USPS on Vashon – problems with the postal service in 2022

When my Grandmother was a little girl in the early 1900’s on Vashon Island, her family rented a cabin on Corbin Beach. Back then, the Island was a place for berry farms, logging, and some summer rentals. S. D. Sherman’s schooner boat shuffled folks from Seattle to Vashon. With the boom of folks on the Island, Post Offices popped up between 1890 to 1911, serving the various Island communities. It was in 1905 that Fred Kingsbury became the first Rural Free Delivery (RFD) driver on the island.

As a young girl in the 1970s, I have fond memories of walking with my Grandmother up the short hill to the boxes to collect the daily mail and a copy of the Beachcomber. I now live on Vashon full time in a small home just one block away from the Post Office. My mailbox is at the end of my driveway though I had gotten to know the regular mail carrier as he delivered my packages to my front door. He would give me a friendly wave through the window and ocassionally stopped for a quick chat about the weather if I was already outside. Vashon has always had that small-town feeling where you wave at passers-by, stop to chat with your neighbors, and small talk with the delivery drivers. So, you can imagine my dismay at the animosity I have witnessed the last couple of years as residents post complaint after complaint in the Vashonites and Vashonites Rant groups on Facebook.

Vashonites experiencing problems with the Postal Service

I was an admin for the first few years that the Vashonites Facebook group existed (2014 to 2016). During that time I hadn’t seen much about the USPS office or the postal workers. However, in 2017 the other admins and I started seeing people post about misdeliveries of packages from Amazon. The phenomenon started with a few simple psost that went something like “Does anyone know <insert name here>? I have a package delivered to me by accident.” Eventually leading to more posts that would say something like “Amazon says that USPS delivered my package, but I didn’t get it.” The problem became so noticeable that the Beachcomber published a piece titled Islanders continue to experience problems with postal service in September 2017 by Susan Reimer.

In 2020, with the added stress of a pandemic, residents of the Island relied heavily on packages from Amazon (and various other businesses) for crucial supplies (prescriptions, medical supplies, food, etc.). Unfortunately, the pandemic reduced the labor force needed to process those deliveries. The shortage of postal clerks and sorters in the Post Office itself and delivery drivers began to take its toll on the community.

packages delivered to Vashon address

On January 12, 2022, the Beachcomber published an article by Jenna Dennison titled Islanders experience delays in mail delivery. She states, “Last week found the Vashon post office with lines out the door, and the parking lot filled to capacity. On Wednesday, afternoon, two postal employees were seen working the main counter and assisting islanders.” she cited conversations with USPS officials stating that the delays were seen across the state and were due to inclement weather conditions making it near impossible to deliver the mail. In July of 2022, Jenna Dennison wrote another Beachcomber article titled USPS searches for staff to ease the strain on Vashon Post Office, citing the Burton office’s closure and the staff shortage as the main reasoning for the issues found around the Island. She states, “According to USPS Strategic Communications Specialist Lecia Hall, USPS is looking to fill a total of 15 openings at the Vashon Post Office. So far, seven of those openings have been filled.”

The closing of the Burton Post Office

The Burton Post Office closed it’s doors in April 2022. In an article posted to the Beachcomber on March 23, 2022 titled Burton post office to soon close its doors by Elizabeth Shepherd, Shephard writes that the closure was due to a negotiation breakdown during the facilities building lease renewal. Harry Larsen, who managed the property owned by a trust in the name of his late mother, Ellen Larsen, had provided more details to the Beachcomber, including that the Postmaster was unwilling to allow him to perform any maintenance to for the building without 24 hours notice. Larson had tales of neglect to the building by the USPS and said, “We don’t like being treated this way and we’d like to see the post office management be directed to clean up their act — and in this case, [we want] to be able to go in there to do maintenance.”

With the impasse between the USPS and Larson, an agreement to renew the lease could not be reached, thus leading to the decision to close the office that had served the Burton community for over 100 years.

The complaints have been escalating

We are now heading towards then end of the Summer of 2022, and the problem has worsened. Admins of the Vashonites group report that they see at least one post a day in which someone is missing a package or has received someone else’s delivery from the USPS. The Vashonites Rant group is flooded with complaints about packages left in the rain, tossed on the ground next to their mailbox, or thrown in a neighboring ditch. In addition to packages being tossed aside, there has been an increase in thefts since the packages are no longer being left on residents’ doorsteps. The type of complaints include:

  • Mail not delivered for several days
    Residents have reported that standard mail has been delivered weeks after they were scheduled to arrive. Two woman reported that they have yet to see her IRS check.
  • Mail/Packages delivered to the wrong address
    The Vashonites group alone shows posts of people reaching out looking for the rightful owner to misdelivered mail.
  • Missing packages (often life saving medical supplies)
    One Islander (who wishes to remain anonymous) reported that his important medical supplies were marked as delivered but he did not see the USPS driver leave a package eventhough he was home all day.
  • “Attempted delivery will try again” notices
    A long time friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) reported that she has often recieved notifications on Amazon that there was an attempted delivery, but will try again eventhough she was home all day and didn’t see the USPS driver.
  • Packages left on busy roads
    A long time Island resident (someone who I have known since I was young who wishes to remain anonymous) sent me an email with the photo you see here to the right. He said that packages are being left by the mailbox rather than delivered to his doorstep as they had for years. As he states “It’s a busy street. Lots and lots of people go by every day. This package was not a big deal, but it was this last Tuesday, and it did rain some. Sometimes it’s my cancer meds, or blood pressure medications. And both of these are a little dangerous – to the point that i have full blood tests every other week.”
  • Packages left outside in the elements
    Kennedy Leavens is new to the Island with a non-profit on the Island that helps female artisans in Peru. Kennedy states, “We live a 5-minute walk from our mailbox, on a private road, and we are one of the houses where USPS has started leaving packages up on the main road (Pt Robinson) instead of bringing to the house.” She added “In July, USPS left one of my shipments from Peru on top of my mailbox along Point Robinson in a rainstorm while we were out of town.”
  • Stopped delivering altogether

    In May of this year USPS has stopped delivering mail to Sylvan Beach Rd. According to the USPS office, the plan was to put locked mail boxes at the top of the hill because Sylvan Beach Rd is “too dangerous” for the mail truck. Unfortunately, without notice or any timeline, the residents had not been informed as to what was happening with their mail.

  • Mail service being halted without proper notification

    The quaint little house on the cul-de-sac that my Grandmother lived on while I was a young child is now a home where my parents both reside. On August 2, 2022, the residents of that community received a notice stating that the mailboxes will no longer be serviced at their current locations and will need to be moved to the Burma Rd location at the resident’s expense. The original letter stated that service to the mailboxes would continue through August 27th, with mail continuing at the new location on August 29th. However, on August 4, 2022, mail delivery was suspended for all community residents without proper notification. Three communities, including Sandy Beach Club and Sylvan Beach, have been affected by drastic changes made by the USPS office on the Island with zero regard for the communities’ welfare. Both Corbin and Sylvan Beach roads are King County maintained roads. Mail has been delivered down those roads for over 80 years. Garbage, Recycling, Emergency, and Fire Trucks can all get to the bottom of the hill. By refusing to deliver the mail to established mailboxes, elderly and disabled members of those communities are now unable to walk out and retrieve their mail.

    I have had nothing but positive experiences with USPS

    I have lived in my little house on Vashon for four years, and I have never had any problems with the USPS employees. After my first few months of owning my home, I had gotten to know the Postmaster of our local office in town. She dropped a package off for me once that was missed earlier that day. She stopped and chatted for a while, telling me about her new role there and her planned improvements for the services provided on the Island. She became someone I could count on, but that changed when I didn’t hear from her for a while and have not heard from her since her departure.

    Why she left, I still don’t know.

    Though, despite her leaving, I enjoyed the carriers I had gotten to know throughout the last few years. Every one of them was very careful about where they left my packages. Trying to keep them out of the rain as best they could. I hadn’t given much thought to the complaints and posts I saw on the Facebook groups because it wasn’t affecting me. My relationship with USPS has been complete bliss, and I’m not the only one who has has positive experiences with the USPS.

    Patricia Gregorich wrote to me of a story where the USPS went above and beyond for her:

    “I went to our Vashon Post Office to mail a check to my daughter at the very last minute.  I arrived shortly before 5 p.m.  She was needing this check as fast as possible in order to have enough money to pay the first, last, and deposit on a home.  I, unfortunately, decided to leave my phone in the car and also did not remember her address correctly.  When the postal employee could not find the address in his system, he searched further and asked if perhaps I had forgotten the “east” part of her address.  I assumed this was my mistake.  He added this for me, and off I went.  

    It was now at least 5:10 p.m., yet he remained so patient with me and helpful.  When I returned to my vehicle and looked in my phone, I realized the address was not 714 East blah blah Street, it was 914 East blah, blah Street. Oh no!  I rushed back into the post office and knocked on the door.  

    The same postal employee opened the door, despite the fact that it was now 5:15 p.m.  I explained my mistake.  He smiled.  Can you believe it?  He smiled!  He then went to retrieve my misaddressed envelope, and he reprocessed the entire transaction again for me.  He not only saved the day, he did so with such warmth and kindness. “

    The community of Dockton reached out to me when I called for stories related to the post office. They would like to give a warm-hearted shout-out to their delivery driver Randy who “works his tail off and makes sure bigger packages are on our porch.”, to which many replied, “Randy is the best” and “Our carrier has been the best!”

    While there are increasing issues on the Island, it’s good to know that there are workers still sticking it out during these tough times. It’s also nice to see the community rallying behind them in support where they can.

    Don’t blame the Island Postal Employees

    Last week, I received two pink slips stating that my packages were undeliverable, so I walked the one block over to the USPS office. I stood in line and listened to irate and frustrated customers who were bitter and angry at the inconveniences there were experiencing. They had every right to be upset as their negative experiences and complaints were valid. The man behind the counter did his best to stay positive and help each customer with a smile. When it came to my turn, I asked him why I was getting these slips eventhough I lived next door, and he explained that they are severely understaffed. I asked him if there was anything I could do to help. His response, “You can apply to work here”.

    While our USPS office may be understaffed, the problem with our USPS is not the people working at our local post office but rather a larger problem that has been coming for many years. Companies like Amazon, eBay, and many other online retailers rely heavily on shipping to fulfill customers’ needs and that burden is passed onto USPS. The increasing need for shipping has skyrocketed even moreso in just the last few years. According to this Newsweek article posted just this last December titled As Amazon’s Delivery Business Grows, USPS Struggles to Fulfill Mission by Jalen Small, “the United States Postal Service reported that its shipping and packages revenue increased by $3.5 billion in 2021, a 12.2% increase from the year before, largely driven by a surge in e-commerce volume.” Small adds, “But the government agency continues to struggle to compete in a delivery marketplace increasingly dominated by Amazon. It reported a net loss of $4.9 billion for its fiscal year ending September 30, 2021, compared to a $9.2 billion loss in the prior year.”

    Photo 180011299 © Kilmermedia |

    Our USPS office has been functioning with limited staff for nearly a year now (possibly longer than that), and I had no idea. The service to my home has been so good that I didn’t take much notice. But while I have gotten to live in ignorant bliss, the employees at the USPS office are feeling the strain. One Vashonite mentioned that someone they know was reported to start work at around 5 am and expected to work overtime due to the shortage in staff. I can’t even fathom having to put those hours in at nearly minimum wage, all while dealing with frustrated customers.

    What can we do about it?

    A few things come to mind when I think about what the residents of Vashon Island can do.

    1. We need to be empathetic to those whose packages have been delivered to the wrong address, tossed into the ditch, left outside, or forced to move their mailboxes only to have their mail completely halted without notice.
    2. Those suffering these issues from the USPS should be addressing their concerns by filing with USPS here rather than to the people in the USPS office trying to help them.
    3. The communities that have lost services should continue to take their complaints upward.

    Thinking back to the times when my Grandmother was a young girl, and my fond memories of colecting the mail, I wonder if we will get back to those days when the USPS deliver person waves as they drop off their package, or stops for a friendly chat. The sad reality is that, in our current conditions, they don’t have the time to walk up to the house and leave the package on the front doorstep, let alone time for a friendly wave or even a chat.

    If you know someone on (or off) the Island that needs a job, please encourage them to apply at the USPS office for Vashon Island (scroll down on the link, click “apply now” button, search for “Vashon” in the “Full Text Search”, click the result, click “apply” there and fill out the application).

    This article has been submitted by a Vashon Resident (or non-resident somehow connected to Vashon) who chooses to remain anonymous. Anyone can submit an article on any related island subject should they choose. Articles submitted to through our “Submit an Article” process are carefully reviewed for grammar, spelling, and accuracy to the best of our ability, though we sometimes miss the mark. Articles posted from these submissions are the opinions, statements, and facts provided solely by the Author and do not reflect the opinions or statements of the business and/or the Vashonites community.

    1 thought on “USPS on Vashon – problems with the postal service in 2022”

    1. Another suggestion I would add is for those to think about the massive amount of ecommerce purchases, and to lessen the amount of online shopping. Believe it or not, Amazon is not a utility – you *can* live without it, and you can minimize your online purchases so that the overall burden on those doing deliveries is lessened. Remember how many human beings are being treated like robots to get you your packages, both on the delivery side and at the warehouses.

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