Edgartown Post Office exasperates Islanders

Long lines, unreliable delivery, and package limbo are part and parcel, customers say.

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The Edgartown post office is overflowing with packages. — Rich Saltzberg

Many Vineyarders aren’t pleased with the performance of the Edgartown Post Office and, as a result, have slammed it on social media over the past week. The Times visited the Post Office on Monday, and found bins full of packages unattended on a loading dock, and a line of 18 to 20 people winding through the lobby.

Ed Cottle III of E.C. Cottle Corp. in Edgartown, a longstanding building supply merchant, told The Times 20 to 30 of Cottle’s commercial customers have decided not to rely on local mail delivery to receive their monthly invoices.

“They would rather pick it up,” he said. The reason for this, he said, is that E.C. Cottle mails out invoices on the 28th of each month. Customers have until the 10th to send payments to receive their discount. Too many of them were receiving their invoices after the 10th of the month.

“I just witnessed someone come to the window and say, ‘Hi I got a notice you have a package here for me,’” Edgartown resident Ellen O’Brien posted on Facebook. ”The female clerk said, ‘Yes, and that means come back in one week, because your package is here but it is in a cage, and we haven’t gotten to it yet.’”

Asked via instant message if she experienced problems at the Edgartown Post Office, O’Brien wrote, “Not life-shattering but yes. A box of gardening string sat there for a month while the tracking said first they had attempted [to] deliver, which is not true, then said I had requested the hold. Which I hadn’t. I never even got notice the package was there. It was just through the merchant that I found all this out. Anyway, UPS all the way!”

“It’s pathetic,” Chris Morse, co-owner of North Water Street and Granary Galleries, said. “We will go to great lengths not to use Edgartown.”

“It’s a mess,” Katy Fuller, operations director of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, said. “We send stuff and it doesn’t always get to where it needs to go. Sadly, it’s nothing new.”

Fuller said despite the service problems, the staff at the Post Office is nice. However, that doesn’t offset vintage returned mail.

“We’ve gotten mail returned to us in batches — three years old, four years old. We look forward to changing to 02568.”

“I got mail today [Tuesday], but from Thursday to Monday, zero,” Edgartown resident Jen Winsper wrote in a text message. She recalled witnessing an elderly man at the Edgartown Post Office counter waiting for prescriptions that weren’t delivered. “He was rather upset,” she wrote.

Chappy resident Chris Kennedy texted that when mail comes can’t be anticipated.

“It’s sporadic,” he wrote. “Often the mail is delivered late in the day (after 5), sometimes at 12 noon, and sometimes not at all.”

An official at the Edgartown District Court told The Times that while they do not have difficulty sending mail, should a letter be sent to the court’s physical address as opposed to its Post Office box number, it gets returned. Since the court has occupied the same address for years and is a singular entity, she is baffled as to why such returns occur.

Inside the Edgartown tax collector’s office, several people laughed when asked if the mail caused their office problems. The Times was shown four tax mailings sent to the same individual’s Post Office box. Each was affixed with a yellow sticker dated July 18, 2018, and stating “Insufficient address … return to sender.” The mailings were sent out in February, one official said, and the addresses were accurate. A one-foot stack of returned mailings could be seen on one desk.

Murdick’s Fudge manager Mike McCourt expressed a more upbeat view of the Edgartown Post Office. “They’ve always done a really good job for me,” he said.

McCourt said he sees the challenges Edgartown’s Post Office faces — understaffing, insufficient space, and being “inundated with packages” — stemming from sources “beyond the local office.” He pointed to Amazon as a major factor in parcel increases for the Edgartown Post Office. McCourt said he’s in the backroom of the Post Office almost daily, and of late he’s never seen so many packages, even during the holidays. He also said the summer season brings a huge spike in general delivery mailings, and these tax postal staff and eat up space. He highlighted the Post Office’s performance with Priority Mail packages, describing it as a regularly “well done” service.

Edgartown resident Jay Schwartz offered a different view of Priority Mail at the Edgartown Post Office: “Never mail anything from Edgartown!!” she posted on Facebook. “We sent a package and received it back two weeks later as something that was sent TO us rather than FROM us, Priority Mail no less, as the person we sent it to needed it right away!!”

Times staffer Bridget Palmieri said dysfunction in Edgartown is nothing new. A gift Priority Mailed to her a few years ago for Easter arrived at the Edgartown Post Office in November. The following Christmas, a holiday gift didn’t arrive at the Post Office until February, she said.

One Edgartown business owner told The Times of frequently receiving other people’s first class mail, among other irregularities. The business owner asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation — specifically poorer mail service.

“You could say that July is their equivalent of the holiday rush, as we work to provide service to our seasonal guests on Martha’s Vineyard,” Northeast Postal spokesman Steve Doherty wrote in an email responding to the complaints. “As you can imagine, during the summer season, the Island Post Offices are extremely busy. Martha’s Vineyard’s mail and package volumes are being monitored, and postal managers will continue to support the [Edgartown] office with added resources as needed to ensure customer satisfaction. To that end, we continue to hire in the area, and encourage interested residents to visit usps.com for career information.”

In a subsequent phone conversation, Doherty said Island postal environments, due to their isolated nature, can pose special staffing challenges. He said it was his understanding the Postal Service had deployed extra staff to the Vineyard. He also said the postal operations manager for the Cape and the Islands, John Fitzgerald, has placed special “focus on Edgartown at the moment.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. I understand that it is difficult to have the infrastructure and resources to serve such a seasonal business but some of the issues are solvable. A few weeks ago, I stood in line for 15-20 minutes waiting for a package. When I finally got to the front of the line, I was given a huge Restoration Hardware catalog that I did not request and was told they were required to
    deliver it. At least they could have stuffed it in my box. The next day, I showed up about 30 seconds before closing and there were 2 people in front of me and no one behind me. When I got to the front of the line, the same postal worker closed the window in my face and said, “its past closing time”. These are just 2 of many instances that have happened to me. None of them are life and death but they compound the frustration with this post office. Everyone I know has stories of their own.

  2. I have paid extra for packages to delivered via UPS or FEDEX for years now…I got tired of my mail getting put in someone else’s box, waiting in a long line with a yellow slip only to be told they didn’t have anything.
    I realize that summer time is hard for the post office but this happens year round.
    I stopped using prescriptions by mail. I do as much online as possible.
    I have complained to a corporate office and then I was confronted by an employee at the window about my complaint (in front of several people), so I learned not to say anything for fear of never getting my mail in a “timely manner”.
    I recently am out $50 because of the post office, (#1)they didn’t send an overnight letter correctly and (#2) I had to reorder parts that I paid extra to have overnighted but didn’t receive for a week.
    I have nothing good to say about this post office, I would change post office boxes to another branch but we have had the same PO Box for 30 years and we have a business that lists this address.

  3. One more valid point with regards to USPS and packages. If there was not so much price gouging on Martha’s Vineyard, with regards to some necessary products, I would be more than happy to shop local and buy everything I need here. This just isn’t possible, because there are ridiculous mark ups on certain products and this really does occur often, over the summer season. If the USPS in Edgartown is inundated, it is not the fault of the consumers. Bottom line, competency is key and laziness is unacceptable. There are plenty of other qualified people here, on the island, who live here year round, who were born here and they would love to work for the USPS.

  4. The problems have gotten considerably worse in the last few months. There are now several days a week that I simply get no mail delivery at my roadside mailbox. The MV Times is no longer delivered to me on Thursdays, and sometimes not at all. The package pickup procedure is like something in a third world country. I’ve stood in that line for 40 minutes only to be told that despite the tracking information and the pick up card left in my box, there is nothing there. Go back a week later and they tell me that they returned it to sender because I didn’t show up to get it. My daughter’s $900 college ring was returned to the company, even though they had the correct delivery address. I had to pay extra to have them re-send it via UPS. It’s completely unaccceptable, and then I get the infuriating survey that I fill out everry time, yet nothing changes.

  5. Had 2 package slips today. Gave them to the clerk. He came back with one. I said that I had 2 slips both with my box number written on them. He said that there was only one on the shelf and maybe the slip was from yesterday. I said no, that I had a slip and got a package yesterday. I said that I knew the package was there. He said that if I didn’t have a tracking number that he couldn’t look for it. I spoke to the postmaster who went and looked and came back with my package.

  6. When ordering anything, I try and have the package shipped UPS/FEDEX – the only way to guarantee delivery, and avoid lines and hassles of the PO.

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