2013-07-18 / Front Page

Mail delays causing newspapers, bulk mailers to lose customers

KYLE HARRIS news1@bullardnews.com

A Bullard letter carrier prepares to run his mail delivery route. Since the closing of the Tyler distribution service, mail delivery is running slow. PHOTO BY KYLE HARRIS A Bullard letter carrier prepares to run his mail delivery route. Since the closing of the Tyler distribution service, mail delivery is running slow. PHOTO BY KYLE HARRIS Two months after the closure of the East Texas Processing and Distribution Center near Tyler, United States Postal Service delivery delays are causing East Texas bulk mailers to lose customers.

Texas PressAssociation’s Periodicals Consultant Joel Allis said the USPS knowingly stated delays would occur due to plant closures.

“Deliveries that were going to the same (processing) plant for years now go to a completely new plant,” he said. “It is not good for first class, parcels or anything when stuff travels further and you have larger quantities.”

Allis said the only way he could envision bulkmailers, newspapers in particular, gaining control on delivery times would be to manually drop mail shipments at target cities.

“We are dealing with a lowered expectation of service now, knowing that some newspapers will lose subscribers because of it,” he said.

Bluebonnet Publishing is the publisher of the Bullard Banner News, Chandler-Brownsboro Statesman, Tri-County Leader, Lindale News & Times, Wood County Democrat, Mineola Monitor and Kilgore News Herald. Since the ETPDC’s closing, all Bluebonnet newspapers except Kilgore are processed in Coppell, roughly 120 miles northwest of Tyler by way of Interstate 20. Kilgore is now processed in Shreveport, Louisiana, roughly 100 miles east of Tyler, by way of Interstate 20.

Bill Woodall, co-owner of Bluebonnet Publishing, said the delay of the delivery of time sensitive material like the weekly and bi-weekly newspapers Bluebonnet publishes is ultimately causing the loss of subscribers.

“Every day we deal with complaints from subscribers who have suddenly started experiencing delays in delivery of their newspaper,” Woodall said. “A subscriber to one of our newspapers told me last week she’ll go two or three weeks without receiving a paper and then she’ll get three in one day.”

Longtime subscribers who have always received their newspapers on-time are suddenly receiving them up to several days late.

“I can’t begin to count how many have said ‘if you can’t fix it, just cancel my subscription and I’ll read it online’,” he said. “We’re losing out-of-town subscribers because of the post office. We’ve resisted requiring subscriptions to our on-line edition but that will change – because of unusual delivery of the printed paper, I predict within six months we’ll be requiring a subscription for unrestricted access to our website so we can maintain enough revenue to pay reporters.”

Bluebonnet Publishing’s Circulation Manager, Ann Reeves, said she regularly takes calls from customers that receive their newspaper five or six days late, and some up to 10 days late.

Reeves said she counted 73 emails in her inbox from the beginning of June detailing delivery issues with customers. Staff at the Lindale and Wood County offices reported they regularly field calls from between 20 and 30 customers each week about delays.

The ETPDC is one of many distribution centers in Texas to have recently closed.

McKinney Boyd, Public Affairs Officer for the USPS, said the company is hemorrhaging money, requiring the closure of distribution centers.

“The United States Postal Service is dealing with a financial challenge right now, losing $25 million each day,” Boyd said. “Most Americans aren’t using the mail anymore, and the postal service is doing what it can to remain solvent.”

Boyd said the USPS is looking at ways to maximize its use of facilities, transfer networks and employees.

“We are looking at opportunities to save money,” he said. “When you have a distribution facility, you encounter costs such as utilities, maintenance, salaries and benefits for workers. We are looking to keep our existing facilities in great working order.

“We ask that your readers bear with us as we are in the process of implementing a number of initiatives to improve our service.”

Boyd said the USPS had only fielded one complaint from a bulkmailer about delivery delays.

Gary Hegar, owner of Country Mailer, a third-party mailer in Longview, said the delays haven’t cost his business any money yet, but they could.

“The closure of the plant in Tyler has drastically altered mail delivery in East Texas,” Hegar said. “My customers are seeing anywhere from three, to five, to seven days in delay in mail.”

Hegar, who lives in Big Sandy, said he decided to conduct an analysis on how much extra time the mail system is actually taking. He mailed a letter to his home from Longview, 23 miles away, receiving it in two days.

“My customers cannot depend on my service anymore,” he said. “My customers are telling me if they can’t depend on the postal service to deliver in a timely manner, they’ll just quit mailing.”

Currently, there are 15 mail-processing plants still in operation in the four major mail districts in Texas.

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