have to drag it back on the plane. She mailed it on July 3 and paid for three-day delivery.

The package, via U.S. Mail, has still not arrived. I stopped at our post office on July 28, and the clerk pointed out that because of Covid-19 there would be delays.

I asked if I could get my sister’s money back, since it had now been 25 days. She told me “No! No refunds!” The delivery is pending, according to the tracking number.

After posting my story, I received several notes from readers:

* “I can relate to your mail delivery issue! Ten days ago, I mailed a package to my son in Santa Monica from Palm Springs. It usually takes four days. I just tracked the package and discovered that it is in Akron, Ohio! Who knows if our packages will ever find their way back!”

* “I had a similar experience with the Post Office recently. I sent an important packet to downtown L.A. I paid an additional fee to have it arrive within two days. Thirteen days later I checked because it still hadn’t been received. It was sitting in a distribution center. It finally arrived, 18 days after I posted it! Thanks for letting me know that it’s useless to go to the P.O. and ask for a refund! $4.60!”

* “I have had an online business thru Etsy since 2015. USPS has been very unreliable since about a month ago. It will kill small online businesses. The new postmaster guy [in D.C.] is making changes, but during that process, it’s making the delivery system very unreliable. Several of my packages have been sitting at the Carson distribution center for several days to weeks.”

* “I have had trouble with mail as well, for the first time ever! I posted a parcel to Canada a month ago and it has not yet arrived. Also, a two-day priority to Maryland was supposed to arrive Saturday and has still not been delivered.”

One of my readers knew exactly why my puzzle had not been sent: “You can thank Trump and his appointees for slowing down the Post Office. It’s not a secret. Perhaps honest dialogue about this issue would be informative. Trump doesn’t want mail-in ballots.”

Ballots, okay? But a buffalo puzzle?

U.S. Post Office in Pacific Palisades is located on La Cruz Drive.

Last week, CTN went to the Post Office and inquired if the clerks knew if people were out with Covid-19 or if there was another reason for the slow mail.

“We don’t know anything,” a clerk responded quickly.

CTN sent an inquiry to U.S. Representative Ted Lieu’s office asking, “Are there people in the Post Office that are out with Covid-19 and it is not being reported? Are there other reasons for the mail delays?”

“I am concerned by the reports I’ve heard about mail service being slow, incomplete and inadequate in our district,” he responded in an August 11 email. “We have heard similar accounts across the United States, which is alarming given how much our country relies on timely and effective mail service. I have joined my colleagues in raising objections to recent operational changes at USPS that may have dramatically impacted service.

“Additionally, my office has been working with local postal officials in Los Angeles, as well as USPS headquarters in DC, to manage and address issues specific to CA-33,” Lieu said. “In order to ensure mail service is restored to its prior level of quality, I am working with my Democratic colleagues to push the Postal Service to provide more clarity on the operational changes the Postmaster General has recently made. In addition, the President should work with Congress to fully fund the Post Office, and he needs to stop trying to dismantle it.”

Then the L.A. Times ran an Associated Press story stating, “The U.S. Postal Service says it lost $2.2 billion in the three months that ended in June as the beleaguered agency – hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic – piles up financial losses that officials warn could top $20 billion over two years.”

Louis DeJoy

The new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who took the job at the beginning of June explained that even though package deliveries were up, costs increased because of personal protective equipment and the need to replace workers who got sick or chose to stay home in fear of the virus.

In that story, Trump, who is critical of the Postal Service, said that “the post office doesn’t have enough time to handle a significant increase in mail-in ballots.”

On August 8-9, The Wall Street Journal ran a scathing editorial (“An Autopsy of New York’s Mail-Vote Mess”), noting that “Six weeks after New York’s primary elections on June 23, the final vote tally in the 12th Congressional District Remains a mystery.”

Much of the problem in New York seemed to stem from absentee ballots and the lack of postmarking. Also, postmarking machines can reject mail if, “for example, it isn’t ‘folded over properly.’”). Prepaid mail skips postmarking and goes directly to a sorting machine.

In the WSJ editorial, Douglas Kellner, the co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections said, “I don’t have great deal of confidence in the U.S. Postal service.”

On August 9, L.A. Daily News columnist Susan Shelly wrote that “County Election officials will have to mail out a statewide total of roughly 20 million vote-by-mail ballots and they’ll also have to staff and manage in-person polling places that are open on Election day. . . .”

“County elections workers will have to verify each vote-by-mail ballot and each provisional ballot. Remote access vote-by-mail ballots require the extra step of hand-copying the voter’s choices.”

Shelly worries that “New York City’s primary is a fire bell in the night for California, where for the first time, every registered voter in the state will receive a vote-by-mail ballot beginning October 5. The ballots will be accompanied by a postage-paid return envelope.”

This Circling the News story is not intended to be political — for heaven’s sakes, we’re talking about a lost-in-the-mail buffalo puzzle — but it could be a cautionary tale. As of today, August 11, I have still not received the package from Wyoming.

I cannot tell you what to do regarding voting, but based on my experience if you want your vote to count in November, I would not recommend using three-day postage. Just send your ballot out with a regular stamp–and mail it early.




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