MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Christmas is just two days away and with the pandemic driving more people to shop online this year, the United States Postal Service and other carriers are experiencing a historic volume of mail.
Many people left the post office in Montgomery upset because their packages are weeks behind and won’t arrive in time for Christmas Day.
“I’ve been waiting on it since November 28th,” said Birmingham resident Karen Stewart.
Stewart said her son’s Christmas gift has been stuck “in transit” in Montgomery for weeks.
“I live on the other side of Birmingham. I drove all the way down here because it said my package is here,” Stewart said. “They won’t give it to me so I guess my son won’t be getting his Christmas present.”
Janice Woodson said her mail can’t be found.
“Some orders that we placed back in October, we are still waiting on their arrival because we can’t find where they are,” Woodson said. “We did order early, but we just can’t seem to get our packages in.”
Debra Fetterly, a spokesperson for USPS, said they have been swamped with packages for weeks.
“We are facing a historic record of mail volume, an unprecedented volume,” Fetterly said.
Delays are happening nationwide, largely because of an employee shortage due to COVID-19. According to the American Postal Workers Union, nearly 19,000 of its 644,000 workers called in sick or were forced to isolate during the months-long pandemic.
“Some of our employees were impacted by COVID,” Fetterly said. “Some of them are still out and some have recovered and are back. We did hire seasonal employees, and where needed, we’re moving our career employees from one location to the next to supplement the workforce.”
In a Dec. 14 press release, workers pleaded with the American public to send gifts early.
Something else is also adding to the growing problem. According to the Washington Post, private carriers like FedEx and UPS have cut delivery service to some retailers. Meaning more packages are ending up at the post office, as many as 6 million a day.
“Those packages are being delivered to the postal service because we are a universal service,” Fetterly said. “We except everything and we’re proud to do so, it’s just that we have an unprecedented volume this year.”
Fetterly said if a package is reading “in transit” for a long period of time that it is more than likely not lost, it is just still being processed.
“It’s possible that it is somewhere inside of the processing plant among all of the volume,” Fetterly said.
Fetterly said employees are processing mail 24/7 and letter carriers are working overtime, before and after regular hours, to try and get mail to your doorstep on time.
“We have made a lot of progress just in the past few days so we ask that our customers have patience and keep a look out for that package,” Fetterly said. “We look forward to the holidays every year, and this year has been a challenge, but we are going to make it.”
With letter carriers work ring overtime, USPS is asking as a courtesy that customers clear their driveways and leave on their porch lights.