Post office lockouts in Steamboat follow national USPS protocol
July 2, 2015
Steamboat Springs — When longtime Steamboat resident Brian Harvey visited the Steamboat Springs Post Office to check his mail this week, he discovered he was locked out.
Post office staff said the lock to his personal mailbox had been changed after they say Harvey failed to pay his bill for the past year and a half, but Harvey said that just isn’t the case.
While trying to sort things out in the post office lobby, Harvey said other customers walked up, having also been locked out of their boxes.
Harvey was told the new postmaster had initiated an audit of hundreds of boxes, leading to lots of lockouts at once.
“They’ve inconvenienced a ton of people,” said Harvey, a 27-year box-holder who was still searching through bank statements from multiple accounts Thursday to find evidence of his past payments.
Harvey’s co-worker, Amy Colburn, experienced a similar scenario last week and was told by post office staff that if she didn’t immediately pay late fees and charges to re-key her box that they might rent it out to a new customer.
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Colburn, who said she’s had the same post office box since the 1980s, paid $49 to cover late fees, the cost of re-keying the box and six months of box payments. A typical six-month charge for a small box is $28.
According to a representative from the United States Postal Service, the policies being enforced by new postmaster Deborah Staffieri follow nationwide protocol.
Protocol states that reminders to pay box rental fees are sent out on the first of the month prior to when the payment is due, followed by an email reminder on the 10th day of the month, followed by a written reminder in the box on the 20th day of the month, according to David Rupert, postal spokesman for Colorado.
On the first of the month when payment is due, the mail is held and the box is blocked, and another email is sent. On the 11th day of the month, the box is considered abandoned, mail can be returned to senders and the locks are changed.
“[Staffieri] is doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing,” Rupert said.
When contacted by phone Thursday, Staffieri said the post office was following standard procedure and merely trying to “catch up.”
She declined to comment further.
Rupert was apologetic and said with so many transient residents in Steamboat, lots of boxes are legitimately abandoned each month.
“From our perspective, we apologize that this is an inconvenience, but we have no other way of knowing if someone has paid their bill,” Rupert said. “Every month, at least up to 100 people come and go and abandon their boxes.”
Harvey, whose wife paid the requested late fees while he continues to search for proof of payment, said the strict regulations and box lockouts are particularly frustrating, given that home delivery isn’t an alternative option.
“Everywhere else in the U.S. you get free home delivery,” he said.