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Postal customers frustrated by delayed shipments due to coronavirus

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    SHREVEPORT, LA (KTBS) — Customers complaining about delays in package delivery from the U.S. Postal Service say they’re being told to blame COVID-19.

Some are showing up at the USPS distribution center and post office on Texas Avenue to get answers.

Dan Pankratz says he was told by a postal worker, “The COVID. They’ve got short staff.”

Pankratz came looking for the suit he says his wife shipped to him for their daughter’s wedding.

“She paid an extra $50 to have it guaranteed delivery last Thursday. And it showed up here yesterday. We got notification,” Pankratz said. “And we still haven’t got it. And I can’t get a hold of anybody to give me the suit. Because I’m leaving now.”

Pankratz says he had a 15-hour drive to the wedding on Saturday and would need to buy another suit on the way.

He says the postal worker also told him, “‘You can try to help them find it but there’s like million pieces of mail back there.’ Basically saying you’re out of luck, you know.”

A large white tent is set up outside the distribution center, but inside a secure, fenced-in area. There are also bins stacked up outside the tent. USPS spokeswoman Kanickewa Johnson says the tent is being used to store “excess plant equipment.”

But Cassidy Lavender, who owns a Texarkana-based health and beauty product business, says, “I think all our packages are in there.”

She says her business, Lavender Thorne, depends on prompt delivery by the USPS, believes overflowing packages are being stored under the tent.

“We have customers come to us wondering where their package is. ‘I paid for 2-day shipping,'” Lavenders says she’s heard from customers.

“And we always do everything priority. So that’s 2-day shipping. And it’s just frustrating when we’re paying for 2 days and then 2 weeks it’s still not there,” she added.

Lavender drove to the Shreveport facility to resend boxes of packages that she says her business sent out more than a week ago, but were returned to her.

She says she was also told by a postal worker that slowdown from the coronavirus is to blame for shipping problems.

“They told us to understand everything going on. So they’re short handed. They need people to come to work. They said that a lot of people are calling in. They say they need more workers,” Lavender says.

When KTBS first asked the USPS about the delays, we received a long written statement from new U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that made no mention of the coronavirus as being the cause.

Instead, he wrote, in part, that the delays are because of the agency’s “financially unsustainable position.”

But later, after KTBS informed her that customers had been told the coronavirus is to blame, spokeswoman Johnson sent a new statement, saying in part, “We can confirm that our workforce, like others, is not immune to the human impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We are flexing our available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”

Johnson said the USPS apologizes for any inconvenience. They say Shreveport managers are taking steps to correct the situation. They advise customers experiencing problems to call 1-800-ASK-USPS, or go to their website.

However, Pankratz says he was unable to get help on the phone number he was given.

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