by Max Marbut
The times they are a-changing.
Bob Dylan sang those words years ago and U.S. Postal Service customers, particularly those with businesses Downtown, have had the same words on their lips a lot lately.
Some collection boxes on the sidewalks have been moved or even removed and pickup times at consolidated collection locations in office buildings and towers are earlier than they have been for years.
Property managers have been fielding comments, and even some complaints, from tenants who said they can’t get the full use of the business day if their outgoing mail has to be collected at 3 p.m. instead of what they’ve been accustomed to which is on average an hour-and-half later.
Some businesses have even resorted to taking their mail to a collection box on the street at the end of the business day, but those are often too full by then to hold another envelope. Some business mail customers are becoming concerned that eventually, they will have to take their mail all the way to the post office each day.
That feedback led to the managers contacting Downtown Vision, Inc.
“For the past several months, we’ve been getting reports of mail being delivered later in the day. We’ve also been hearing about earlier pickup times, particularly at mail rooms. That combination can make it difficult for businesses to turn around their mail in one day’s time,” said DVI District Services Director Amy Harrell.
She added that Downtown is home to a unique blend of businesses compared to the suburbs. There are many law firms, accounting firms, financial institutions and other types of concerns that depend on conventional mail services more than other types of businesses like retail and the service industry. For businesses that handle documents that require signatures or notary seals, for example, electronic mail options simply don’t meet their needs.
“There is 7 million square feet of office space Downtown and 1,200 businesses. Mail is an essential service if you’re in business and it needs to fit the needs of business. Obviously, it’s a big concern,” said Harrell.
The times for pickup of mail have changed because times have changed at the Postal Service, said Bill Tyler of the Public Affairs and Communications Department.
“The Postal Service changed the way it does business when President Bush signed the Postal Enhancement and Accountability Act (PEAA) in December 2006,” he said.
The new law created two product categories, one for services without any competition like first-class and bulk-rate mail and another for services including overnight, express and priority services.
Tyler said the PEAA also created standards for customer service that have required the Postal Service to go on what he called a “24 hour clock.” Automation is the key and it allows the Postal Service to process incoming first-class mail in such a way that delivery times can be reduced from 48-72 hours to the next day.
“Mail flows constantly and everything that happens has a positive or negative impact,” said Tyler. “The reason for the earlier pickups is for us to be able to get the mail into the stream quicker.
“Our target is to get the mail to the General Mail Facility on Kings Road by no later than 4:15 p.m. each day in order for it to be presorted for delivery. In Jacksonville, only 15 percent of all mail has to be hand-sorted when it arrives at the post office that will deliver it to the customer. With automation, 85 percent of the mail is already set up in delivery order when it arrives. Our goal is to deliver the mail to the customer within 24 hours of when it enters the system. It’s easier to do that when we can pick it up by 3 p.m.
“The change in pickup time is absolutely not based on the Postal Service trying to cut costs. It’s based on improving our service and value to our customers.”
DVI has arranged a Nov. 26 meeting between Downtown postal customers and Tyler to discuss all issues involving mail service. The public is invited and encouraged to attend and participate, said Harrell.
To RSVP or for more information, call 634-0303, ext. 224.