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IAMA USPS Letter Carrier in Minnesota, AMA!

Aug 3rd 2014 by CaffeineTripp • 32 Questions • 2212 Points

I've been a letter carrier for about seven months now through the cold weather, the rain, and the heat, and also those beautiful days!

Here's some proof.

Edit 1: I'll be back in a little while all and intend to get to everyone's question about everything and anything you've got! Off to do some work!

Edit 2: Trying to answer questions in mobile as best I can! Bear with me!

Edit 3: Just as a disclaimer, these opinions are my own and in no way reflect the opinions of the USPS, my colleagues, or management.

Edit 4: Thank you all! I'm going to retire from asking questions for awhile, but I may be back! Thank you all for the responses and the commendation! We all appreciate it!

Edit 5: Thank you all again for the second time! I hope I've answered questions quickly, concisely, and all of them as accurately as I can! But it's now past midnight and I'm a bit tired! See you at your mailbox!

Q:

Do you have any good delivery stories?

A:

On the many routes I've had in different areas of my region I have two or three that were pretty noteworthy.

The first was in March or April, I had a Certified letter to drop off at a home. Knocked on the door and waited, no one appeared to be home. About to leave and the door opened up with a 20-something woman with only a towel around herself. Of course, this doesn't happen often, if ever. lol I couldn't say much as I was a bit stunned (I've delivered pizza for years prior and this has never happened then!) but finally collected myself and said I had a letter for her to sign, but I'll make my last delivery and come back. I am engaged, so I wouldn't have done anything, but that situation was pretty funny looking back on it.

The other I took a route was in a quiet part of the city; older homes, in good condition, kind of like a small suburb of downtown. I've never been on the route before and there were only a few Dog Cards that were available. It's been drilled into us during training that dogs, no matter if they look happy, are on leashes or chained up, even if they're inside, are always mean. Which is fair enough. I'd rather not get bit anytime soon, especially when I was still within my 3 month probationary period. I walked up to a home to deliver mail, there was still snow on the ground, and saw a dog off to my left growling then barking, and being very aggressive. Stopped, and took out the mace, just in case. Moved backward still facing it while it was barking, showing teeth, ears back. Pretty damn scary actually. Ran off though to behind the house. This home/block didn't haev any Dog Cards so I couldn't have known about this evil dog. I moved cautiously to the next home and heard a crunching on the snow behind me. The damn thing was running at me from behind without barking intentionally trying to attack me from the rear. Scary as hell when you've got a dog trying to eat you. Spun around just in time to put my bag between him and me. Yelled at it and it ran off. I was very nervous for the next couple of blocks.

This is why we should always have a bag and mace on hand and be very alert. This dog could be a very friendly family pet which many owners say "Oh he's harmless", to you maybe. I don't know your dog, but more important, your dog doesn't know me.


Q:

he's a mail deliverer, not an obstetrician.

A:

That's my evening job though.


Q:

What is your typical workday like?

A:

Typical work day starts at 6:30 in the morning, standing in line behind the Regulars (I'm a CCA, City Carrier Assistant) waiting to punch into the 20 year old time clock. After that, we grab our truck keys, scanner, GPS/Bluetooth cell phone and make our way to the garage. There we check the truck for damage, lights all working, starts, and leaks.

After doing the checks in the garage on the LLVs, FFVs, and those horrible Uplanders, it's time to get on to casing the flats, bundles, and marking packages in the case. Get our Arrow keys, those steel keys on the metal lanyard you may see hanging from other carrier's belt loops. See if we've got any Certifieds, Registered, or other signature confirmation mail. Tear down the case from first to last, or last to first depending on how you want, organize your pumpkin (really big bins that have all the packages), nab the DPS (letter sized mail that was pre-sorted by machine). Punch to street time, then load up your LLV and off to your first delivery.

Also forgot to mention is, for the CCAs, and some of the regulars, is negotiating how many hours of a hand off you're going to take from another route.


Q:

Thanks for doing this AMA. I've been wanting to see one from somebody in MN, but thought I would forever be SOL. I appreciate the 411 on the definition of a CCA, but didn't see definitions for your other acronyms. Perhaps you 86ed them? Honestly, IDGAF, I thought it may be humorous however to ask what a DPS is. Will you fill out a 1099 or a 1040 at the end of the year? Do you think you could get a 69 in an LLV? GPS must be incredibly helpful, if I was a letter carrier I would want it available 24/7. I've put more effort into this reply than I should have, it probably won't make anyone LOL. Not like an episode of HIMYM! I just get a kick how acronyms and numbers can mean different things to different people. A 187 requires an LEO ASAP. A little 420 isn't nearly as serious, heck, even the POTUS has partaken. In closing, people, DP your SO and 141 all your SPOZAK! You never know when a 972 might want CYB whilst ROE92!!!! Giggity!

A:

DPS, I believe, is Delivery Point System. I've forgotten some of the unused acronyms from the first training and all that. How I understand the DPS works is take a huge tub of mail, not sorted to all different points in the country. This tub we'll say has 1,000 pieces of mail in it (that's not a lot, that's about a normal day of DPS on a mounted route). The tub gets tipped onto a conveyor belt in every-which way, from there a camera lens, or lenses, read the addresses that are marked on the pieces of mail and are then sorted to their destination in the facility. This is of course a really simple way of explaining it. One of my fellow CCAs used to be a mail handler and he said it only takes about two to three people to operate the DPS machines, not a lot since it's mostly automated and has cut down on a lot of sorting time. It's also cut down on manpower as well, which is unfortunate.

I'll be filling out a 1040EZ. Don't have too many assets. The rural carriers should be filling out 1099s I believe since they are 'contracted'.

I suppose one could in the LLV, they're bigger on the inside than one would expect, certainly not comfortable though.

GPS does help a lot the first time you're on a route, especially in places where the roads curve around one another and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the address system. But after the first go on a route, it becomes much easier to find where you're going, where to park for the swings, and which alley ways you need to go down for those obscure mail boxes.


Q:

Close, it's Delivery Point Sequence.

A:

Thank you for the correction!


Q:

How do you like being a mail escort?

A:

Much better than being a male escort.


Q:

Hey just wanted to say that the job you do is underappreciated. All day in a truck by yourself doing the same thing day in and day out. But if it wasn't fair you I wouldn't get all my wonderful junk mail and bills! Thanks!

edit: spelling

A:

You're welcome sir and thanks for compliment on the job!


Q:

Where did my fucking package go?

A:

Probably one of three things; it's either still in a sort facility with a wrong address on it, got put into the wrong pumpkin by mail handlers, or it accidentally got dropped at a wrong home. 99% of the time the person who received the package, or mail, will write on it that it's the wrong address.

All three happen, but the first two are more frequent. Rarely does a package get dropped at the wrong address, and if it does, it's only a house down or a street down (same address but 3rd street instead of 4th).


Q:

A big orange container with wheels. Pumpkin.

A:

Take a car that is three feet high, three feet wide, four feet long and orange. Pumpkin!


Q:

USPS has a funny definition of "rarely".

A:

Fair enough on the package part, but unfair on the letter part. With the amount of mail that comes through the sorting facility it happens frequently that there are a lot of missorts along the way. I get a good handful a day. The machine is working very rapidly to sort everything and we are only human. I've had checks comes through that were delivered to the wrong state, it happens, not often, but it happens. For how much mail comes through in volume to how often it gets missorted, there's more accuracy there than anywhere else I've noticed.

Think of a 1,200 piece mail day for one route, not too bad, now think of 4 pieces that aren't for this route. That's great accuracy for that DPS machine. A lot of it gets blown out of proportion because it happens to more important pieces of mail sometimes.


Q:

Are dogs as big a problem as Far Side comics make them out to be?

A:

They can be. There are a few dogs on my current route where I will avoid the house if they are outside. Most of the time dogs are on the leash, inside, or with their owner, so that doesn't pose a big problem, but I will not get out of my truck if there is a dog outside. We are told by our Union and Management to go so far as to avoid an entire block(s) if there is a dog outside off the leash.

A lot of it depends on the area as well; an urban area will have dogs for protection whereas an older suburb will have dogs for pets. If there is a dog outside with no owner in sight in the urban area, you can bet I'll skip it, contrary to a dog off it's leash roaming the neighborhood in a suburb.

Depends on the situation too though. Some dogs are great, some aren't. I haven't gotten bit yet, but I see it that by the time I retire, I will be, completely on accident of course, whether or not I have my dog mace and bag and I notice the dog right away; chances are it will happen, just depends on when.

But overall, nah, most dogs are pretty level headed, especially if they're on neutral ground; owner's taking them for a walk, no small kids around, and you're not threatening.


Q:

Duluth! A fellow Northlander!

  1. How badly does it suck delivering mail in several feet of snow?

  2. Assuming you're right in Duluth, how do you get the mail trucks up the hill in winter time? They don't seem like they'd be the most powerful vehicles.

A:

Why hello fellow Duluthian!

It's not too bad delivering in the snow, it really gives you a workout, which is much needed in the winter since we can't really go out for a run or bike.

Those older LLVs aren't too bad in the snow so long as the rear tires have some kind of tread. The newer looking LLVs (the FFVs by Ford) have 4WD, but there's only a few at the main office and maybe two at Mount Royal. You see those Uplanders? They suck. Awful. I hate them. Most everyone hates them.

Going uphill isn't that much of a chore in the trucks, but it's when you're on flatland with a lot of snow that is a pain in the ass. You have no momentum to get going, the tires just spin no matter how much you dig yourself out or how much sand you lay down. When you're on a hill, you always have the chance of turning around and going downhill to figure out another way back up. It can get a littler nerve racking because of how top heavy the trucks are and how narrow the wheel base is, but they do much better than the heavy front wheel drive Uplanders. Have I mentioned that I hate them to no end?


Q:

Not quite Duluth. Iron Ranger. Close enough. And thanks for your answers!

A:

Eh, close enough! Northlanders! Woo! Thanks for your question sir/madam!


Q:

My Uncle was a letter carrier for many years before getting a job at a major hub driving big rigs to outlying posts. He was fortunate enough to reach full retirement before his job among many others were privatized. My question is, how do you feel about the privatization of the USPS and are you concerned for your job and the jobs of the people you've no doubt spent many years working with?

A:

Where I am currently working; the Duluth Main Office and Sorting Facility, there is a good chance that within the next year and a half that it will be shut down because of the strong want to privatize the USPS. I, along with my fellow CCAs, and mail handlers, and lower roster clerks, have a chance to lose our jobs. Up here, that's around 70+ people so far as the newspaper says. I will not only lose my job, but my income, my steady paychecks, and possibly my home. Its is very frightening and stressful to know that I may not have a job come January.

Many people in the office, regular carriers mostly, and some CCAs do have backgrounds in college, have degrees, or have other forms of income that they can do immediately afterwards. My uncle, who works in Brooklyn Park, will be retiring soon, but had he started recently, he also has a degree in business (I believe), so he has a fall back plan. I, among others, do not. There are not many jobs within the government, or private sectors, that offer this kind of livable wage, consistent working hours, and offer a great health plan. Going from the automotive parts store business making 8.50 an hour to my current rate of 15.30 being a letter carrier, I can tell you it's a huge improvement in quality of life.


Q:

What part of Minnesota?

I'm from Northern Minnesota and people seem to forget that Minnesota exists anywhere north of like, St Cloud. Every time someone tells me they're from Minnesota too, they're from a goddamn suburb.

A:

Duluth, Minnesota. Further north, but still somewhat of a suburb to the Twin Ports.


Q:

What's your favorite part of your job? Also for some reason I'm picturing Minnesota letter carriers looking like this.

A:

Ha! In winter, yeah, but more so. Remember what Ralphie's brother looks like in A Christmas Story? Many of the letter carriers look like Cliff from Cheers though, and act like him. None act like Newman though, well, okay, some do.

Going from working inside buildings for most of my life, it's nice to be outside. I get exercise every day; walk for 8 hours carrier 10+ pounds of mail and packages. I get to pet really happy dogs, talk to people on the route(s). Spring and Fall will be the best months. Though it's not too hot in MN during the summer, as we've had a cool summer so far, those LLV's don't have air conditioning so we're driving around the only government certified rolling sauna. They get 10+ degrees hotter inside those aluminum boxes than outside. And the fan only blows the hot humid air around. They're awful in summer, but nice in winter.

Customers give a lot of respect to us, which is nice, but we've still got to earn the respect given. I get thanked a lot by people on the route, it's just odd that way. I'm giving you paper and you're thanking me? I'd rather they give some more respect and praise to the people making their food or taking care of their lawn.


Q:

What would you do to fix the flaws of the existing postal system?

A:

This might get long. Keep in mind, I don't work in the inner structure of the USPS, I just work for it.

A lot of the flaws, monetarily, have to do with people in power trying to privatize this agency by having the PO set aside retirement money for people who will be entering the USPS work force which have not been born yet. The USPS, AFAIK is still the only company in the US that is required to do this. It's a bit ridiculous and is killing off the USPS' bottom line, putting it further and further into the red, but we're still making money.

Another, I believe, is laziness among the workers. This goes for carriers, clerks, drivers, etc. I take pride in my job (hopefully within a year I can call it a career), and my work ethic. Many just don't want to push themselves anymore, don't want to improve. I have a very unorthodox view, and don't go sharing it with other coworkers with the exception of one, on the union. I am part of the union and fully support how it has helped carriers in the past and the present, and hopefully the future, but I believe that there are certain carriers that are just using the union as an excuse not to do a good job. There are routes out there which take some of them 8+ hours worth of carrying when they know the route and everyone on it like the back of their hands. If I can get on your route and within a week cut it down by 2 hours worth of work, including an hour hand off, and not know it completely, then there's something wrong with how well you're doing your job. In any other company you would be reprimanded and I would be commended. Except this company. I get thanked for my hard work, but I do not get an increase in pay, I do not get bumped to a better position or higher on the roster. I do however, get an enjoyment out of doing an excellent job for the people I'm serving, that's the public, everyone in the US, and other countries, is a customer. I treat them like such.

Customer service is another big issue as well. I find that there is not great customer service in the industry itself when dealing with people coming in to buy stamps. Do some of the clerks, and carriers, not understand that the people you're serving are paying your wage? Be happy to help them, even if it's a facade. Customer service is the first priority to establishing a great company, whether or not it's part of the government.

Just to bring your question to light after giving my position; I would vote different people into office that don't want to keep the Post Office public (which would get rid of unions, job protection, increase the prices of mailing and probably drop everything down a few notches, but you've got to deal with it to keep your mail coming), restructure the Union and the Post Office management personnel to work better with one another to realize that we're all people and not mindless automatons bring paper to a box at every house.

Educate the employees within the Post Office at every level that customers are first; your job is not to just deliver the mail, it is to keep people happy, do a great job, the best you can and as quickly as you can.


Q:

It's good to know there are postal workers like yourself that strive for professionalism.

To continue this discussion, a group of Congressional staffers pitched the idea of digital post, but it was killed off to appease junk mailers. How would you feel if such a program went forward? Would you be concerned about the decrease in mail voume affecting your employment?

A:

Oh most definitely, first class mail is still, apparently, our largest revenue, but bulk mail (junk mail) is, as I see it, just as large a revenue for us as anything else. The volume of mail will definitely decrease if we cannot deal exclusively with bulk mail retailers. Donahue, in my opinion, is incorrect in saying that the American people are not our customers. The mailers are vendors, not customers. They are providing a service not only to us, but to the American population. I find that bulk mailing satisfies everyone; Post Office for creating revenue, bulk mailers for providing a service to businesses, and post customers for giving them choices for items to purchase.


Q:

Hello man, quick question, how do the little cars you guys drive handle?

Thanks for the AMA

A:

Thanks for the question! Awfully. Doing 65 on the freeway north of Duluth was terrifying and I'll never do it again. 60 tops. They do have a great turning radius though.


Q:

How do y'all check for drugs in your packaging?

A:

We do not. We cannot as far as I know. This would be more of a question for the Postal Inspectors, the ones with the power to do so and the power to make arrests.


Q:

Do you sometimes pretend that your truck is a spaceship and that you work for Planet Express?

i would

A:

When I'm driving in snow, I'm not Planet Express, I'm the Millenium Falcon.


Q:

USPS attorney here!

What could people at headquarters do to make things much easier for letter carriers?

A:

Easier for letter carriers? I don't believe I've been in the business long enough to make a good justification for letting an attorney know how to make everything easier.

I would make a suggestion to let the supervisors, and all the management above them, know that carriers have bad days, give them some slack, know that they've been doing this longer than you and know what to expect every day; whether it's raining/hailing/snowed two feet, etc. Mail will get delivered, but it will take longer some days and shorter other days. Don't focus on getting the carriers to go quicker to save money, focus on more ways to get mail out there and more products to offer.


Q:

Your picture looks very familiar... You're from elk river, correct?

A:

Why yes I am! Brethren?


Q:

Yes sir. Class of 06'. Also lived in Duluth for 5 years after High school. Small world.

A:

Very small world, class of '04.


Q:

Are the conditions that made postal workers "go postal" still in place or have working conditions gotten better?

A:

I believe they've gotten much better, but from the people that've been working for the Postal Service, they still have resentment from bad supervisors who only want good numbers to appease their bosses.

The CCAs that I came in with seem to find that the supervisors now are doing a great job and not asking too much or too little. At least that's how I look at it. Everyone has different work ethic; I can get a route and a half done in the time it takes others to get 3/4 of a route down. Depends.


Q:

My father worked for the post office for 30+ years and two examples of bad supervisors he told me were that in order to make the yearly budget they stopped providing toilet paper for a couple of months and the workers had to bring their own; and one supervisor would only let the have half the lights be on so he could come in at budget (imagine trying to sort your mail like that). In the post office "shit" truly did float at the top.

A:

As I've seen yes. It's a lot of bureaucracy and that's quite unfortunate, with less of that, we could have a much better company, be more profitable, and be much better to the customers.


Q:

Do you fear that your job will become obsolete soon? In my town I already have to drive to the post office to pick up my mail.

A:

I do fear this. With the closing of many distribution plants and sorting facilities that are going to happen across the country, specifically in Minnesota it may happen within the next year or two, there is a real chance that I might lose my job because of it. Clerks will be given the choice to convert to carriers, upper CCAs might get this chance to stay on as their title, but might not have a chance to be converted to regular. I think that Mail Handlers might get the chance as well along with rural carriers to become regulars, but at the same time, there are going to be many regulars who are retiring soon. The Baby Boomers, and lots of them, will be most likely be given an early out bonus, and hopefully that means saving the CCAs.


Q:

Any weird event that is worth telling about?

A:

I went to do a prepaid package pickup at the mall before it opened, wearing full USPS gear, with bag, hat, and mail. Manager asks me if I work for FedEx or UPS. Nope, I work for DHL.


Q:

Just how much does your job suck in the winter, and have you thought about moving to a place that's less cold?

A:

I'd love to transfer to Hawaii, but I think the transfer waiting list is quite long. For a person who loves winter, I don't mind Minnesota winters.


Q:

I live in an apartment in Texas. I constantly get mail for at least 5 previous tenants. I've had issues with our postman returning these in the past, so I made some large, obvious, clear labels that I stick over my address that say:

RETURN TO SENDER

RECIPIENT NOT AT THIS ADDRESS

Our mail carrier actually brought them to my apartment's leasing office and told them to tell me to he didn't know why I was doing it, and I should stop. I even went as far as dropping the "Return to sender" mail off at work (serviced by a different PO), and I found them in my mailbox the next day!!! A lot of items look pretty important too, including mail from banks and even a juvenile detention center.

tl;dr - From your experience, how and why do you think a "RETURN TO SENDER" piece of mail can pass through several hands, and end up right back in my mailbox?

(Here's a photo of a piece of mail with the blatant sticker that still made it back to my mailbox.)

A:

It should not becoming back to you at all. It should be marked up by the carrier and returned to sender or forwarded.


Q:

Do you really get to sleep with all the stay at home wives?

A:

lol No, never been given the opportunity and won't take the advances. My VP of our Union up here said he had a co-worker who was given the opportunity by a woman on one of his routes. She came to the door in a bathrobe while the carrier needed a signature. Apparently she forgot to close the robe. Yep, definitely intentional. lol


Q:

Have you read anything by Charles Bukowksi?

A:

I have not, but from a quick Wiki search, seems like I should take up the habit.