The U.S. Postal Service considers mail to be delayed when it’s not processed in time to meet the established delivery day. Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? But determining whether mail is actually delayed — even when it’s reported as delayed — isn’t always a straightforward proposition.

Take, for instance, what happened when we analyzed delayed mail volume at mail processing facilities nationwide from January 1 to December 31, 2020. We found the North Houston Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) in Texas reported the most delayed mail in the nation. Not so surprising, given the facility processed the most mail in the country last year. But as we note in our recent audit report — one in a series we are doing on processing plant performance — it turns out not all 3.6 billion pieces the facility reported as delayed for the year were truly delayed. 

Our initial objective was to identify the causes of delays at the North Houston P&DC, and we found they were occurring due to late-arriving mail and decreased employee availability, the latter a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. An increase in package volume also contributed.

During our site observations, though, we discovered the North Houston P&DC management wasn’t processing mail on the normal sort plan. Instead, the sort plan being used bypassed certain operations, which in turn caused mail to be reported as delayed. So, while 3.6 billion is the official reported tally, the actual number of delayed mailpieces at North Houston for 2020 was undoubtedly less. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to determine the precise number.

Still, we made a recommendation on how to reduce late-arriving mail, and USPS management accepted it. That — and more employees eventually returning to work — should help decrease the amount of delayed mail at North Houston P&DC, whatever the true amount is.

Comments (73)

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  • anon

    I think a lot of these problems would be corrected if we got rid of Louis DeJoy. Has anyone noticed that our mail has slowed down to a crawl since he got the job. Who hired this guy? What a loser.

    May 22, 2021
  • anon

    Mail is being delayed because of Dejoy's actions. He is destroying the USPS and trying to disrupt services to Americans. As a senior citizen my medication and mail are being delayed! Dejoy needs to be fired and his conflicts of interest investigated to see if they rise to the level of criminal behavior. I believe he should be removed and a knowledgeable postal employee replace him. People are suffering because of Dejoy. His 10 year plan is a plan to interrupt and delay the mail. I hope he is soon fired and replaced.

    May 21, 2021
  • anon

    Trying to slow the mail to save cost is so counter-productive. The faster and more accurate the mail is, the more it is used. The Postmaster General truly does not seem to have the best interests of the USPS in mind. We are the best mail service in the world, please stop those trying to make it worse.

    May 21, 2021
  • anon

    I am completely against a slow down in the mail service. I own a medical billing service. I live in PA, my clients are in Maryland. Over 100 patient statements are sent out each month. These statements need to be delivered in a timely manner, which they were until DeJoy slowed the mail last year. I have seen a speed up in delivery in the last couple of months, which means my clients are receiving payment in a timely manner. My clients pay me via checks that come in the mail on a monthly basis. I CANNOT AFFORD A SLOW DOWN OF THE MAIL.

    May 21, 2021
  • anon

    I love my local post office in North Aurora, IL. They are wonderful! Very dedicated, hard-working, and excellent customer service. I am very grateful for all they do.

    May 21, 2021
  • anon

    Your mail service is delayed because you are CARELESS and INATTENTIVE and have no logical processes in place. Case in point: THREE weeks ago I dropped a parcel at the local post office in Magnolia, Texas, like I've done many times. After prodding the customer service phone line (the fact that I have to wait 45 minutes for a call back indicates what a pathetic job USPS is doing). Turns out the parcel was sent to Los Angeles - the opposite direction it should have been sent. I was given every excuse they could think of as to why. Mostly the answer was "we don't know." At the local post office I got the ridiculous response that Customs controls that. No, Customs has nothing to do with transporting mail inside the USA. These stupid answers are insulting. Today - 3 weeks after the parcel was sent - I was notified that it is now in New York. Stupidity and carelessness in mail handling will put USPS out of business. USPS does NOT care how late my parcel is but I DO care, as does the recipient. Goodbye USPS. Hellow UPS.

    May 19, 2021
  • anon

    Melinda, the scumbag in charge of the USPS has been trying to destroy OUR PEOPLES' POSTAL SERVICE ever since the orange nazi put him in charge. He and his draconian, medieval, moronic changes have been the cause of more problems, deaths of animals, and possibly people due to not receiving their medications on time, than ever before in modern history. If you can't see that, and choose another carrier (which is exactly what dumjoy wants you to do because he has stocks in other delivery services) because you're too lazy to protest the existence of duh'joy as someone in charge of a PUBLIC SERVICE when he's nothing more than a DOMESTIC TERRORIST then YOU are part of the problem.

    May 22, 2021
  • anon

    Shipped almost 30 days ago a pm express envelope it arrived at distribution center in Richmond Va the day it was sent. Haven’t received an update since then. Usually delayed is completely normal since covid becomes the excuse for everything now but this is just wrong. I’ve filed a missing mail search only to get a response saying it was resolved and to stay patient due to the pandemic. I believe it was taken while being handled NEVER TRUST USPS with more than a few hundred dollars of value.

    May 12, 2021
  • anon

    Sorry to hear you got the Philadelphia Treatment. USPS is awful here. They lie, falsifying scans of package whereabouts ( total misconduct/violation of procedure). OIG says call local Consumer Affairs (also in Philadelphia). Consumer Affairs lies, claims he falsified scans are just dome by an “automated “ system. Sometimes they says is a “systematic “ process. Yes. It is systematic. I’ve had double digits of cases fir these kinds of things. It’s clear fraud/ falsifying, but OOG does nothing. We can’t expect local Consumer Affairs to police themselves. According to expose by Washington Post & OIG’s own audits of the Post Office—deliberately falsifying scans can boot the appearance of local post office performance—never mind how it erodes consumer confidence & ultimately causes us to hate USPS/ need to use alternative private delivery services. This misconduct, unchecked, will be the death of the Post Office. How horrible when their own dishonesty causes wicked corporations like FedEx to put them out of business. I do not want for profit corporations handling our election ballots …but here we are. USPS needs new leadership. Hope USPS resolves

    May 18, 2021
  • anon

    I sent a certified letter from Silver Spring, Md to Philadelphia, PA on April 20, 2021 and it has been in transit for the past 15 days, going to the National Passport Processing office. I could have driven to Philly in 2hrs. What could possibly be the hold up, unless it is lost and no one will tell me.

    May 12, 2021
  • anon

    The exact same thing is happening to me right now. Going on two weeks and still no update. Any news on yours?

    Jun 25, 2021
  • anon

    May 8, 2021 In Transit, Arriving Late Your package will arrive later than expected, but is still on its way. It is currently in transit to the next facility. May 4, 2021, 5:10 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility AUSTIN TX DISTRIBUTION CENTER May 4, 2021, 12:44 am Departed USPS Facility IRVING, TX 75059 May 3, 2021, 9:09 pm Arrived at USPS Facility IRVING, TX 75059 May 3, 2021, 2:51 am Departed USPS Regional Facility CHICAGO IL INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER May 2, 2021, 7:53 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility CHICAGO IL INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER April 24, 2021, 6:32 pm Processed Through Facility ISC CHICAGO IL (USPS) Origin Post is Preparing Shipment April 23, 2021, 5:29 pm Processed Through Facility TORONTO-A, CANADA April 21, 2021, 4:39 pm Acceptance CANADA

    May 10, 2021
  • anon

    The richest, most powerful country in the world, and we can't even get our mail delivered on time... not even close to on time! I just got done dealing with a broken cell phone that was replaced by my insurance. I had 10 days to return the broken phone from them using the preprinted first class label and box they provided. I left it at the post office February 27, 2 days after I received my replacement. Figured all was good. Sent in with my life. 25 days later, I get a letter from the insurance company saying I owe them $902 for the non-returned phone. I call USPS, raging inside but polite, the just chuckles a Irie and says "this hairball ask the time!" I have them open an "investigation" (which means they look up the tracking number and find it was never even scanned into the system! Which I already did dozens of times!) I get an email from the investigation team 3 days later saying, "Sorry, your package has been lost. Thanks for using USPS though!" 2 months later, just out of curiosity. I check the tracking number to find that it was magically delivered to the insurance company. 2 months first class mail means 2 months to travel from Washington to Texas. What a steaming turd of a system the USPS is! I can't wait for it to disappear and be replaced by a system that actually knows how to do their job!

    May 10, 2021
  • anon

    We need help with the post office in Bessemer Alabama. Our mail is always late. We get mail delivered to our house only 2 or 3 times a week. Somethings never get delivered. It's a problem all over this area not just me. You should check out the compliments on the local post office website Please help.

    May 10, 2021
  • anon

    What is the point of leaving a message if you can't tell the truth and the truth is employees in the post office still I've had to happen to me and countless friends and family members especially in North Carolina and you want to hide that I don't understand that is the male delayed maybe maybe not yes delayed we can understand the common situation but it's also delayed because it's never coming I've had two family members delivered boxes completely empty actually somebody left their food trash in the box as another smack in the face but no mine my information might not even get posted so other people know what's going on because it's hurting the post office give me a break what you want to tell all about cherries and roses I will say the post office as a whole is an awesome company awesome people great staffed good people who work hard I give that to them who do a job that most couldn't do I give that to them but the areas where you need attention you don't give it Charlotte North Carolina is a distribution center that steals the hell out of people's boxes whether it's shoestrings or Adderall they steal.

    May 06, 2021
  • anon

    FedEx and United Parcel Service have no problem. Amazon has become incredibly fast.

    May 03, 2021
  • anon

    Unfortunately Amazon hands off to USPS and never delivers. All my Amazon orders were being marked "attempted delivery" so we started waiting at mailbox every day. No surprise our courrier was leaving them at the office and just filled out attempted delivery because shes too lazy to drive up yo our house. After filing a complaint our postmaster decided they would no longer deliver to our address after all these years. These people in marietta sc are just plain lazy and not to mention, liars at best.

    May 05, 2021
  • anon

    It’s not just ur area hon sad but true . We had one tell us it was to heavy for them to bring out yet we have received stuff a lot heavier at our house and was also marked as attempted but wasn’t had not even been to our box yet that day . And another time was marked as dilvered but guess what she brought it to our house on Sunday this has happen several times since when does usps work sundays ??

    May 07, 2021
  • anon

    48043 zip code MT. Clemens Michigan

    May 03, 2021
  • anon

    Lanexa , VA 23089. We are dealing on and of with delayed mail which is not good. But the worse is missing mail ! Talking about bank statements , credit card statements , and mail from the US treasury. Also last year when we had bank and credit card statements missing, a few months later we had a fraudulent high charge on our credit card . Makes me wonder if it had to do with the missing mail pieces , which included account numbers. Is there somewhere a fox in the hen house ? I do not want to accuse anyone , but there are problems going on through the years. Years ago my mother sent me every so often some money in letters , which went missing several times . So eventually she stopped doing it , because it was a hit or miss , if I would receive it. It also angers me that if a “ fox “ get’s caught , this person only gets a slap on the hand. Stealing mail , etc , should get big time punishment . Otherwise working for the postal service can be heaven , for a person that has no good in mind. Thanks goodness most postal workers are good honest people. But the foxes under them , can surely do harm. Thanks for listening. Sadly I know that nothing will change.

    May 03, 2021
  • anon

    I totally feel your pain Bridgette... Though it hasn't happened to me like friends or friends of friends one time was enough... Only thing I can figure of why it's not stopping is because somebody higher up is in on it too

    May 07, 2021
  • anon

    Hello Brigitte. Thank you for your message. Regarding your concern, please contact Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office at https://postalpro.usps.com/ppro-tools/consumer-affairs

    May 04, 2021
  • anon

    while we cant get our mail like we used to on time you need to be fired

    May 03, 2021

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