Carriers Fired for Not Delivering Unwanted Bulk Mail
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
According to its Web site, "The United States Postal Service is an independent establishment of the executive branch of the United States government. It operates in a businesslike way." That's a direct quotation. Well, just what it means to be businesslike is a question posed by the St. Petersburg seven, seven letter carriers who have received letters saying that they are fired for what they considered good customer service. One of the seven, Michael Fitzgerald, joins us from Dunedin, Florida.
And, Mr. Fitzgerald, what were you fired for?
Mr. MICHAEL FITZGERALD (Letter Carrier): The post office is saying that we are being fired for what they are calling throwing away good mail. What we are saying is properly disposing of undeliverable bulk business mail.
SIEGEL: This concerns bulk business mail, which you would carry and deliver to your customers?
Mr. FITZGERALD: That's correct.
SIEGEL: Why didn't you deliver it to them?
Mr. FITZGERALD: In my particular case, I have maybe five or six customers who, for various reasons--some of them travel a lot, some of them live on--away from the beach and they'd only come out, like, once a month--and have asked me if there's some way that they could not have their mailboxes stuffed full of three- and four-week-old grocery store ads.
SIEGEL: And you've obliged them?
Mr. FITZGERALD: Yes. They would ask me, you know, `Can you not--just not deliver these to us?' And I would say to them, `I'll see what I can do for you.'
SIEGEL: So what did you do for them?
Mr. FITZGERALD: And then I would not deliver to them.
SIEGEL: Aha. The Direct Marketing Association says that about $31 billion in non-catalog direct mail will be spent this year. That's a lot of money.
Mr. FITZGERALD: Yes, it is.
SIEGEL: Now the problem here is that the bulk mailers have--they've paid money--they've paid the US Postal Service to deliver the letter, the sooner the better.
Mr. FITZGERALD: Yes.
SIEGEL: Well, are you obliged to hand your customer the--that piece of mail in that case?
Mr. FITZGERALD: Well, yes, we are and the customer has a right to refuse that mail. I don't think any reasonable person would say that if there's a particular recurring ad that comes to their door and they go, `I'm refusing this. I don't want this anymore,' they don't mean just that one day. They mean--if it's a recurring ad, they mean each time it comes out they don't want it.
SIEGEL: Now as I understand it, there is something that if I were one of these people on your route that I could do; I could write on the bulk mail that comes through my door `refused' and then you would take it back.
Mr. FITZGERALD: Yes. And in which case, if it's bulk-rate mail, then we would return it to the post office and deposit it with the rest of the undeliverable bulk business mail. In this particular case, that's what we're doing. The customers just have not physically written `refused' on each piece, even if they've verbally refused them.
SIEGEL: You're back delivering mail right now. I mean, you haven't actually been removed from your work yet.
Mr. FITZGERALD: No, I'm currently working, you know, with the removal pending the arbitration process.
SIEGEL: If you had to--I mean, if you're dismissed at the end of all this, if the union can't have it reversed, obviously you'll be out of a job. Is it a job you like?
Mr. FITZGERALD: Yeah, and it's a job I'm used to. I mean, I like interacting with my customers. I like being outside all day long. I don't want to lose my job, you know, but there is some principle involved here. I mean, the post office just doesn't simply serve the mailer. We're supposed to be serving the citizens of this country. I mean, that's what we're supposed to do. And the people who are receiving this mail, they're customers, too.
SIEGEL: Michael Fitzgerald, one of the St. Petersburg seven, seven mail carriers--letter carriers who have received letters advising that they're fired because at their customers' request, they say, they stopped delivering bulk mail.
Mr. Fitzgerald, thanks a lot for talking with us.
Mr. FITZGERALD: You're welcome.
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