Where’s My Rafu?

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Self-Inflicted Wounds Undermine the Postal Service

Mark Nakakihara (right) and Jaime Quinonez of NextDay Delivery Service prepare mail for a customer to be processed at the post office.

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

For some time now, The Rafu Shimpo staff has gathered and published our community’s news despite the challenges wrought by the global pandemic, not the least of which is a tragic death rate.

Recent actions by the new U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have further interfered with Rafu’s journalistic mission and, in the process, impacted our print subscribers in particular.

One would assume that The Rafu, which sends thousands of copies of the publication each week through the USPS, would carry some sway. Sadly, that’s not the case. Instead, the changes instituted by DeJoy have resulted in significant delays not only for a wide swath of humanity but for Rafu Shimpo print subscribers in particular, who are reporting missing mail and deliveries as late as two weeks and more.

Our sister publication in Seattle, The North American Post, reports prolonged delivery of that newspaper as far out as 16 days.

Mark Nakakihara, president of Nextday Delivery Service (NDS), an Anaheim-based company that handles last-mile delivery in conjunction with USPS, says that the changes are definitely noticeable.

“We go to every post office (in the area). Fewer people working there. Often our pickups are later than usual. But the mail still moves,” explains Nakakihara.

However, packages are another matter. “Parcels are sorted by hand and that can take longer,” he adds.

Local businesses, which were just beginning to recover from the pandemic’s affects, are now feeling this new pinch. Kinokuniya, known for its wide selection of books and gifts ranging from manga to Japanese cookbooks, have posted a disclaimer on their website indicating they can no longer guarantee shipping arrival dates, a hallmark of their customer service.

A Little Tokyo shop owner, looking for a creative solution to COVID-19 limitations, recently completed the task of offering her Japanese-themed items accessible online. The catalog, shopping cart, and fulfillment requirements were challenging, but she did it. Suddenly, the postal service is unreliable for the first time in modern memory, and the ability to deliver her product is in question.

At post office branches throughout America, the story is even more disheartening. Sorting machines have been removed, mail trucks leave the terminal only one-third full, and mailboxes are removed from neighborhoods for no apparent reason.

In addition, the perishable contents inside packages sitting in large sorting bins are beginning to spoil. The smell verifies that this is not the post office that patrons had come to trust.

With no indication as to when or if the USPS will be able to catch up to weeks of institutional neglect, DeJoy has nevertheless pledged to roll back the following:

• Retail hours at post offices will not change.

• Mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are.

• No mail processing facilities will be closed.

• And we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.

DeJoy began to explain his actions before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Aug. 21. On Aug. 24, he will testify before the House Oversight Committee along with Robert Duncan, chair of the USPS Board of Governors.

Although the cause of these inconveniences is apparent, we still feel the need to apologize for any inconvenience our print subscribers have endured. Anyone still wondering when their missing copies of The Rafu will arrive, please know that we are doing our best to let the postal service know that Rafu’s customers deserve better.

As an interim step, contacting your congressional representative might help. Sending an email or calling are recommended. No letters, please.

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