First it was one, then it was two, then it was more than a dozen. Kevin Betts, owner of North Texas’ Novel Coffee Roasters, said that over the past three weeks, numerous shipments of his company’s fresh-roasted coffee were either delayed or lost in the mail.
Customers have been understanding, Betts said, but each time that happens, he’ll ship them another bag.
“I’m almost paying people to drink our coffee at this point just because I want them to have that good experience with our brand,” he said. “If they’re not confident they can get that through us, I’m certain they’re confident they can get that through Amazon.”
In recent days, USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has come under fire for implementing massive changes, including slashing post office hours and removing mailboxes and mail sorting machines. He’s since announced he’s delaying those cost-cutting measures until after the November election, but many customers and postal unions say the damage has already been done.
Betts said the changes go well beyond the political realm, where President Donald Trump has made mail-in voting an issue. They are also hurting small business owners who use USPS to deliver their products. After the coronavirus pandemic hit, Novel Coffee Roasters pivoted to focusing on online sales, which Betts said has been their “lifeline.”
Novel Coffee Roasters has used USPS to ship its coffee since 2013, Betts said. Yet DeJoy’s policies have impeded his business’s ability to reliably deliver their product at a competitive rate, he added. Soon, he may have to use more costly, private services, such as FedEx or UPS.
“I am at the whim of the postmaster general at this point,” Betts said, “which is a scary place to be.”
The pandemic had already been hard on post offices, said Jonathan Cage, executive vice president of the American Postal Workers Union; combined with DeJoy’s changes, it’s caused a “perfect storm.” Many people depend on USPS to deliver important medications and medical supplies, he said.
As of now, a combined total of 12 sorting machines have been removed from Dallas’ Main and Coppell’s North Texas post offices, Cage said. He said that DeJoy’s claim that doing so would make for more efficient operations has so far proven to be untrue.
“I mean, I think that’s a double negative,” Cage said. “How can I make your car faster if I remove the tires, you see what I’m saying?”
On top of sorting machines, some outlets have reported that mailboxes are being removed. That’s not the case in Texas, though, said Javier Bernal, the national business agent at the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Cage said he has a friend who hasn’t gotten his mail in three weeks. In addition, he said he received a shipment from Arizona within a matter of days, while it took two weeks for him to get a package sent locally.
Dallas voice actor Ric Spiegel said he’s waiting on several important pieces of mail to arrive at his P.O. box in the Main Post Office. Adding to the confusion is the fact that he’s signed up for its “informed delivery” program, in which customers receive picture updates of mail that’s soon to arrive.
Spiegel said he’ll usually receive a piece of mail within two days of getting a picture notification. But he’s been waiting on at least four letters to appear well beyond that time.
In addition, Spiegel said he’s worried about what DeJoy’s changes will mean for American democracy.
“If I get over being appalled by the fact that it’s going on … then what I’m left with is a profound fear about what’s going to be coming in November,” he said.
Democratic officials are accusing DeJoy, who is an ardent supporter of the Trump administration, of attempting to disenfranchise voters who will rely on mail-in ballots in the upcoming election. As a result of the pandemic, an increased number of Americans will likely use this option to avoid potentially catching the coronavirus at polling places.
Earlier this month, USPS officials sent letters to 46 states saying it could not guarantee all mail-in ballots would arrive in time to be tallied, according to The Washington Post. Texas received a “heightened warning” that its mailed ballots would be delivered too late.
Many Republicans fear that mail-in ballots could lead to widespread election fraud, a worry that Cage said has no basis in reality. Still, he said that he fears that a slowdown in service may occur, a fact that he and other union members take issue with.
“Postal workers in the American Postal Workers Union vehemently oppose any actions that slow down the mail and undermine the public postal service,” he said. “We have a firm commitment to serve the public, and we treat the mail as if it were our own.”