By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
Amazon.com provided the U.S. Postal Service in Cheyenne with a forecast of how many packages were incoming this past weekend, a spokeswoman for the company has told Cowboy State Daily.
Coupled with USPS staff shortages, an influx of packages forced the closure of three post offices in Cheyenne to the public.
A perception that Amazon just dumped more than 13,000 packages in Cheyenne without warning isn’t true, the online retail giant says.
“As one of our third-party delivery partners, we are in touch with USPS regularly, and we give the Cheyenne Post Office a forecast of the number of packages they would be receiving from us over the weekend,” Amazon spokeswoman Alisa Carroll told Cowboy State Daily in a prepared statement.
“We rely on third-party delivery partners like USPS to help deliver packages to our customers and are grateful they were able to assist us during the recent snowstorm,” she said.
Asked how many packages were in the forecast to the Postal Service, Carroll said in a subsequent email, “It was not an unusual amount of packages, and on par with what we have delivered to that PO before.”
Carroll refused to make an on-the-record comment responding to a statement by a Cheyenne postal worker indicating Amazon would not be making doorstep deliveries in Wyoming until May 1.
Cheyenne mail carriers told Cowboy State Daily they worked long hours after what postal workers described as an extremely large shipment of Amazon packages over the holiday weekend.
Lisa Ansell, a mail carrier for nine years, said it was a 13-hour day for her and most other carriers getting through the glut of holiday packages.
“That was pretty much the norm for everyone,” she said.
To handle the workload, the U.S. Postal Service’s Wyoming media contact James Boxrud told Cowboy State Daily three branches were shut down: the FE Warren, Capitol and Airport post offices.
Boxrud indicated that a surge in packages over the holidays is not unusual, but postal workers told Cowboy State Daily that it was an extremely large delivery from Amazon that stretched the already thin workforce, forcing the three closures Tuesday.
One postal worker estimated there were 110 pallets averaging 120 packages each in the Amazon shipment.
Neither Boxrud nor Carroll would confirm or deny on the record how many packages were in the shipment.
Ship And Dump Is Common
The term many postal workers use for a package surge is “ship and dump.”
The U.S. Postal Service has several agreements in place to finish deliveries for companies like UPS, FedEx and Amazon.
Retired Worland Postmaster Tim Outland gave Cowboy State Daily an overview of how that worked when he was on the job about 10 years ago.
“They would take a package (from), make it easy, say New York,” he explained. “They would ship it clear to say, Worland, and drop it at the post office. The post office would actually do the delivery.”
Mail that’s sent from one Wyoming location to another Wyoming location, meanwhile, goes either to Cheyenne or Casper for sorting, whichever is closet, Outland said. From there, it goes to its Wyoming location.
Mail going out of Wyoming goes to Denver for sorting.
“To my knowledge that’s still pretty much the system,” World said. “They have all the automation equipment in those two locations.”
Business Returning To Normal
With a staffing crunch continuing in Wyoming, it’s unclear whether post offices in Cheyenne might again be closed to deal with a large surge in packages from shippers, but business appeared to be returning to normal at the Converse Post Office on Thursday.
The line was only to the back of the door during the lunch hour, but there were some folks in line who would not normally be there.
Among them was a man who told Cowboy State Daily this was his fifth trip to pick up an Amazon parcel that was routed through the postal system.
That required a special trip each time.
As to the local USPS staffing situation, Boxrud has told Cowboy State Daily there are many openings in the Wyoming Postal system. Cheyenne has 20 open positions alone.
He is encouraging anyone interested in a postal career to visit online at USPS.com/careers to check out what is available.
“These are great jobs, that can quickly lead to career opportunities with full benefits,” he said.