Letter to the Editor

Why reader in Buhl doesn't get paper promptly explained

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dear editor:

I doubt this letter will be printed, inasmuch as it shows the poor customer service of the Mountain Home News, and the US Postal Service.

We are former residents of Mountain home, now residing in Buhl. We subscribe to the Mountain Home News. After consulting your office, I was informed that the paper is deposited at the post office on Tuesday, for Wednesday delivery. Once in a GREAT while, we receive the paper on Friday, and most weeks it is delivered on Saturday, four days after everybody else receives their paper. This week, we received the Sept. 5 issue on Monday, Sept. 10, a full 6 days after everyone else, and just one day before you put out the next issue.

I am a retired postal manager, with quite an extensive background in 2nd and 3rd class mailings. I know that my office required the local newspaper to bundle the newspaper into delivery zip codes, and not just everything in one bag, and we'll let the post office figure it out. No one in your office could give me any information on this type of distribution. Rather, it was "we take it to the post office" for delivery. Period.

So, my question is, do you just put everything in one bag? For instance, Mountain Home, which is local delivery, and probably does not even leave Mountain Home, but rather is weighed and goes straight to the carriers for delivery. What do you do with the papers for Twin, Bliss, Buhl, Jerome, and Boise, etc.?

Perhaps you might look into this matter a little more diligently. Receiving the paper on Thursday, maybe even Friday could be explained, but Saturday, or Monday, is not acceptable. I would certainly like to hear your views on this subject.

Larry L. Christison

(Editor's note: The following response is provided by Brenda Fincher, the Mountain Home News business manager, who handles that aspect of our operation).

I felt that I should respond to this myself with an explanation to all our readers rather than just calling and explaining via telecom to Mr. Christison. We do receive calls and are happy to take calls concerning the delivery of our publications.

I do, myself, remember speaking to you when you called and I tried explaining the circumstances of your delivery of the Mountain Home News and relied on your "extensive background" in 2nd and 3rd class bulk mail to understand the distribution of these types of mailings and our frustration in getting our publication to our readers in a timely manner. This is in no way putting the blame on any party or in anyway reflects on customer service. I assure you the Mountain Home News does everything in our power to assist in delivery of our products.

1. 2nd and 3rd class mailings are not handled in the same manner as a first class mail.

2. Our Circulation Software is Cass (Coding Accuracy Support System) certified quarterly to insure the accuracy of the mailing address provided to us by the customer. This is required to receive the bulk mail rates that the USPS offers to bulk mailers. This certified software is updated quarterly by the certifying provider that we purchase from and they receive their information from the USPS. With the changes to address's on a regular basis it could take time for the correct/changed address to be reflected in the system.

3. The Mountain Home News is printed on Tuesday afternoons/evenings. They then must be put together by hand, placing all the paid insert advertising inside with our sections.

4. The labels that are printed and provided to circulation have breakdowns for separation, which include Mixed ADC (Area Distribution Center), ADC, 3 digits and 5 digits zip codes first, and then again by route. The papers are never put into "one bag for the post office to figure out" to answer your question. This does not mean every zip code receives their own bag directly to their local post office. Again, the small groups are separated into like 3-digit prefixes. There are minimum requirements for each level of postal separation. They are separated, bundled and bagged with great detail to meet postal regulation.

5. Yes, the ones that are local are kept in Mountain Home and never leave our local post office. We work with our local post office to assist each other in additionally marking and or identifying each tag on a bag so it can be easily separated for distribution. All others must be routed to Boise first, which is our ADC. Idaho has two and we are lucky to be so close to Boise. The mail is then distributed back out to the regional and local post offices for distribution.

I know no one likes to hear from us that we have no control over the distribution once it leaves our hands and is placed on the dock of the post office, but it is in fact true and we have no way to track the process or the publication.

6. Our papers are delivered to our local post office the evening/night prior to publication date. If they are not local, then they are sent to Boise the next morning, which in turn must send them to the next destination. No matter how hard we or the post office tried there is no way we could get a paper to Buhl on Wednesday or Thursday. I would guess Friday would be most logical, i.e., Wednesday to Boise, Thursday to Buhl and Friday for distribution, but I can in no way guarantee this. It all depends on what time it reaches each destination after leaving Mountain Home and whether their outbound vehicles have already left for the day. This could cause delays by another day at each stop.

7. We have on occasion had to offer a subscriber a refund and cancelled their paper because of the time delays or them being lost and our customers having a hit or miss situation on even receiving our paper. We do apologize and again have no control over the situation.

When a customer calls us the first thing we do is verify that the address is correct, and if it is local we verify the route with our post office and that the system printed a label for distribution. If we have made a mistake in the address or route we apologize and will make the correction as soon as it is brought to our attention.

An error in handling and distribution can happen locally or long distance. This is not our excuse but reality. Again, locally we can pass on postal customer complaints to our post office for carrier misdistribution and have always received positive responses that they will follow up on their end.

I appreciate the fact that this is a smaller town where businesses that work together have the advantage of personal communication and both work to insure a team effort on a goal that reflects on both of us. This is not the case beyond our town as we don't have the advantage of a first-name basis or even contact information. I do not know the route of travel once it goes from Mountain Home and then Boise.

8. One situation that occurs locally is that a customer allows their subscription to expire. We can not process the renewal until payment is received. This can cause a lapse in delivery. If you call us to verify that we have received the payment and it crossed just the one week in the mail between printing of labels and receipt of payment we will offer you the option of coming in and picking up the one you missed. Please understand that we do not send out one publication alone. They are mailed 2nd class bulk mailing.

Again, we are trying to send our readers our product that they have paid for and will continue to follow all the rules and guidelines presented to us to insure this, but I can not explain the difference that happens on a weekly basis.

I do know that holidays, road and weather conditions and mechanical break down can all play a part in the movement of any mailed product.

We will continue to do our very best on our end.

I hope I have answered your question Mr. Christison and appreciate you giving me the chance to address and expand on your concerns.