The problem: A damaged cluster mailbox in Woodlawn was removed but never replaced.
The back story: Cureline Beasley felt she had been patient long enough.
The Woodlawn resident used to receive her mail in a cluster mailbox she shared with neighbors in the 100 block of Darius Court. The setup made for efficient mail delivery to that block of the 28-year-old community, allowing the carrier to deliver letters to one location, where residents could collect.
But as long ago as November, the door on the back of the box that the carrier used to put mail into boxes broke. Beasley said the mailman told her then that he had reported the problem and it needed some screws to keep it secure.
Then, a few weeks ago, someone removed the broken cluster box entirely, she said. And Beasley and her neighbors have continued to receive their mail as they have for months — at their homes, intermittently.
"The lady next door puts a little box out," she said. "I try to meet her at the door."
That works when their regular carrier is on duty, Beasley said. But other carriers aren't consistent.
Beasley called the local post office, but the person who answered said they didn't know anything about it. "You can't get anywhere with them," she said.
The residents have been without a secure place to receive mail for months.
"I didn't think that was too short of a time for them to think they shouldn't replace it," she said.
According to the U.S. Postal Service's website, it's a customer's responsibility to provide and maintain a mailbox. However, in some areas, the agency authorizes cluster boxes, at times even maintaining them.
Watchdog called the Postal Service and talked to Baltimore spokeswoman Yvette Singh. She confirmed that the service should have replaced the box.
"There was an error somewhere along the way," Singh said. "They removed it, but the work order hadn't been put in for the replacement."
She apologized for the delay but wasn't sure where in the process the communication failure occurred.
A replacement should be installed by Thursday, but it could happen sooner, Singh said. Once in place, residents must go to the post office with identification and a copy of a deed or other proof indicating they are the property owner, the spokeswoman said. Then they will receive new keys for their box.
Until then, mail will continue to be delivered to their doors.
Cluster boxes are often installed in newer communities as they are constructed, Singh said. The builder will meet with the post office to set that up.
If there is a problem with a cluster box, "the letter carrier is the first person that should inform the manager," Singh said. That should start the repair process.
Customers can also go to their local post office and ask to speak to the manager, Singh said.
Who can fix this: Individual post offices have managers who can fix similar problems, according to Singh. To find the number of your local station, call 800-ASK-USPS or go to http://www.usps.gov.
Is there something in your neighborhood that's not getting fixed? Tell us where the problem is and how long it's been there by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 410-332-6735.