By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
Cheyenne’s mail carriers worked long hours Tuesday to deliver more than 13,000 packages that were suddenly dumped on them by Amazon after a winter storm blasted through the region, fouling up both airlines and now overland shipping.
Lisa Ansell, who has been a mail carrier for nine years, was putting mail into boxes Thursday morning like usual, except that the parcels she was distributing included some Amazon prime boxes.
She told Cowboy State Daily she worked a 13-hour day after the big drop from Amazon came in, helping get through the glut of holiday packages.
“That was pretty much the norm for everyone,” she said.
Long Lines At Converse Post Office
The story came to light after exceptionally long lines were observed at the Converse Avenue U.S. Post Office in Cheyenne, a line that was often more than 30 people deep and an hour wait or more Tuesday.
A postal worker told customers other Cheyenne post offices were closed to handle an extra-large shipment of packages. That was confirmed Wednesday by James Boxrud, the U.S. Postal Service’s Wyoming media contact.
A postal worker at another location, meanwhile, told Cowboy State Daily that 110 pallets averaging 120 packages each had been dropped off by Amazon in Cheyenne all at once.
To handle the influx of so many packages, the FE Warren, Capitol Station and Airport Station post offices were all closed to the public so personnel could help with distribution and delivery of all the packages.
“We had a large number of packages presented to the city for delivery over the weekend,” Boxrud said. “This is not an unusual occurrence, as we normally receive larger package volumes during the holiday season.”
Boxrud would not confirm whether the large drop of packages that caused the closures was from Amazon, saying it would be up to Amazon’s media relations to confirm or deny that.
Amazon hasn’t responded to Cowboy State Daily inquiries to comment on the situation.
How Ship And Dump Works
Ship and dump refers to agreements the U.S. Postal Service has with shipping entities to finish deliveries for companies like UPS, FedEx and Amazon.
Boxrud wasn’t available Thursday to explain ship and dump, but retired Worland Postmaster Tom Outland gave an overview of how it worked when he was still on the job about 10 years ago.
“Basically what it was is, the post office has worked out an agreement with FedEx and UPS that they would take a package (from), make it easy, say New York,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “They would ship it clear to say, Worland, and drop it at the post office. The post office would actually do the delivery.”
Mail from one Wyoming location to another Wyoming location is sent either to Cheyenne or to Casper for sorting, whichever is closest, Outland said. From there, it goes to its Wyoming location.
That would put half of the state’s packages landing at either Cheyenne or Casper.
Mail that’s going out of Wyoming, meanwhile, goes to Denver for sorting.
“To my knowledge, that’s still pretty much the system,” Worland said. “They have all the automation equipment in those two locations.”
Lines Back To Normal
The lines at the Converse Avenue post office located just behind Dell Range in Cheyenne appeared to have returned to normal Thursday, though there were people waiting in line specifically to get Amazon packages.
One man in line who declined to give his name said he was there to pick up what he said was his fifth Amazon package. Those used to come to his doorstep but now require a special trip for him each time.
Could It Happen Again?
Whether the situation that caused the exceptionally long lines earlier in the week could happen again is unclear.
“Amazon has been giving a lot of their parcels and whatnot to the post office for over a year,” Outland said. “But what happened this time? It’s like you said, it might have been a certain, special circumstance.”
With a staffing crunch in Wyoming that has clearly made the postal system more brittle than it might normally be leaves open the possibility that similar situations could arise in the future, if there is an exceptionally large package dump from a shipper.
Boxrud told Cowboy State daily Wednesday there are 20 open positions for Cheyenne alone, as well as numerous positions available throughout Wyoming.
“We encourage all interested applicants to visit USPS.com/careers,” Boxrud said. “These are great jobs that can quickly lead to career opportunities with full benefits.”