Brooklyn post offices give new meaning to phrase, going postal

A survey of Brooklyn post offices conducted by a local elected official reveals what many post office customers already knew: Long lines and tedious waits are the rule of thumb at many branches.

Assemblymember Dov Hikind’s office conducted the survey at 10 borough post offices over the course of a month, beginning in early November, and timing the study to include both the holiday rush and the quieter time that preceded it.

The branches surveyed were Bay Ridge, 5501 Seventh Avenue; Blythebourne, 1200 51st Street; Cadman Plaza, 271 Cadman Plaza; Dyker Heights, 8320 13th Avenue; Kensington, 419 McDonald Avenue; Kings Highway, 1610 East 19th Street; Midwood, 1288 Coney Island Avenue; Parkville, 6618 20th Avenue; Sunset Park, 5102 Fifth Avenue; and Van Brunt, 275 Ninth Street.

Of the 10 post offices visited on numerous occasions by Hikind’s staff, the Bay Ridge branch was rated highest, followed by Sunset Park. The lowest rating was given to the Kings Highway Branch, with the Dyker Heights post office ranked just above it.

“We sent staff out, four or five people spending dozens of hours and going multiple times to each post office on different days and at different times,” explained Hikind, who said the survey had begun after both he and his wife had experienced long waits at different post offices.

“What we found was very disconcerting,” he noted of the survey, adding, “It’s no surprise that the post office continues to lose money when they treat consumers as if they don’t want them, as if they’re a bother. It’s very unfortunate. If the post office were a private business, they would be out of business.”

Based on Hikind’s survey, the average wait ranged from one minute, at Sunset Park, to 27 minutes at Dyker Heights, with Dyker Heights also recording the longest wait, a whopping 45 minutes.

The average number of people waiting in line at different stations ranged from a low of four at Sunset Park to a high of 24 at Cadman Plaza, and “many seniors” were observed waiting in line at Blythebourne, Cadman Plaza, Dyker Heights and Kensington.

“The waiting period was the biggest complaint,” stressed Hikind, who emphasized that, in many cases, elderly people were forced to stand in line for significant amounts of time. “It’s one thing when it’s a young person waiting on line,” he remarked. “It’s another when it’s someone in their seventies. That’s really unconscionable.”

One of the most unpleasant incidents recorded by Hikind’s staff occurred at Cadman Plaza where, they said, “A customer was overcharged for stamps earlier in the day and came back to get a refund and he waited 45 minutes and was shuffled from window to window and the manager left him standing with no instruction.”

Other incidents reported by Hikind in a letter to John Potter, the U.S. Postmaster General, included “a worker yell(ing) at several customers for not knowing how to complete forms or apply for passports” and a full mailbox remaining unemptied at Blythebourne where, said Hikind, “Customers were forced to wait on line to hand in their prepared items to a clerk for mailing, resulting in even more wasted time.”

Additionally, at two of the branches %u2013 Dyker Heights and Van Brunt %u2013 a window did not open up to serve customers until the station had already been open about 15 minutes, said Hikind.

While the post office is dealing with a severe financial crisis, that’s no excuse for lack of courtesy, Hikind opined, noting, “It doesn’t cost any money to treat people like a mensch.”

In addition, he said, even without a significant outlay of money, “There are things they can do internally to make things more efficient.”

Not all the news was bad, though. Hikind’s office called Sunset Park, “the one bright spot of the survey.” In addition, staffers noted that managers at Kings Highway, Midwood, Blythebourne, and Kensington, opened additional windows when the lines got especially long, or tried themselves to make the line move more quickly.

In response to a request for comment from this paper, USPS Spokesperson Darleen Reid-DeMeo sent the following statement,

“During the holiday season,” Reid-DeMeo wrote, “Brooklyn postal customers may have experienced long wait times while conducting business in our postal lobbies. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and we want you to know that we are working very hard to improve your experience with us.

“Within the past month,” she went on “we’ve put the following measures in place to better serve the Brooklyn community: Installed a bell system to alert postal supervisors when our retail sales and service associates need assistance with customers; placed lobby directors in busy lobbies to speed up our customer’s trip to the post office; implemented dedicated windows for package pick-up, stamps and money order only purchases, and identified dedicated windows at some sites for senior exclusive services.”

In addition, said Reid-DeMeo, customers can utilize the 17 non-post office sites that offer post office products and services.

“Customers with specific concerns are encouraged to call 1-800 ASK-USPS,” she concluded. “We appreciate your patience as we strive to enhance our service to you and your postal experience with us.”

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