Employees of the U.S. postal service (USPS) have been falsifying package-delivery data in an attempt to make their statistics more palatable, according to new data obtained by The Washington Post. This inaccurate data-keeping began before the pandemic, but it’s worsened in the last six months.
This falsified data has taken multiple forms. The most prominent is packages being marked as delivered before they had actually been dropped at customers’ doorsteps. Another sees employees utilizing codes meant to mark packages as undeliverable (for reasons of blockages or the customer not being at home) when the package had never left the post office in the first place.
The data set — along with interviews with almost a dozen USPS employees — reveals the problematic lengths postal workers feel are necessary to keep the USPS alive.
Nothing new — This is not a novel problem — it’s one the USPS has been dealing with for years. Package lateness can affect a post office’s chances of obtaining compensation increases. Mail carriers and their supervisors often take matters into their own hands when there simply aren’t enough employees to deliver everything on time.
It’s a vicious cycle, really. Staffing and pay cuts make it more difficult to complete the day’s deliveries; those missed deliveries hurt a post office’s metrics, leading to more cuts and, therefore, more missed deliveries. With the federal government entirely unwilling to help, employees are turning to alternatives solutions.
But getting worse — As you might imagine, the USPS’s problems have not been improving in recent months. The Trump administration — in particular Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy — has made cost-cutting efforts like shutting down mail-sorting machines the norm in recent months.
Postal workers have, in general, been fighting back against cuts. But mounting pressure from supervisors has pushed more employees than ever before to falsely flag deliveries in order to keep agencies’ delivery numbers high.
An investigation in 2017 found that about 1 percent of all packages were being scanned late in the day to avoid missed delivery metrics. That number had jumped to 7 percent by September 2020.
It isn’t going unnoticed — The timing for these efforts couldn’t be worse. With most of the country stuck at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s quite obvious when a package’s delivery has been falsified.
“If a package failed to be delivered, usually that means they knocked and no one was there. But we’re working from home. We’re home all the time,” one person in Washington, DC told The Washington Post. “That they had failed to deliver it seemed impossible.”
With no end in sight to seemingly bottomless resource cuts and bureaucracy, postal workers find themselves stuck between truths that will further those cuts or lies that could potentially stave them off.