The Washington Post

Postal Service to customers: Give us our stuff back!

Ever swiped a pen, tape gun, letter tray or a mail tub from a post office? The U.S. Postal Service would like it back, please.

Starting Saturday, the cash-strapped delivery service said, it is giving customers two weeks to return stolen equipment, no questions asked.

The USPS spent nearly $50 million last year replacing equipment that was stolen or inadvertently taken and never returned by customers, officials said this week, labeling such thefts “a serious issue.”

“We are in a financial crisis and simply cannot afford this type of unnecessary expense,” said David Williams, vice president of USPS network operations. “The equipment is federal property, and we want it back.”

The Postal Service is aggressively cutting costs with plans to close thousands of post offices and hundreds of mail-processing facilities. Observers expect that next week it will announce losses of at least $10 billion for fiscal 2011.

It is a federal crime to steal postal equipment, and doing so can lead to up to three years in prison or up to $250,000 in fines.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service said that with more than 32,000 post offices and more than 200 mail-processing facilities nationwide, the USPS uses thousands of pallets (costing $20 each) to move crates of mail, letter trays ($2.75 each) and translucent mail tubs with “United States Postal Service” emblazoned along the side in black letters ($4 each).

Postal inspectors have recovered more than 200,000 pieces of equipment worth more than $4 million since 2008.

One of the worst offenders was a Georgia man who worked for a major mailer and was arrested for stealing and selling almost 10,000 Postal Service pallets to a pallet supply company, according to postal inspectors. The company, in turn, provided USPS equipment to a freight company shipping to South America. The man paid $10,129 in restitution to the Postal Service.

A Florida man once sold more than 21,000 pallets. After he said he was aware that it was against the law to steal and resell the pallets, he was sentenced in federal court to five months in prison and ordered to pay more than $419,000 in restitution.

The Postal Service said its amnesty program will run from Saturday to Nov. 26. Customers can drop off equipment at post offices or mail-processing facilities, and organizations with large amounts of equipment can arrange for a one-time pickup by e-mailing hqmte@usps.gov and including “Equipment Pickup Request” in the subject line. The organization should include its name, address and the equipment’s location in the e-mail.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
The big questions after New Hampshire, from The Post's Dan Balz
Can Bernie Sanders cut into Hillary Clinton's strength in the minority community and turn his challenge into a genuine threat? And can any of the Republicans consolidate anti-Trump sentiment in the party in time to stop the billionaire developer and reality-TV star, whose unorthodox, nationalistic campaign has shaken the foundations of American politics?
Clinton in New Hampshire: 2008 vs. 2015
Hillary Clinton did about as well in N.H. this year as she did in 2008, percentage-wise. In the state's main counties, Clinton performed on average only about two percentage points worse than she did eight years ago (according to vote totals as of Wednesday morning) -- and in five of the 10 counties, she did as well or better.
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.