Arlington, VA

Many locals haven’t been getting their mail in a timely fashion recently and Virginia’s U.S. Senators are deeply concerned.

Yesterday (Feb. 1), Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy asking why there has been such considerable delays on folks getting their mail.

“We have heard from hundreds of our constituents that recount unacceptable delays in the delivery of everything from Christmas and birthday cards to mail-order medications and credit card bills,” wrote the Senators. “Furthermore, we seek answers about operational decisions and other circumstances that have contributed to such delays and what is being done to prevent future failures.”

Additionally, they asked for the publishing of data about the number of postal workers that have contracted COVID-19 and expediting the delivery of mail-order medications.

The lawmakers note that they believe policy changes implemented this past summer by DeJoy could be contributing.

There was local pushback about these policies, including a rally outside of the Westover post office on Washington Blvd.

When initially calling out these changes — also in a letter — the Senators were then promised that these cost-cutting measures would not be implemented until after the November presidential election.

However, even after the election, these implemented changes have caused a significant delay in mail getting to recipients, particularly to those in the Capitol region, according to court filings.

From Dec. 19 to 31, according to statistics in the filings that the Senators cited in their letter, Northern Virginia residents received less than half of their first class mail on-time. While the holiday crush is surely to be a contributing factor, rates started dropping in mid-September.

This is a dramatic drop-off from even the week of Sept. 5 when residents were getting 88.5% of their first class mail. Even earlier in the pandemic — mid-March through July — about 91% of first class mail was getting to locals in a timely fashion.

The Senators wrote that they have heard from constituents that mail is continually getting stuck at the USPS Processing and Distribution Center in Richmond, sometimes for weeks at a time.

A recent audit by the USPS Inspector General revealed that the Richmond distribution center had the fourth-highest late trip rate of any in the country from July 1 to Sept. 30.

Additionally, from Nov. 1 to Nov. 19, the center underestimated incoming mail volume by two-thirds.

Warner and Kaine blame insufficient staffing and capacity at the distribution center.

“We understand this is likely due to staffing shortages but implore you to create additional contingency plans to ensure a particular delivery route does not miss its mail for days at a time simply because its letter carrier is out sick,” they wrote.

Concluding the letter, Warner and Kaine urge DeJoy to “reverse all operational and organizational changes that have contributed to substantial mail delays.”

This isn’t the only bit of Arlington mail news in recent months. In October, a postal inspector was seen checking drop-off mailboxes at the N. George Mason Drive post office amidst complaints of missing and stolen mail.

The entire letter sent by Sens. Warner and Kaine is below.

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Send your holiday packages early this year.

That’s the message from the U.S. Postal Service, which says that the pandemic leading to both operational challenges and a big increase in shipping volumes. That, in turn, may cause delays as Americans rush to ship gifts to friends and family.

In-person sales were down for many retailers on Black Friday, but online sales hit new records. Today’s Cyber Monday online shopping event is expected to see a jump in sales, up to 15-35%, as many holiday shoppers hunker down at home.

Between the jump in e-commerce and more families staying apart for the holidays, USPS says the crush in package volume means you should send your gifts early in order to arrive by Dec. 25.

More from the Postal Service:

It is expected that more holiday gifts and greetings will be sent through the mail this year, as families and friends will hold virtual celebrations instead of opening gifts in person. The Postal Service always encourages customers to send their holiday gifts and cards early. This year is no different.

This has been an extraordinary year of unprecedented challenges given the Covid-19 pandemic and the Postal Service is expecting significant volume increases which are difficult to predict. We thank our customers for their continued support, and we are committed to making sure gifts and cards are delivered on time to celebrate the holidays.

The Postal Service begins planning for peak holiday season every January. To help handle the expected volume increase, the Postal Service has the ability to flex our network to meet the significant volume increases expected this year. This includes making sure the right equipment is available to sort, process and deliver the expected mail and package volumes. We also have 644,000 employees dedicated to ensuring gifts and greetings are delivered in time for the holidays.

Seasonal workers are hired when and where needed, and technology has been expanded to enhance package tracking throughout the USPS processing and transportation networks. Sunday delivery will be expanded beginning Nov. 29 to locations with high package volumes. USPS already delivers packages on Sundays in most major cities. Mail carriers will also deliver packages for an additional fee on Christmas Day in select locations.

Busiest Mailing and Delivery Days

The busiest time of the season peaks two weeks before Christmas, when much of the last-minute shopping starts. Customer traffic is expected to increase beginning Dec. 7, with the week of Dec. 14-21 predicted to be the busiest mailing, shipping and delivery week.

Skip the Trip and Ship Online

Consumers don’t have to leave home to ship their packages. In these socially distant times, they can simply visit usps.com or use the Click-N-Ship feature for help shipping that holiday gift, ordering free Priority Mail boxes, printing shipping labels, purchasing postage and even requesting free next-day Package Pickup. And usps.com is always open.

2020 Holiday Shipping Deadlines

The Postal Service recommends the following mailing and shipping deadlines for expected delivery by Dec. 25 to Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office and domestic addresses*:

  • Dec. 9   — APO/FPO/DPO (ZIP Code 093 only) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
  • Dec. 11 — APO/FPO/DPO (all other ZIP Codes) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail services
  • Dec. 15 — USPS Retail Ground service
  • Dec. 18 — APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express service
  • Dec. 18 — First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards)
  • Dec. 18 — First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)
  • Dec. 19 — Priority Mail service
  • Dec. 23 — Priority Mail Express* service

Alaska

  • Dec. 18 — Alaska to/from Continental U.S. First-Class Mail
  • Dec. 19 — Alaska to/from Continental U.S. Priority Mail
  • Dec. 21 — Alaska to/from Continental U.S. Priority Mail Express

Hawaii

  • Dec. 15 — Hawaii to/from mainland Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
  • Dec. 21 — Hawaii to/from mainland Priority Mail Express

A list of shipping dates for a Christmas arrival with other carriers can be found here.

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Morning Notes

Fall Officially Starts Today — “While many of us think of the first day of fall as a full calendar day, the equinox itself is a rather fleeting astronomical event. It happens at a precise moment when the sun’s direct rays are straight over Earth’s equator. This year’s equinox is at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on Sept. 22.” [Capital Weather Gang]

JBG Acquires Local 5G Radio Spectrum — “JBG Smith Properties has paid $25.3 million for licenses to use small parts of a new class of wireless spectrum to set up a 5G internet network in National Landing, home to Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters and Virginia Tech’s innovation campus.” [Washington Business JournalPress Release]

County Board Challenger Amps Up Rhetoric — “Is Arlington’s political ruling elite a bunch of preening political poseurs unwilling to do the heavy lifting of implementing a truly progressive agenda for the community? That somewhat uncharitable (and decidedly paraphrased here) assessment comes  from Audrey Clement, the perennial independent candidate for office who this year is facing off against County Board Chairman Libby Garvey.” [InsideNova]

County Launches New Data Portal — “Arlington County today unveiled a new Open Data Portal with several benefits and features that make it easier than ever to access and use Arlington data. The new portal, a centerpiece of the County’s Open Government Program, builds upon the first open data solution that launched in 2016.” [Arlington County]

Robbery Suspect Arrested in Pentagon City — “At approximately 3:36 p.m. on September 19, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect allegedly stole merchandise from a business without paying. Upon being confronted by loss prevention at the exit, the suspect allegedly brandished a knife, then fled on foot. The victim was not injured. Arriving officers located the suspect in the Pentagon City Metro, still in possession of stolen merchandise.” [Arlington County]

Postal Service Keeping Rosslyn Office — “The United States Postal Service has tacked on an additional 3 years to its office lease at the International Place building in Arlington, Virginia, but will give up one of its floors in the process.” [CoStar]

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ACPD Warns of New Mail-Based Scam

Scammers are sending letters to Arlington residents, fraudulently claiming to be Arlington County authorities and threatening punishment if a debt is not paid over the phone.

The Arlington County Police Department issued a warning about the scam today, showing images of scam letters that appear to come from an official source. The scammers claim to be part of a non-existent “Benefits Suspension Unit” or “Tax Processing Unit,” and threaten to cut off Social Security benefits or seize wages, police say.

Those that receive such letters are encouraged to report them to police via an online form.

More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department is warning the public about scam mailings that threaten individuals with seizure of their wages and Social Security benefits to satisfy alleged non-payment of taxes. Recipients are instructed to call a toll-free number by a set date or further enforcement action will be taken against them.

The mailings use a fraudulent government seal and are sent from the ‘Benefits Suspension Unit, Arlington County, Public Judgement Records’ and/or the ‘Tax Processing Unit, Internal Processing Service, Arlington County, Public Judgement Records.’ This office does not exist.

If you have been a victim or target of a scam in Arlington County, report to police using the online crime report.

Scammers may use various techniques to fool potential victims. Avoid becoming a victim by following these practices:

  • Be suspicious of any unsolicited phone calls, emails, mailings or in-person solicitations which request funds or claim that you owe money.
  • Never use a phone number provided to you from an individual making threats to verify their credibility. Use a verified phone number to contact a government agency if you’re concerned you might owe money.
  • Avoid unusual payment methods. No government agency will instruct you to resolve your debt using a payment method such as Bitcoin, money wires, mailed cash or gift cards.
  • Keep your information private. Don’t share your personal information with organizations you are unfamiliar with, don’t have ties to and did not initiate contact with.
  • Take your time. If you are requested to act quickly or there is a stated emergency, it may be a scam. Scammers create a sense of urgency to get you to act impulsively.
  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

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Morning Notes

Fox News in Arlington — “An apparently news-starved fox has taken matters into its own paws and has been spotted stealing copies of the Post from the porches of unsuspecting Arlington residents.” [Washingtonian]

In-Person Census Visits Starting — “To achieve a complete count, Census Takers will begin conducting home interviews. Starting the week of July 20 — nearly three weeks before the nationwide August 11 launch date — Census Takers will be visiting homes in Arlington, including an estimated 27,000 households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census.” [Arlington County]

Longtime Local Mail Carrier Dies — Jesus and Luz Collazos “immigrated to the United States and settled in Arlington, Va., where he spent 25 years as a postal worker. They raised a family in a home he bought after admiring it on his delivery route. On June 6, about a year into his retirement, he died of covid-19 at 67.” [Washington Post]

Should Route 29 Become John Lewis Highway? — One idea for the renaming of Lee Highway: name it after Rep. John Lewis, who died Friday. The civil rights leader grew up in Troy, Alabama, for which U.S. Route 29 is the main street. The highway also runs through his congressional district in Georgia. [Twitter]

Deer Rescued from Church Basement — “A huge thank you to Animal Services officers Schindler and D’Eramo from Humane Rescue Alliance for jumping in late last night to help our AWLA officers Ballena and Rose rescue a young deer.” [Facebook]

Synetic’s ‘The Decameron’ Project — “The Decameron, a series of 14th century Italian novellas about surviving the Black Death, is enjoying a surprising renaissance during the current coronavirus crisis… Now, Crystal City’s Synetic Theater, a physical theater troupe that specializes in literary adaptations, usually relying on music and movement to tell stories rather than spoken dialogue, has created a Decameron of its own.” [Washington City Paper]

Region Ascends Tech Rankings — Northern Virginia and the D.C. region are now No. 2 on a list of the top tech talent markets in the United States. [CBRE, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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The Rosslyn Post Office could soon be on the move.

The U.S. Postal Service is proposing relocating its office in a building at 1101 Wilson Blvd elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Officials have yet to identify a new spot for the post office, but they hope to move it to “a yet-to-be-determined location as close as reasonably possible to the current site,” according to a news release.

The USPS says that, if it approves such a change, “there would be no change to post office box numbers or ZIP codes.”

A Postal Service spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what prompted the USPS to consider a relocation.

However, the USPS is planning a public meeting to discuss the proposal tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 5 p.m. at 1911 N. Fort Myer Drive. The Postal Service will then accept written comments for the next 30 days following that gathering.

Anyone interested in submitting them can send them to:

Richard Hancock
Real Estate Specialist
U.S. Postal Service
PO Box 27497
Greensboro, NC 27498-1103
[email protected]

USPS also operates several other post offices near the Rosslyn location, including ones in Clarendon, Court House and at Fort Myer.

Photo via Google Maps 

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Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The next time you get direct marketing mail don’t be so quick to throw it out without at least taking a look. Consider that Lee Garvey and the employees at Click2Mail may have been the people working hard to get the materials into your mailbox.

Lee Garvey, founder of Click2MailGarvey worked for years at the U.S. Postal Service, starting as a mail carrier in Arlington and moving into other roles, before founding Click2Mail in 2004. His time as a mail carrier exposed him to a lot of local customers who encountered the same problem: They easily could send out a few letters at a time but had difficulty handling large groups of mail.

So Garvey launched a service to make it easier.

“If you’re just mailing five or 10 letters, it’s easy. But when you get into the higher numbers you have to have a system and a postage meter and all that stuff. So I set out to create an online system,” Garvey says. “I’ve experienced the problems we solve for our customers and the way I got started was identifying a problem and finding a way to solve it.”

The small business digitally creates many types of marketing mail, such as when a business sends out hundreds of postcards to advertise a promotion. Click2Mail also can personalize communications so that a car dealer, for example, can send a letter that personally addresses a customer and mentions the type of car the customer recently purchased. Another service is to offer quick turnarounds for “just in time” communications, which tend to be more time sensitive. Garvey says that if a customer submits a digital file by 8 p.m. on a weekday, Click2Mail often can send out personalized notifications as quickly as the next day for a fraction of what such a service used to cost.

“The sender of the postal mail doesn’t have to do anything. They send to us their assets and documents and mailing lists and we take care of the rest,” Garvey says.

Garvey launched Click2Mail while still working at the Postal Service. USPS officially ran it for three years but then decided not to oversee the service anymore. Around that time, Garvey ended up leaving the Postal Service and branched off Click2Mail as a separate entity. The business still partners with USPS, among others, and can be accessed both through its own website and through the Postal Service’s.

Click2Mail employees prepare for a video conferenceClick2Mail has an office in Clarendon and 15 employees who work throughout the United States. Garvey is a huge believer in allowing staff to work remotely at least a couple days a week — even the local employees — and relying on video conferencing for staff collaboration. He says the concept is “one of the benefits of having a largely digital business.”

The Click2Mail team has experienced ups and downs with the fluctuating economy and people’s changing desires to send physical mail, but it currently is in the process of expansion. The business is looking to hire new employees and is revamping its website. Click2Mail has also gained positive exposure thanks recent recognition from Entrepreneur as number 203 on the magazine’s list of the 360 best and most well-rounded small businesses in America.

“We’re very happy with the place where we are and we’re growing,” Garvey says.

Another positive industry trend, Garvey notes, is one that surprises many people: Traditional mail marketing and advertising is back on the rise.

“Businesses that years ago decided that they were going to go all digital and start sending everything by email… they discovered that the level of attention that’s paid to that type of thing is shrinking,” Garvey says. “People are throwing money at the digital world and discovering it’s not as effective as it used to be and the effectiveness of direct mail is increasing.”

Part of that shift may be due to an “everything old is new again” attitude and a “snail mail” revival thanks to millennials. Garvey explains that each year the Postal Service does a household survey and within the last year “they discovered that millennials are very enthusiastic about physical mail.”

But Garvey knows that going about direct mailing completely in an old school fashion isn’t sustainable in the long term. That’s why Click2Mail has continuously updated and modernized its services. It taps into the trend of companies integrating outsourced microservices.

“We have been following closely and adapting our services to that type of model,” Garvey says. “It’s an old thing in a lot of people’s minds, the idea of postal mail. But we’re doing it in a very modern, very technologically savvy way that gives people the opportunity to create mail in a ‘just in time’ fashion that you never could have imagined just a few years ago.”

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US Postal Service mail truck in the snow 2/21/15Residents from various parts of Arlington are reporting continued mail delivery problems a week and a half after the January blizzard.

Via email and social media, residents of both south and north Arlington have told ARLnow.com that mail delivery has been sporadic since the blizzard, with some only having received one or two deliveries in the past 10 days.

From a Barcroft resident, along Columbia Pike:

Lots and lots of neighborhood complaints about no USPS mail or sporadic USPS mail since January 22nd.  I am having the same issue.  Parcels and letters that should have arrived days or even a week+ ago are nowhere to be found.  Tracking shows obscured messages like “receptacle blocked” when there is no issue with our street our mail receptacle.  Others report the same.

From another Columbia Pike area resident:

The residents of 22204 haven’t had much, if any, mail delivery since the storm. While I can understand a few days lag, we are now almost 2 weeks out without any mail and there are tax documents out there somewhere.

The residents have heard various things, like Merriefield has been backed up and the carriers can’t stay out any later than 3-3:30, but that does nothing to resolve the issue.

We have suffered with poor service from the S. Glebe post office for years and now we apparently can’t get any service.

A U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman apologized for the ongoing issues, but suggested, contrary to residents reports, that “normal operations” had resumed. Said USPS D.C. area spokeswoman Theresa Doherty:

We apologize for the inconvenience customers are experiencing. The Postal Service is working around the clock to make up for the delays caused by the storm. We ask that customers please contact their local Post Office for service updates. The Postmaster will be able to provide customers with information specific to your address location.

Delays were caused by the Postal Service needing to shut down last Saturday due to unsafe conditions, then followed by inaccessible roads and employees’ inability to report to work due metro and road closures. Since then, we have restored normal operations and are delivering throughout the D.C. metro area.

Reports of Arlington mail delivery problems from social media, after the jump.

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Douglas Park Civic Association meeting about postal service in the neighborhoodMail that goes undelivered for months. Packages delivered to the wrong address. Long lines and unfriendly service.

Those are just some of the issues with mail delivery and the post office in Douglas Park, residents say.

The neighborhood email listserv has been abuzz for months with reports of postal problems, and it’s not the first time the south Arlington community has experienced such issues.

Last year WJLA reported on mysterious mail problems in Douglas Park, including cases of mail that was inexplicably delivered several months too late, without so much as an explanation or apology.

On Wednesday night, four U.S. Postal Service officials addressed a meeting of the Douglas Park Civic Association to hear residents’ concerns. After some two years of off-and-on postal problems and two previous meetings with USPS officials, residents are frustrated to the point where they’re no longer reporting issues through official channels — only griping on the listserv.

“We’re just trying to desperately understand what we can do to get reliable mail service in this neighborhood,” said civic association president Adam Henderson. “The chatter I see on the listserv, quite honestly, a lot of people are so frustrated with the situation that they don’t want to call because they don’t think anything is going to be done.”

Postal officials apologized for the problems and promised action. They said the matter had made its way all the way to the top — to the U.S. Postmaster General.

“Douglas Park is definitely on the radar screen,” said Sharon Owens, Postal Service District Manager for Northern Virginia and the D.C. area. “Please let your community know that we are committed to improving it.”

A number of factors could be contributing to the erosion of mail reliability in the neighborhood.

Officials said the Postal Service is being hit by a wave of retirements — often leaving less experienced mail carriers who are still getting up to speed on their routes. Owens said USPS is trying out a pilot program to better train new mail carriers.

Another, more localized factor, has to do with topography. Douglas Park is hilly, with few businesses or large apartment buildings. That means that a mail carrier needs to walk for much of their route, which can be exhausting and makes the route less desirable. Because mail carriers with seniority are allowed to pick their routes, that has left a succession of less experienced mail carriers in Douglas Park, residents were told.

Walter Daniels, the local Postmaster, said he was surprised to hear of the problems, since the Postal Service had not been getting complaints about mail delivery in Douglas Park and thus assumed that the previous issues had been resolved.

“We’re in the business of customer service. I really am shocked,” he said. “It sounds like we’re having some mis-deliveries again. We will have to got back to the drawing board” in terms of employee training and “will start monitoring things more closely again.”

The officials also promised to improve customer service at the Arlington South post office, at 1210 S. Glebe Road, which has been the subject of a constant barrage of listserv and online complaints.

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Morning Notes

Traffic on the GW Parkway at night (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

APS Mulls Contract for School at TJ — The Arlington School Board tonight will consider a $4.7 million contract for architectural and engineering work on a proposed elementary school on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson Middle School. That’s despite well-organized neighborhood opposition to the school encroaching on Thomas Jefferson Park. [InsideNova]

Unreliable Mail Delivery in Douglas Park — Residents of Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood say their mail delivery has become considerably less reliable in the past year. Talk of missing mail, misdirected mail and delayed mail has reached a crescendo. The Postal Service says it’s investigating. [WJLA]

HOT Lanes Lawsuit Had ‘Unintended Consequences’ — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze acknowledged at Tuesday’s debate that Arlington County might have erred in pursuing an aggressive lawsuit against proposed High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. Howze said the suit “had unintended consequences with our relations with Richmond.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A U.S. Postal Service mail delivery truck flipped on its side in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store this afternoon.

The accident happened just after 1:00 p.m. outside the 7-Eleven at the corner of Old Dominion Drive and N. Vernon Street, across from the Lee Heights Shops. The mail carrier who was driving the truck told police he was trying to park when his foot somehow became stuck against the accelerator, causing the truck to hop the curb and do a 360 degree turn across the southbound lanes of Old Dominion Drive, before finally striking a parked sedan and flipping on its side.

The driver’s leg was pinned between the vehicle and the pavement, but a group of witnesses managed to lift the truck just enough to free him, according to police. He was then able to climb out of the truck on his own power.

The driver suffered lacerations to his leg and arm, but did not require transport to the hospital. In fact, he remained on scene to help workers transfer mail from the truck to other postal vehicles.

The postal carrier was given a citation by police for failure to maintain his vehicle.

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