It’s not news that the United States Postal Service is going through a rough stretch. The USPS lost $5 billion last year and doesn’t receive any U.S. taxpayer dollars. It has been cutting costs for the last several years and last week the price of stamps rose for the third consecutive year. Now, it costs 49 cents to mail a birthday card to Mom.
Some Milton residents are in a tizzy about the USPS, but their anger is not directed at the recent hike in stamp prices. Instead, they’re complaining about the costs of receiving mail.
“We keep getting envelopes from the post office saying we owe money for postage on things like Christmas cards … The other day we ordered something online, the package came but the post office also sent an envelope saying we owed another $3,” one Miltonian, Brandy Moulton, wrote on Front Porch Forum on January 27. “This is becoming rather annoying."
Since then, other residents have chimed in on FPF with their own tales of receiving mail with “postage due.” The senders of those parcels hadn’t covered the full cost of shipping, so the receivers were asked to pay the difference.
“I too have run into that to the point where I started asking people to only ship to me via FedEx/UPS because I was getting 2-3 'over weight' charges every week,” wrote Jason H., a 32-year-old programmer. “I have been having things shipped to me for years and years and until I moved to Milton I never had this problem.”
One recent morning, icicles protruded from the brick post office building like mammoth tusks. As an American flag swayed in the cold breeze, residents steadily came and went, dropping off packages and picking up mail. Of the dozen people interviewed for the story, only one man had received a package with postage due.
Bob Ware, 69, is a Milton town assessor. In the last year, he received a certificate in the mail from an association that, he said, probably sends out thousands of similar mailings every year. Because that envelope contained a piece of cardboard, though, he had to go the post office and pay a couple cents extra. But Ware, who delivered mail during his college years, says he wasn’t concerned.
"Given that it's a government agency, and it's a very small town, [the Milton postal workers] do a phenomenal job," Ware said.
“This is a first-rate post office,” said Ronald Morgan, who was shipping some packages on Friday and has been living in Milton since 1967. “If there was an issue with people receiving mail, it’s not pervasive.”
Cathleen Ross, postmaster in Milton, declined to comment for this story. But in an email, USPS spokeswoman Maureen Marion acknowledged the residents’ concerns. She didn’t say whether Milton residents are receiving more postage-due items than normal, but pointed out that the number of packages going through the mail system has increased in recent years.
“Short-paid mail,” Marion explained, can arrive when individuals sending packages from their home or business don’t recognize the amount of postage required for certain packing materials, such as high-volume boxes or square wedding envelopes. But she also acknowledged that postal workers sometimes fail to alert customers to the need for more postage on items they are sending.
“There will always be some levels of human error — by mailers, in preparing an item, or by us, in detecting short payments — and our enforcement is not as even as it should be,” Marion said. “For that reason, the Postal Service will continue to message internally on the importance of revenue protection and provide the tips and techniques needed.”