Texsas: Glitches slow down mail delivery in Austin

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Glitches slow down mail delivery in city

By Samantha Sommer American-Statesman Staff Saturday, July 22, 2000

As many as 4,700 downtown postal customers didn't get their mail on time or at all this week because of route changes and malfunctioning new technology.

U.S. Postal Service officials said the problems should be fixed today, after hoping for a solution Friday that never came. They could not say exactly how many were affected by the service problems in the 78701 ZIP code, from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Town Lake and from Shoal Creek to Interstate 35.

The disruption in service happened as the downtown post office switched to a new sorting system and different routes, said Barbara Pokorny, customer relations coordinator.

Many customers found out about the problem only after calling the post office. For Al Castle of Maxey Glass, the tip-off was that no mail came to the company's Fifth Street office Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

"I am trying to be as nice as possible, but this is getting ridiculous," Castle said.

He called the post office and was told that the routes had been changed. Castle, who normally gets his mail by 10 a.m., received it late in the afternoon on Thursday and by 11:30 a.m. Friday.

The new sorting system sifts the carrier's mail and arranges it to match the route. All other Austin post offices already use this technology, making the downtown station the last to go online.

But when the new system fired up Monday, a computer compatibility glitch brought it back down, requiring more mail than usual to be hand sorted, Pokorny said.

On Friday, the automated system still did not work, but Pokorny said she was hopeful it would come online today and that normal delivery would return immediately. She said postal officials don't believe any mail was lost in the disruption of service.

"We know that people rely on their mail, especially in the downtown area with all the lawyers and bankers," she said. "We will make sure they get their mail as quickly as we can."

The redirection of routes added to the confusion. The number of routes was cut from 19 to 16, and many carriers were reassigned. Carriers needed to learn new addresses and should improve as they do so, Pokorny said.

"This problem is no way a reflection of the carriers downtown," she said. "They care a lot about their customers, and it is pretty upsetting to them that they are not giving the service they want to."

Maxey Glass was not the only customer affected by the break in service. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's office missed mail Monday and received it in the late afternoon Tuesday and Wednesday and at its normal time Thursday.

Garner & Associates Insurance also did not receive mail Monday and has been getting it later than usual since then at its 221 E. Ninth St. office, owner Charles Garner said..

"They switched our post carrier who we have had for about 100 years," Garner said. "They shuffled all around the downtown area."

B&F Finance, at 300 E. Fifth St., did not receive any mail Monday or Tuesday. It arrived late the rest of the week, office manager Ariana Garrison said.

"We were wondering where it was because we receive a lot of mail payments," she said. "I have a lot of people on hold that said they mailed their payments."

You may contact Samantha Sommer at ssommer@statesman.com or 445-3698.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 22, 2000

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