Caught My Eye, Crossed My Mind
Company Christmas Party, Post Office Issues & Christmas Lights
By: Forrest R. Church, Publisher
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTY – Our newspaper team enjoyed a great meal last week at The Barn Restaurant at historic Sauder Village in rural Archbold, Ohio as we celebrated our annual Company Christmas Party.
Due to our news coverage schedule throughout the two county area quickly filling constantly, it is rare we can find a time that works out for our team working around the clock.
During the time of fellowship I was honored to present awards we received back in early October at the annual National Newspaper Association Convention in Washington D.C. to our hard working staff (see related article inside this week’s edition).
I have said it before in my columns, but would like to stress again we have a great team from throughout our immediate area. While the awards distributed had individual names on them, all our members are responsible for our success.
POSTAGE ISSUES – Casey who handles our subscriptions at the main office told me last week that a new reader outside our two county coverage area wanted a refund on their subscription as they were not getting their newspaper in the mail.
She then shared another story of a subscriber from Michigan that stopped into the office saying he received several weeks of newspapers on the same day, despite the fact we mail our publication every week on Tuesday like clockwork.
Believe it or not I am aware of this happening frequently over the years not only with our newspapers at The Village Reporter but publications from around the country.
I read with interest recently where the Archbold Buckeye was having major issues, updating their readers on social media concerning delays of their product to certain locations.
If you are in our line of work, Post Office issues are a top concern and was a major focus recently by newspaper publishers in Washington D.C.
In early October, I sat in the offices of three House of Representative members who have been working on Post Office reform bills. I, along with a few other publishers, shared stories on the nightmare that has be-come doing business with the USPS and how tax payers continue to bail out the entity that has provided worse service than decades past at a more expensive price.
I believe we have had at last check four price increases on mailing your newspapers in the last two years. Note – these forced increases have not been passed onto our subscription rates like you see everywhere around us with inflation; example grocery price increases.
The stories heard during these meetings were mind blowing, even from political staffers themselves in Washington D.C. having testimonies to share on mailing issues they experienced first person.
While I am addressing periodical issues, the cash flow of businesses throughout the country mailed with first class stamps has been devastated by slow USPS services as well.
Businesses that invoice on say the 1st of each month, have always expected a mailed invoice to be received 3, 4, 5 days later.
The invoice would be paid, then another 3, 4, 5 days to return the paid invoice, thus the monies would be received by the middle of the month, generally by the 15th-20th of each month.
Likely billions of dollars in delayed payments have been absorbed by big and small businesses alike in recent years as often those first of the month invoices are not even received until the middle or later half of the month.
Thus when the payment is finally made, the cash flow has been delayed weeks, possibly even putting the payment into a past due status.
Not because businesses changed their system used for decades, not because the bills are being paid slowly, but because mail with more expensive first class stamps just takes much longer for delivery than in recent years/decades.
My crystal ball – watch social media in the next 30-60 days where people say Christmas cards mailed in early December are received in January or even February.
I think it was two years ago where a large amount of our personal mailed cards were received after the holiday, when we mailed them 15-20 days ahead of Christmas.
How long did it take the Pony Express back in the day to deliver mail from say Boston to Cleveland? Are we progressing or declining with service as time goes on?
The issue is beyond frustrating for us, but even more so for local USPS workers who sincerely want to help and provide what could be a great service yet the system set up nationally is a catastrophe.
You know I can get wordy in these columns, I will summarize as briefly as I can. There is nothing humanly possible we can do to improve mailed newspapers arriving quickly to our readers.
We spend A LOT of money with a subscription service that larger newspapers across the country utilize (most smaller newspapers do not go to this extreme).
The software places a bar code on your subscription label, places the papers in perfect sequence, CASS certifies them, checks to ensure your address matches the national database, etc.
Summary – papers are mailed as perfectly as possible according to guidance provided by the USPS itself.
We then physically walk the newspapers via large tubs into all the Post Offices in the greater Williams County – Fulton County areas of Northwest Ohio which is a major weekly expense for us.
If you were mailing Christmas cards, this would be similar to organizing them by town then physically driving to each town to drop them off to that town. Why?
To ensure quick delivery to individual addresses, instead of mailing them from one location and letting the USPS deliver.
Not very many years ago we could just do a general mailing (drop all newspapers off at our entry Post Office) and newspapers would arrive 1-2 days religiously to all our locations saving us from all the extra hours and gas expense of going to every local post office.
If I did that now, readers in locations such as Wauseon and Montpelier, who receive their newspaper now on Wednesday would get them on Thursday; three Thursdays later that is…
Since bulk mailing became undependable, we weekly spend hours and hours driving around Northwest Ohio doing half the job the USPS frankly should be doing on their own.
Again, note, this is NOT the fault of local USPS workers you see on a daily basis (give your mail carrier some Christmas cookies if you think about it by the way), it is due to the known broken system itself.
Newspapers mailed to areas outside the greater Williams County – Fulton County areas of Northwest Ohio are delivered to the SCF center in Dearborn, Michigan via our main entry post office location in Bryan. It is a hub where mail is then distributed throughout the country.
This is the problem child, well known and admitted by the USPS. When Toledo’s SCF center was closed and merged with Dearborn years ago now, hell broke out, really there is no further explanation.
I have told local USPS workers that help us on a regular basis I do everything I can to avoid our newspapers going to the SCF center but short of driving to places like Akron, Ohio; Franklin, Tennessee; Winter Garden, Florida and physically handing the paper to readers, it is our only option.
One post office source that has since retired summarized the problem with the SCF center. It was made known that an entire semi-trailer full of mail was simply lost at one point in Dearborn, days was spent trying to locate it.
So when a smaller newspaper calls complaining that a small number of newspapers have mysteriously disappeared (because readers are calling us at the main office about the problem), that we should keep in the back of our minds that a truck with thousands of pieces of mail was lost.
Summary – if a an entire trailer is lost, you better believe it is easy to have your newspapers misplaced
Summary II – believe it or not I made the statement when talking to the regional office in Cleveland about issues, if I had to choose between dealing with USPS issues or IRS problems, I believe the IRS would correct the problem faster (that summarizes a lot in my opinion).
Our politicians locally are aware of the issue, there was rare bipartisan support when all mail was taken to Dearborn from Ohio leadership to return it to either Toledo or Cleveland due to issues like I’ve shared here. Nothing that I am aware has come of the push, I have heard nothing on the matter in 2023 personally.
While I wish there was more we could do, we cannot. Frankly, some of what we do pushes a mailed newspaper cost more than we charge our readers.
That’s not a complaint, this is just the level of willingness we have gone to. So we do ask for grace in this area by frustrated readers from outside the greater Williams County – Fulton County areas of Northwest Ohio.
Just as you cannot control how long it will take for your mailed utility payment to arrive to its destination once dropped in the mail, we are in many ways in the same boat.
One reason we provide the E-Edition for free to subscribers is immediate delivery. When we are done with the weekly newspaper edition as early as Tuesday each week, you have immediate access to it days or even up to a week before the USPS delivers the physical product.
I understand most of our readership still enjoys the physical product more than on a digital screen, but this is a good Option B.
Readers outside of the greater Williams County – Fulton County areas of Northwest Ohio: if you have delivery problems please communicate with our office (email@example.com).
DEFIANCE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS CHRISTMAS LIGHTS – Though not in our immediate coverage area, I wanted to give a shot out to our friends to the south. We have ventured to Hicksville as a family several times over the years to enjoy the large drive through lights display provided by businesses and as memorials for families that are missing loved ones during the holiday season.
It was extremely busy last week but provided a festive hour or so for our family/kids. Great job Defiance and area participants on this annual display. If you enjoy Christmas lights displays and have never visited, I would suggest the option.
That is it for this week. I’d love to hear from you. As always, feel free to reach out to me at publisher@ thevillagereporter.com or via mail at 115 Broad Street, Montpelier, Ohio 43543.