No Stamps Today: Why a NY Post Office Can’t Get Them

New York
CNN business

The labor shortage has reached the height of stupidity: Post office workers could not sell stamps.

For the past two weeks, workers at the US Postal Service’s Park West station in Manhattan have regularly told people waiting in line that the facility could not sell stamps.

On the Upper West Side, where you can buy a $339 bottle of champagne, a Baby Yoda costume for your dog, and a $9 “Young Leaf Salad in a Bowl” within a block of the station, this scarcity was not well received.

what is going on It turns out that, amid the lack of staff, only two people in all of New York had the key to the station vault where the stamps are kept, and both had been MIA since mid-August.

“There was an unexpected retirement and another employee was on leave” at the branch, said Xavier C. Hernandez, chief of strategic communications for the US Postal Service.

It’s also “industrial-grade safe,” he added. Government policy “requires locksmiths to submit requests for proposals” before hiring.

So when a man in a black polo shirt walked into the station on Wednesday looking for the “Image, commemorative stamps…” colorful and collectible wildlife or art images that most people prefer for personal correspondence, the scene was something out of “Seinfeld.”

He asked, “Can’t I buy stamps at the post office?” without believing he asked again (while waving his jazz hands as CNN declined an interview request).

“Not at this time,” he replied.

“When i will do will you be able to buy stamps at the post office?’ he asked, looking for a stamp sheet of the cartoon “Elephants Forever,” or “tigers,” issued last month.

“I can’t tell you that at this time,” replied the postal worker, gesturing wearily at a handwritten sign stating that the facility had no stamp or receipt.

The line of seven people who were waiting was confused.

“We’re understaffed,” a red-haired woman described by other workers as a supervisor told CNN.

For several years, the US Postal Service has been in crisis, losing money, long-standing sources of income and employees. He had a bad relationship with Donald Trump, who called him a “joke”.

Now, “hiring is a priority,” explained Wanda Diaz, who is being sworn in as Manhattan’s new postmaster on Friday. “We are currently hiring 28,000 new employees” in New York alone, he said in an email about his appointment, also addressing the missing stamps.

In 2021, the USPS had 655,000 employees, about 200,000 of whom are close to retirement, and there is a high attrition rate for part-time and seasonal workers. According to the agency’s own research, about 40% of people who take a vacation do not take another.

Park West is a microcosm of the challenges facing the USPS. Hardly an ideal working situation there. The door sanitizer is empty, the “stand here” foot stickers are curled up, and the floor strips are covered in blue-gray carpeting that isn’t cloth or plastic. The air conditioner, on a day when the temperature was in the 70s, barely worked. (A message to the American Postal Workers Union was not returned.)

The USPS, which generally receives no taxpayer funding, is responsible for its own revenue. But Americans aren’t texting nearly as much as they used to, given the ubiquity of texting, emailing, FaceTime, and Zoom. 13.5 billion letters were sent last year, and the number of individual letters sent last year decreased by 8.4% compared to the previous year. 45% less than a decade ago.

An employee at the station says that customers are missing too many stamps.

“You can buy cymbals from the vending machine,” he said, motioning to her. (Yes, you can, we checked, just with a credit or debit card) but these are generic American flag stamps. No tulips, no elephants, no Star Trek memorabilia or holiday themes. “People don’t want them as much,” he said.

In fact, the US Postal Service does a roaring business in collectible stamps, offering one or more new series a month that are often bought by collectors, not mailers. (USPS says its most popular commemorative stamp was 1993’s Elvis Presley).

That said, the Park West stamp issues appear to be an isolated incident. Other post offices in the city are well stocked with subject stamps. (Basic stamps went up two cents last month; it now costs 60 cents to send a first-class letter). We checked.

Last April, President Joe Biden signed a sweeping bill that would overhaul the agency’s finances and modernize the truck fleet; they are doing electric.

Biden noted at the time that the Postal Service, with Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster general in 1775 before becoming an official part of the government in 1792, “is fundamental to our economy, and the very sense of who we are as a nation.”

As for the Park West Post Office? On Friday morning, Postmaster Diaz was able to confirm that “the situation has been resolved”. After about two weeks, it has tiger, elephant, heart, tulip and mariachi band commemorative stamps. Trust us. We checked.