I recently wrote about the destruction of an eBay package by an USPS sorting machine and a few days ago I received an amazingly detailed comment on the post about what happens to our trade packages when they get sent off through the mail. A reader with the username Stubby, a former USPS worker, also offers some tips on getting packages through the system successfully. His [I assume he's a dude] wrote the comment in one long paragraph so I've split it up into more manageable sections and any added bold emphasis is mine.
"As a former Postal worker, one who worked with the sorting machines, I can assure you that writing "hand sort only" will have absolutely no effect on anyone or anything. Used to make a difference; hasn't in at least a decade. "Fragile" and "Do Not Bend" are your best bets.
And, even then, it probably won't make a difference. EVERYTHING is going through one machine or another--regardless of how obvious it is that it shouldn't. There are no "Manual" sorting clerks left at any of the processing centers--those jobs have been eliminated--and the local bosses don't get credit for any mail that isn't counted (and the only way they get counted is to go through the machines). About the only thing you can pray for is that you get an employee who cares enough to defy the bosses and actually care about the mail (there used to be lots of them, but they've sort of become the dodo birds of industry).
I used to have a carrier who would work hard to track down mis-delivered mail of mine (ebay purchases, mainly). Now I have a carrier who delights in folding vinyl records in half to fit them in my mailbox. Never mind the "fragile" and "do not bend" notices on those. Had one seller who thought he'd outsmart them and, as an outer layer of protection on the 45 record, used solid pieces of wood. Carrier must have busted it over his/her knee to get it folded and in my mailbox.
As a former employee, I do actually have sympathy for the Postal Service. Pretty much all of the problems you have now, and the general lack of care, are Congress' fault. 100% Congress' fault. And by design. Congress (Republicans anyway) want the Postal Service to fail, so they can privatize. I guarantee you they wouldn't hold a private mail company to the things they hold the USPS to. Pay would drop, benefits would cease to exist, mailing costs would rise and there would be tons of places where mail service would be unavailable entirely. UPS, for example, classifies San Diego as "remote" (and charge higher rates to ship there).
There's moocho money to be made in mail delivery, but the Postal Service isn't allowed to make a profit and is forced to pay millions every year into a Congressional slush fund. Officially, that money is pre-funding of retirement and healthcare. But they've forced the PO to pre-fund so much that people who won't be born for another 75 years are completely funded. Its a farce. And, unofficially, Congress critters will tell you that they spent the money on other things--so, in truth, the PO has pre-funded nothing...other than, you know, whatever the Congress critters choose to skim and spend it on...wars, overseas junkets, Benghazi hearings...the usual crap."
Thanks Stubby for the great comment! I knew about the USPS budget problems caused by Congress but how those problems directly lead to problems with our packages hadn't been spelled out so clearly.