Public Utilities Commission Chair and former State Representative Mina Morita recently took to Facebook to complain about the runaround she recently experienced at the Hanalei post office. Her experience probably sounds familiar to anyone served by a small rural post office, where hours have been cut back dramatically.
Morita said she was trying to comply with the annual post office “address verification,” but has a problem because she works in Honolulu at the PUC during the week, and can only get to the post office in person on Saturdays.
If you live in an area without home delivery, your post office box is free as long as you can verify your residence. Otherwise, you pay a commercial fee.
Here’s her tale, a bit shortened.
Round 1. “I went in with my two ID’s, driver’s license and my state of Hawaii work ID badge. I noted that the form did not say specifically what kind of ID is required. The guy wouldn’t take it and said I needed a utility bill. Told him all the utility bills are in my husband’s name. The guy says I needed a bill that showed my street address.”
• Round 2. “My daughter goes in on Monday with a copy of my driver’s license, my tax assessment and my homeowner’s insurance policy invoice – they won’t take it because it has to be a utility bill and if the bill is not in my name they need a note from my husband.”
• Round 3. Morita returns to Kauai to find a notice that her mail service has been “suspended” until the address verification is complete.
• Round 4. “I go in and I tell them my daughter brought all the info in back in December, you all told her I couldn’t use my tax assessment or home insurance invoice and wouldn’t take it. Then they tell me oh no we accept those but you have to bring it in person!”
• Round 5. Morita has to now pay a post office fee and a late penalty because she doesn’t have time to go home and get the required documentation of residency again because she can’t get there and back before the post office closes (it’s only open for two hours on Saturdays).
• Round 6. She is forced to file a written complaint to get a refund of her payments.
With the shortened hours at our small post offices, including the one here in Kaaawa, no one who has a job can get to the post office during the week if they need service, and the shortened Saturday hours can make it very difficult to pick up packages or anything else that is held for pickup.
We’ve had important mail returned to the sender when we had to be in town on Saturday morning and couldn’t get back to the post office during business hours until the following Saturday. Too late, we sent it back already.
Rigid rules make it impossible for good USPS staff to give the personal service in small communities that used to be the norm. Now if you receive a letter that isn’t addressed exactly right, it risks being returned even though the post office employees know who you are and will tell you it had been sent back. That never used to happen.
Hopefully Morita’s complaint can help document the problems we face with mail delivery service in so many areas of the state.