FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. - Photos obtained by FOX 13 provide a glimpse of the Christmastime chaos ensuing in the San Juan Islands. They show Amazon packages piling up at the Friday Harbor post office.
Workers are saying the United States Postal Service on San Juan Island is so overwhelmed by the surge of shipments, tents were set up outside to accommodate the influx.
SAME STORY, DIFFERENT STATE
These complaints do not appear isolated to the San Juans. Exhausted mail carriers in rural Bemidji, Minnesota told the Washington Post they’re concerned about the volume of packages they are processing. A statement from them reads:
"Since early November, Bemidji has been bombarded by a sudden onslaught of Amazon packages — and local postal workers say they have been ordered to deliver those packages first."
That same workforce also spoke with local paper, The Bemidji Pioneer.
"Mail isn’t being delivered on many routes because we’re spending 12 hours a day just delivering Amazon packages."
Those small-town Minnesota concerns caught the attention of Senator Amy Klobuchar. The congresswoman sent a letter to USPS’ Postmaster General. The first paragraph of that letter reads:
"I write regarding recent reports of increased Amazon package volumes overwhelming post offices, with Amazon packages being prioritized over mail from other customers at the Bemidji Post Office and across the country. Postal workers and customers have contacted my office to express their concerns about the resulting mail delays, stress on postal operations, and impact on postal workers. These delivery issues are unacceptable, and I urge you to take the steps necessary to support our postal workers and ensure the timely delivery of mail."
ROOTS OF THE PROBLEM: URBAN VERSUS RURAL
In downtown Seattle, Amazon trucks deliver parcels straight to doorsteps. However, in a remote location like the San Juans, this is not the case. The company has been relying on USPS and the United Parcel Service to make the rounds. Marc Franklin with Aeronautical Services says his company has been contracted by UPS to serve the San Juans since the 1970s. But now, Franklin believes there has been a shakeup—he’s now receiving 6,000 fewer packages per week.
"On November 1st, it was like somebody just drew a line in the sand and all of a sudden, our packages didn’t show up anymore," said Franklin.
A new story published this week in the Washington Post suggests Amazon switched its delivery contract from UPS to the post office in at least some communities.
Amazon spokesperson Sam Stephenson says the company does not discuss relationships with partners like USPS and UPS.
"We apologize for any delays experienced in and around the San Juan Islands," said Stephenson. "We’ll continue refining volume numbers with the USPS and other carriers that serve the San Juan Islands so that operations run smoothly, and customers are able get their packages this holiday season."
Amazon contends post offices that accept Amazon packages approve shipping projections on a weekly basis.
"As we do with a variety of delivery partners and carriers across the country, we work directly with the USPS to balance our delivery needs with their available capacity," said Stephenson.
USPS and UPS struck a similar tune. Spokespeople told FOX 13 they do not publicly discuss business relationships.
A statement from USPS back in November reads in part:
"First and foremost, the Postal Service apologizes for any inconvenience our customers may have experienced. It’s no secret the Postal Service is facing staffing and hiring challenges nationwide, including throughout the state of Washington. All of our offices, including those on the islands, have skilled staffing in place, overseeing the day-to-day operations and using every available resource at our disposal to provide the level of service our customers have come to depend upon."