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Are Amazon Packages Disrupting Mail Services in Some Small Towns? – Slashdot

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100 miles south of the Canadian border, the tiny town of Bemidji, Minnesota “has been bombarded by a sudden onslaught of Amazon packages” since early November, reports the Washington Post, “and local postal workers say they have been ordered to deliver those packages first.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service tells the Post that’s not true, and that their service “does not prioritize the delivery of packages from Amazon or other customers.”

But whatever’s going on, the Post reports that “The result has been chaos…”

Mail is getting backed up, sometimes for days, leaving local residents waiting for checks, credit card statements, health insurance documents and tax rebates. Routes meant to take eight or nine hours are stretching to 10 or 12. At least five carriers have quit, and the post office has banned scheduled sick days for the rest of the year, carriers say… Dennis Nelson, a veteran mail carrier, said he got so frustrated watching multiple co-workers “breaking down and crying” that he staged a symbolic strike earlier this month outside the post office where he has worked for more than 20 years…

Bemidji is not the only place where postal workers say they have been overwhelmed by packages from Amazon… Carriers and local officials say mail service has been disrupted in rural communities from Portland, Maine, to Washington state’s San Juan Islands.

The situation stems from a crisis at the Postal Service, which has lost $6.5 billion in the past year. The post office has had a contract with Amazon since 2013, when it started delivering packages on Sundays. But in recent years, that business has exploded as Amazon has increasingly come to rely on postal carriers to make “last-mile” deliveries in harder-to-reach rural locations. The Postal Service considers the contract proprietary and has declined to disclose its terms. But U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said publicly that “increasing package volume” — not just from Amazon, but from FedEx and UPS as well — is key to the mail service’s financial future. In a Nov. 14 speech to the Postal Service Board of Governors, DeJoy said he wants the post office to become the “preferred delivery provider in the nation….”

In bigger cities, Amazon has its own distribution network, which takes some of the pressure off the post office. But in rural areas, where carriers drive miles of lonely routes in their personal vehicles, the arrangement has caused problems. In the mountains of Colorado, biologists in Crested Butte are struggling with the delay of time-sensitive samples, the Denver Post reported in September, while mail carriers in Carbondale say they are overwhelmed by Amazon packages. Other Minnesota towns including Brainerd and La Porte have been hit hard by Amazon in the past, carriers said…

Partenheimer defended the post office’s record in an email, while conceding “much work remains to be done….”

An Amazon spokesperson told the Post “We work directly with the USPS to balance our delivery needs with their available capacity,” and “we’ll continue to collaborate on package volume each week and adjust as needed.”

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