Closings impede rush to avoid new mail rates

January 01, 1995|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Sun Staff Writer

U.S. Postal Service customers rushing to branch offices yesterday to mail letters before a New Year's Day rate increase were angered to discover they had closed early -- the doors locked and workers sent home at noon for the holiday eve.

Patricia Atkins of Roland Park said she went to the Hampden post office on West 34th Street at 1:08 p.m. yesterday -- 22 minutes before the usual Saturday closing time -- only to find a handwritten note saying the office had closed early.

"Personally I think it's very stupid publicity to close early when on the next business day they're going to be raising the rates," Ms. Atkins said. "I can't imagine what possessed them to pull a stunt like this. I was incensed when I walked up to the door."

When she arrived at the Hampden branch, Ms. Atkins said, she found several other customers "muttering to themselves about how [the Postal Service] raised rates and treated us like that. The mood was of anger and frustration."

Ms. Atkins and others were trying to beat the deadline for higher postage rates that took effect at 12:01 a.m. today. The price of a first-class stamp goes up 3 cents to 32 cents. Postcard rates went up a penny to 20 cents.

Ms. Atkins said she left the Hampden branch and drove to the Roland Park station at Roland Avenue and Deepdene Road, only to discover that it also was closed. An official letter posted on the door announced the closing and directed her to the main post office downtown, in the 900 block of E. Fayette St.

There she waited in line for 40 minutes to mail photographs and overseas letters. The main post office was open until 5 p.m. yesterday.

The supervisor on duty at the downtown post office, who would not give his name, said notices were posted recently in post office branches announcing the noon closings for Christmas and New Year's eves.

When told that customers were angry because they were trying to mail letters before the rates go up today, he rolled his eyes but declined further comment.

Late yesterday afternoon, the line at the main post office had grown to more than 50 customers. Some said they had been waiting for an hour.

Mecca Abshire, 23, of Towson said she went first to the Parkville branch on Harford Road about 1:30 p.m. and found locked doors and a handwritten note directing her to Fayette Street.

"I thought it would at least be open another 10 minutes," she said. She was not trying to beat the postage-rate increase, but the deadline for mailing cigarette coupons to a catalog company for a dart board.

Jocque Brown traveled from his Southwest Baltimore neighborhood near the Baltimore County line to the downtown branch to send a letter by express mail. He was one of the smart ones -- having called ahead to the post office's Carroll station on South Loudon Avenue and being informed of the early closing.

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