08/13/07 — Residents: Some Pikeville mail is now getting lost in translation

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Residents: Some Pikeville mail is now getting lost in translation

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on August 13, 2007 1:45 PM

Glenda Parks just wanted her makeup.

But like many Pikeville residents asked to use a street address for a delivery, she didn't get the cosmetics package she ordered online.

"We had ordered it and paid for it," the lifelong Pikeville resident said. "They sent it back because they didn't have a post office box."

Mrs. Parks eventually got her makeup, after some finagling with the online retailer.

But Pikeville's town officials say the problem has been much worse than missing makeup for some folks -- including town officials themselves.

Pikeville Mayor Pro Tempore Bruce Thomas said his wife was in the hospital and didn't get certain bills.

"They kept calling us that we hadn't paid our bill," Thomas said. "And it was coming through the post office, evidently. And I found that other people in town are having the same problem."

The town has been told it's too small for street delivery -- and it also has a long history of service exclusively through post office boxes, a spokesperson said.

Enola Rice, North Carolina's spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, said Pikeville's Post Office does have misaddressed mail problems.

She said many town residents are still using post office box numbers that are about seven years old.

The post office moved to a new location on Big Daddy's Road in early 2000, Mrs. Rice said. But residents still use box numbers from the old location.

"(Postal workers) in that office every day are sorting through about 200 pieces of mail that are not properly addressed," she said. "Employees in Pikeville are spending quite a bit of time matching old P.O. box numbers."

When a street address comes in without a post office box number, postal employees use a notification form that asks the customer to notify the sender about the post office box.

Despite those efforts, she said, some of that mail does wind up going back to its sender.

"The main element to proper and efficient delivery is accurate addressing," Mrs. Rice said.

But the Internet age has brought forth commerce that relies on electronic verification -- and some senders won't ship to P.O. box addresses.

Mrs. Rice said they are ways around that -- customers like Mrs. Parks can talk to the retailer to ensure proper shipping arrangements.

But Commissioner Johnny Weaver, who does landscaping and other tasks through a site management business, says the problem has gotten worse.

Important state documents didn't get delivered to him at one point, Weaver said.

"It seems to be escalating ... you can't trust the Post Office," Weaver said. "After talking with the postmaster, they said 'There's nothing I can do about it, and it will get worse.'"

Weaver said he can tell senders he knows about the post office's requirements, but he worries about mail he might not know he is getting, the commissioner said.

"They can educate me, but everybody who mails to me?" Weaver said. "You can't control what everybody sends to you."

Commissioner Edith McClenny pinpoints the problem to the retirement of former Postmaster Billy Hales, a longtime Pikeville resident himself.

"He got us all kind of spoiled," Mrs. McClenny said. "We in Pikeville are just sort of one big happy family here. He (Hales) knew if a piece of mail that came in didn't have our post office box number on it. He'd memorized all the post office boxes, I reckon."

Weaver thinks the Postal Service ought to be able to come up with technology that could match Hales' post office box prowess.

"I don't know what the problem is -- with today's technology, why you can't get mail delivered to the street address," Commissioner Johnny Weaver said.

Mayor Herbert Siegel agreed.

"Whether it's at the processing center or here, our local postal authorities should have a cross reference," he said. "I'm not going to tell them how to do their job -- but it can be done."