Albert, who lives in the Village of Great Neck, is frustrated and upset. He lives in an apartment building on Middle Neck Road and, in recent weeks, four separate packages mailed to him via the United States Postal Service (USPS) have gone missing.
Two of the items were nominal in value, like a replacement battery for his old-model phone and $25 cologne. The others were more valuable.
Albert has 30 tenants in his building, many of whom are elderly. He is aware of at least one other tenant who has also experienced missing mail recently. As a result of the repeated thefts, Albert was motivated to investigate.
Although his building has no doorman, there is a 24-hour camera that shows the tenant mailboxes. He requested the security footage for the dates that the missing packages were ostensibly received at his address (as indicated by delivery-confirmation data).
Based on the video footage he observed, on the dates that the missing packages were supposed to be delivered, there was no package placed in his mailbox. According to Albert, he has receipts for all of the missing packages with tracking numbers and the supposed delivery times.
He said that packages have only gone missing from the USPS, not from FedEx or Amazon.
Albert does not have proof of who actually stole the packages, but he noted further that the mail carrier is negligent with the mail in his building.
“Packages are left piled on the floor, not put in the mailbox. If there is a large package, the mailman is supposed to go to the individual apartment and knock on the door, but he never does. He is careless,” explained Albert.
“Since the first missing package in November, I have done everything possible to bring attention to this issue,” he continued. “I have contacted my building management, and I have spoken several times to the super of the building. I have filed a police report with the Third Precinct. I spoke with a detective at the precinct, but I don’t think that the case is being pursued. I haven’t heard from him again.”
Albert has complained to employees at the Old Village Post Office, to no avail. During repeated visits to the post office, the employees told him that the postmaster, Christopher Distl, is unavailable and not present at the office.
“I left many messages for Chris at the post office, but I did not get a call back,” said Albert.
He has also pursued the matter with elected government officials. When he contacted Great Neck Village Hall, he was advised that since the post office is federally run, the village has no jurisdiction. Late in November, he contacted Congressman Tom Suozzi’s office to request help. Apparently, an inquiry was made by Suozzi’s office because Albert did receive a call from the postmaster.
“I finally heard from Chris,” said Albert. “I guess it’s because of Suozzi. When I described the situation to Chris, he told me that the mail carrier would not be fired. His exact words were, ‘No one gets fired from my place.’”
In addition to Albert, a number of other concerned residents have reached out to the Great Neck Record for help.
Kitty Dadi, a 15-year resident of Great Neck, lives on Colgate Road. According to Dadi, for the past month and a half, she and all of her neighbors have experienced problems receiving the mail.
“Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t and, when we do, most times it’s after six or seven at night,” complained Dadi. “My whole street is affected, and we have made numerous complaints to the postal service, even going over physically to the East Shore Road annex and speaking to a manager who claimed the routes had been changed. There was a new person and she was out sick. Really, at this point, it’s ridiculous.”
Out of frustration, Great Neck resident David Golbert wrote a letter to the Postmaster General, Megan J. Brennan.
His letter began: “I am writing to share the extreme frustration that I and many of my neighbors feel. The postal service that we receive in Great Neck is quite frankly terrible. Every week we deal with mail misdelivered or not delivered at all. When we contact local managers, we get polite answers, but never the satisfaction of having this problem solved. Many of us receive time-sensitive documents relating to finances, health, etc. We depend on having these documents in a timely manner. That just isn’t happening in Great Neck.”
A fourth individual contacted us, also to express his concern about missing mail deliveries at his apartment building in Great Neck.
Great Neck has three post offices, the Great Neck Main Post Office at 1 Welwyn Rd., Annex Post Office at 308 East Shore Rd. and Old Village Post Office at 661 Middle Neck Rd.
In response to residents’ concerns, I reached out to the Old Village Post Office. When I called the post office during early-morning business hours, no one picked up the phone. I also emailed Postmaster Christopher Distl, and provided my phone number. A few hours later, I did receive a call back and we had a pleasant conversation.
According to Distl, the mail carrier for Albert’s building is an “A+ carrier,” with many years of service, who has no history of misconduct. In fact, he said that there is no record of widespread package theft in Great Neck, despite that it is an affluent area.
Distl’s understanding is that the building in question had security cameras installed in response to a number of robberies within the building by either neighbors or visitors. He acknowledged the problems that were expressed to him by Albert, but said he believed the fault did not lie with the mail carrier. He emphasized that he is always available to answer the concerns of the public at 516-466-6281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I am here to help the public,” Distl assured. “I am here every day.”
Since there is insurance coverage for the missing packages, Albert will be made whole financially by getting a refund. The shipper or seller of the products will receive an insurance reimbursement.
So, you might ask, “What’s the problem? No harm done.”
But, beyond the issues of the inconvenience of delayed or missing mail, petty theft and even insurance fraud, Albert is greatly bothered by the deeper and more distressing issue of corruption and government ineptitude. Even in the face of competition from other delivery options, there appears to be little incentive for customer service, or motivation to improve the public’s opinion of the USPS.
Albert is concerned that if the small number of poorly performing employees have job security and suffer no adverse consequences, and those in charge are unresponsive to customer complaints, it seems we can expect more of the same problems in the future.
For residents who are experiencing extreme delays in getting their mail, frustration levels are high and reasonable solutions seem hard to find.
According to the USPS’s website, the overwhelming majority of postal service employees work conscientiously to move the nation’s mail to its proper destination. Unfortunately, a small number of employees abuse the public’s trust by delaying or stealing the mail. It is the job of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) special agents to identify dishonest employees and take proper investigative steps to have them prosecuted and removed from the postal service.
“During the reporting period from October 2014 through September 2015, OIG special agents conducted 1,607 internal mail-theft investigations, resulting in 493 arrests, 1,220 administrative actions and approximately $478,000 in monetary benefit for the postal service.
Those who have experienced missing mail in Great Neck or have another problem related to postal delivery can file a formal complaint at www.uspsoig.gov/hotline. If your problem involves mail delivery in Great Neck Village, you should contact Distl first to see if he can offer a remedy or explanation.
Finally, I want to give a shout out to my own mail carriers, who have been consistently wonderful during the past 25+ years that I have lived in Great Neck. Like everyone else, I have experienced occasional minor problems with mail delivery, and I confess that waiting on line at the post offices in town is not my favorite activity. But, I know full well that no business or system is completely error proof, and humans—and even computers—make mistakes. So, I send warm thank yous to the everyday good people doing good things in our town. Happy New Year to all of my family, friends and neighbors.
Kings Point resident Jacqueline Harounian is a regular contributor to the Great Neck Record. She recently earned a graduate degree in behavioral forensic psychology.