MARTINEZ, Calif. – Even before hearing multiple residents complain about missing mail, incorrect deliveries and other problems, Councilmember Mark Ross suggested Postmaster Jeanette Davis and members of the public meet in a town hall setting, perhaps with the Martinez City Council as moderators.
The Martinez Post Office has been the subject of frustration by residents who said their neighborhoods failed to receive mail for a week, that mail consistently is delivered to the wrong addresses, that mail carriers work into the night and that posted hours for passport services are not kept.
Many of the complaints aired Wednesday during a meeting of the Council resembled those raised in 2015, when Lara DeLaney, now vice mayor, handed Davis 11 pages listing missed deliveries, lost mail, poor customer service in the lobby and mail that arrived late.
In 2015, the Council reached out to the United States Postal Service, and spokesperson Augustine Ruiz acknowledged that 40 formal complaints had been registered about mail delivery and personnel in Martinez.
Some residents told the Council in 2015 they quit using the Martinez post office, going to Walnut Creek or Pacheco instead, and no longer use the mail to get important orders, such as prescriptions.
Councilmembers said the situation improved after that. But complaints began to rise early this year.
Delaney said she has been told of packages that were not delivered, others thrown randomly into a yard rather than set on the front porch. Constituents have told her the post office wasn’t keeping its own posted passport service hours and that entire neighborhoods have failed to get mail for a week.
“In 16 years, I had not heard a word,” she said. But in the past three years, complaints have reached “an unabating level.”
Postal service is a federal concern, and in the past, City Manager Brad Kilger has recommended complaints be directed to Martinez’s two members of the House of Representatives, Mike Thompson (D-Napa) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek.) Their districts split this city.
DeLaney said the two members of Congress have been told of the complaints, but the problems haven’t gone away.
Councilmember Noralea Gipner said she, too, has heard of neighborhoods that failed to get mail for a week. “I feel they know what they are talking about,” she said later.
Mayor Rob Schroder said his anecdotal experience is that after 2015, things got better, and he didn’t get any complaints until three months ago. “What you did worked,” he told Davis.
Davis said she brought members of her staff as well as retired postal employees with her Wednesday, so they could be made aware of citizens’ concerns.
She said she talks to her employees, coaches them and trains them to deliver mail accurately.
Unlike comments made by President Donald Trump that the online mail order business Amazon is bad for the postal service, Davis said, “Amazon is a wonderful product. Amazon is a good thing. Customers go online and order things.” They also communicate about their orders.
She said operating the post office in Martinez, which has 37 routes inside the city limits as well as in unincorporated areas, is a challenge. “But we don’t run away from a challenge. Everything is transparent. Big Brother is always watching.”
She continued, “I have an open door policy. Any customer can call me.”
She disagreed with those who said a large number of customers had gone without mail for a week. “I don’t believe that’s possible…..a whole neighborhood? That’s not possible. And it’s the first I’ve heard of it,” she said. “It’s not acceptable.”
She answered those who said they had tried to call her to discuss their problems. “In January, the phones were malfunctioning,” she said. “We do strive to handle each customer complaint…..it needs to be solved permanently. Mail is important.”
She said notices are placed on damaged clustered mail boxes, if they no longer can be used for mail drops. Usually individuals with damaged mail boxes contact the post office, she said.
Last year, Martinez residents had their mail service disrupted for weeks after boxes were damaged. Residents told some reporters they hadn’t gotten mail in two months, and that it took up to an hour to pick up mail at the Alhambra Avenue post office. Others said they had not been notified of the problem, so they had set mail out to be picked up.
Some residents echoed that Wednesday, saying they were not told more recently when carriers determined their boxes could not be used.
The post office is getting better locks for cluster boxes, and that should reduce those incidents.
Davis said she knows people get their medicine by mail, one of those important deliveries.
“I am involved in the operation from beginning to end,” she added.
Wilma Murray recited the same list of complaints, and said the problem was not carriers, but with management. She said she went to the post office to talk to Davis, who sent a supervisor who took her number and promised Davis would call. But she never got the call until she wrote the consumer affairs office.
“My point is we are suffering,” she said.
Another speaker, Rhonda Beatty-Gallo said she had put her mail on hold during a vacation, but it came anyway, only to be stopped and was unavailable after she returned. Mail comes to her house that is not addressed to her street, let alone her house number. She said she has gotten grocery ads after the ads expired. “I avoid the Martinez post office like the plague,” she said.
Another said mail delivery had gotten so uncertain that she switched to a mail box. But that was no improvement. She has received August bills in December, and missed a chance to modify her Medicare insurance because the information didn’t arrive in time. “This is an endemic problem,” she said.
One woman said she met with Davis and left “knowing it’s not going to change. She has tracked mail, and learned if it is marked “delivered,” it means it has arrived at the Martinez Post Office, not at the address on the mail.
She said carriers have left prescription medication and other mail on top of her mail box, a locking box because of past mail thefts.
She has been home and watched carriers deliver mail, but when she went to her box, she found notes from the post office. “Sorry we missed you,” they said. “I have a 100 pound Doberman,” she said. If she doesn’t hear a doorbell, the dog’s barking alerts her.
One carrier also spoke, apologizing to those who expressed their frustration with mail service. Mail carriers do take different routes, especially when one is ill or on vacation. “We try to do everything to get your mail to you. If we make a mistake, we’re human.” She said the post office is dealing with several trainees at the moment.
Ross expressed some sympathy for Davis. “We sit up here and take the heat,” he told her, saying that Wednesday, “you have taken heat.”
But the issues need to be addressed, he told the postmaster, reminding her that Martinez is part of the Pony Express mail service history.
He and Schroder both encouraged Davis to consider the town hall meeting.
“I’ll be in touch,” she answered.