The check is in the mail – or maybe not
That old standby line – the check was lost in the mail – is gaining more and more credibility, according to a Grass Valley business owner.
Ace Propane’s Joe Doty said up to 20 checks mailed to him from Nevada City, Grass Valley and Penn Valley locations over the last four months never showed up.
“We’re not talking late – we’re talking lost,” he said.
As a business owner, Doty said he’s concerned about lost payments. (Doty, Douglas Robertson and William D. Robertson are the controlling members of a corporation that owns the business.)
“They say ‘we sent it.’ We say we didn’t get it – it’s not good for business,” Doty said. “Now it’s a good excuse to say the check got lost in the mail.”
With the U.S. Postal Service faced with the task of cutting its budget by $5 billion by 2006, Doty fears matters will only get worse for business owners.
“A lot of us depend on the timely delivery of mail and the assurance that it won’t just vanish,” he said. “If the Postal Service doesn’t maintain adequate infrastructure and facilities, the situation is going to get worse.”
On a personal note, Doty said it’s been a recent problem getting his credit card payments delivered on time.
“Now when I get my credit card bills, I send them the next day so I don’t get dinged with a late charge,” Doty said. “In December and January, I couldn’t get them there on time.”
Where the mail’s being lost “we have no idea,” said Patty Hawley, distribution window clerk at the Cedar Ridge Post Office.
Sometimes mail is improperly routed, she said, but it usually turns up eventually.
Hawley said she hasn’t noticed anything exceptional at Cedar Ridge, as far as lost mail goes.
Mail can be improperly routed, the address can be wrong or illegible, and there’s always a small chance that a letter gets destroyed in processing machines, said Grass Valley Postmaster Rick Beress.
But it’s highly unlikely that a piece of mail should just disappear, he said.
Postal Service spokeswoman Susie Glover said theft has been a problem with rural mailboxes in various Northern California locations, but added she hasn’t heard of any widespread mail theft in Nevada County.
If mail is being lost or theft is suspected, Glover said both senders and receivers should contact their local post office, the Postal Services’ consumer affairs division or the postal inspector. Call 1-800-275-8777 for referral numbers.
“It’s important they let us know so we can find out what the problem is,” Glover said. “The mail doesn’t just get lost.”
Buress said complaints about late-arriving bills and credit card payments are becoming more frequent.
Sometimes the delays result from processing problems at the receiving end, he said.
But if the delay was due to an error by the postal service, customers can avoid late charges by requesting confirmation from the post office which states their payment was mailed early enough to arrive on time, Beress said.
Glover said the recent spate of mail delivery problems appear to be isolated to Nevada County.
In March, 215 absentee ballots arrived too late to be counted. Also in March, and this month, welfare checks arrived late at western Nevada County destinations.
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