The Eastsider interviewed Joe Zapata, the postmaster of Los Angeles. He answered our questions -- and questions from the readers -- about life at the post office these days: Adapting to the pandemic, getting ready for National Dog Bite Awareness Week, and coming out on top as America’s most favorably rated federal agency.
'We go to every house," Zapata said, "every delivery in this country, every day. No one else does that."
You can watch the 13-minute interview above. Here were some of the highlights:
High Favorability Rating
The U.S. Postal Service received the highest favorability rating of any federal agency, in a poll last April by the Pew Research Center.
Adapting to the Pandemic
The post office has developed methods of maintaining safety in the workplace and minimizing contact with customers. Among other things, mail carriers no longer have to make customers sign for packages. The carrier can sign for them instead. Service scores, however, indicate, that mail service has not slowed down as a result.
Cluster Boxes are mailbox groups that are commonly used in apartment buildings. A reader asked whether these are safe during the pandemic, since - among other things - packages don’t generally fit in there, and customers are forced to go down the post office for package pick-up.
But Zapata said these boxes are still the best form of delivery. At the same time, the postal service is installing parcel lockers in many locations to improve parcel delivery service.
Not Affected by Protests or Curfew
“I believe our Angelenos love the postal service,” Zapata said.
Budget Controversies from Congress
Zapata could not comment about political issues involving the post office, including budget fights, an unprecedented requirement for funding pensions, and the push to privatize the service. But he said these controversies don’t affect day-to-day operations.
"There is no real impact in delivery that we feel at our level," Zapata said.
Voting by Mail
Vote-by-mail would help the postal service, Zapata said. California in particular has had a vote-by-mail process for many years now, and the postal Service is already well practiced in that area, he said.
Mail Pick-Up From Residential Mail Boxes
Yes, you can still mail a letter by leaving letters or packages in your own residential mailbox; the carriers are supposed to pick it up and bring it in to the post office. If the carrier doesn’t do that, contact your local office.
How to Help Support the Post Office
"We’re totally supported by the revenue we create from our products and services," Zapata said. "So I recommend to our customers, come to your post office. Buy our stamps. Get your passport at a Post Office. When you order online, select the USPS instead of the other guys."
National Dog Bite Awareness Week - June 14 to 20
L.A. is the Number Two dog bite area in the country, second only to Houston. To make matters worse, dog bite season - which usually occurs in summer when kids are home for vacation and dogs get out more easily - came a little early this year because of the pandemic.
"I encourage customers to keep the dogs restrained during delivery hours," Zapata said, adding, "If a dog attacks, we’re going to cut off delivery."
The Post Office is Hiring
With the increase in packages, the post office has a need for new employees. In particular, they’re always looking for new clerks, mail handlers and mail carriers.