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Uh-oh, the USPS seems to be delivering delays again

“We always hope for the easy fix: the one simple change that will erase a problem in a stroke. But few things in life work this way. Instead, success requires making a hundred small steps go right — one after the other, no slipups, no goofs, everyone pitching in.”

— Dr. Atul Gawande, “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance” (2007)


Is there anything more frustrating than seeing a problem you thought resolved re-emerge to cause more trouble? Last year when the Postal Service announced it would shut down its processing center in Martinsburg and move that work to Baltimore, our immediate worry was whether the change would make Spirit subscribers wait longer to get their papers each week. Postal officials, though, assured the public that after an initial period of delayed deliveries, the transition would be made and soon mail would arrive as quickly as ever. And after a month where the paper took a week or longer to arrive, we started to hear encouraging news from our subscribers, who told us that their papers had begun to arrive on the same old schedule. The postal system had made the new process work as well as the previous one, it seemed. We happily turned our attention to other matters.

And then a few weeks ago, we began to hear that some subscribers were again getting their Spirits late. We’d actually gotten our first heads up on this from my mother, a subscriber in Morgan County. Checking in one weekend, we asked what she thought of the latest issue of the paper and discovered she still hadn’t gotten it. We hoped the paper’s failure to arrive was just a fluke, but then we started getting phone calls from other readers, particularly those living outside Jefferson County, expressing similar complaints.

But as we’ve explained to readers who call, the sad fact of the matter is that this is a problem we at the Spirit can’t directly address. As much as want our paper in your hands as quickly as possible, we have zero control over the time it takes for the postal system to make its rounds.

It seems to us that we could make adjustments to accommodate this new reality. For instance, we’re working hard to make space to include in our Community Calendar not just the coming week’s events, but those happening two or three weeks out so that even our readers who get the paper later than we’d like still have time to make plans. With our news coverage and Advocate and Perspectives pages, we continue to offer the kind of thoughtful pieces that have a considerable shelf life.

We do have a solution of sorts that we’d like to make available for those who live or work in Charles Town or otherwise find themselves downtown regularly. What we’re calling an “office subscription” works like this: Instead of Spirit office manager Cara Young mailing out the paper to a subscriber, she lists the address as our office and has the edition set aside until the subscriber arrives at the office anytime after noon on Wednesday. This is a system we began offering just last month and so far it’s working well. Another option remains the Spirit’s e-edition, delivered by noon to subscribers’ e-mail inbox each Wednesday.

Obviously, it’s not something that will help some of the Spirit readers whose papers now are being delayed the longest, those who live out of county and out of state, but we want to do whatever we can to head off the holdup.

Whether you’re near or far, we appreciate you reading the Spirit. Feel free to drop a line and let us know how we’re doing.

– Robert Snyder



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