If you are reading this, there is a better than likely chance that you drink coffee and that you are living through a historic pandemic. Assuming these two rather uncontroversial assertions hold true, it is also likely, given that many cafes around the world are closed or operating at a limited capacity, you get at least some of your coffee delivered by mail. And if we haven’t lost you yet, then we can say with some certainty that you are likely to be waiting at this very moment for a shipment of coffee.
And if you feel like your orders are taking longer than usual to arrive, you’re not alone. Earlier this week we put out a poll on Twitter about this very subject, and an overwhelming majority state there has been at least some delay in their shipments. Of the total 72% experiencing delays, 41% said the slowdown was just a few days, with 24% saying it was a week or more. 7% said packages simply weren't showing up at all. Many took to the comments to tell us more.
My weekly coffee subscription is about 1 week behind. Used to come USP on fri or sat now it comes the following weekend. Delay started about 3-4 weeks ago.
— Dan (@drinkmud) August 11, 2020
Those sending the packages have also been feeling the sting.
All of the above, almost every week
— Tinker Coffee (@tinkercoffeeco) August 11, 2020
Many blamed erratic shipping routes at the culprit.
Last weeks order from Kuma shipped priority took a full week to make it to the southwest. Seattle-> Minneapolis-> Phoenix????
— Tom Willers (@Willers_Tom) August 11, 2020
Seeing a few packages delivered typically in 3 days taking up to 5-6. One Tampa -> San Diego package went to Puerto Rico first (?) and had one Mississippi->Tampa go to Queens first (??).
— Joel Eastlick (@joeleastlick) August 11, 2020
We’re having packages destined for Los Angeles (we roast in LA) being routed to other distribution centers like Sacramento, San Francisco and even Atlanta!!! This week @USPS couldn’t pick up in our area… 😡 https://t.co/cvGZOETzfE
— Deaton Pigot (@deatonpigot) August 11, 2020
Sprudge and Sprudge Wine contributor Michael Alberty offers changes at the postal service as the root cause:
There are reports of electronic sorting machines being removed from post offices with no explanation. Overtime is also being slashed. This combination can create incredible delays.
— Michael Alberty (@HeadStoryteller) August 11, 2020
Alberty is right, too. And as you probably guess, the reason for these changes are political and absurd. Going back to at least April of this year the current administration has been waging a war against the United States Postal Service. We have previously written about the devastating effects the collapse of the USPS would have on the coffee industry (TL;DR it's bad). Then in May, things took a turn for the worst when Louis DeJoy, a former CEO of a logistics company and “major donor and fundraiser” for Donald Trump, took over as Postmaster General.
As reported by NPR, the USPS has been in financial trouble for some time now. The postal service, whose existence is empowered by the Constitution, has long been seen as a right and a service to the population at large, not a business. Nonetheless, the USPS receives no federal funding but instead generates its revenue to stamps and other services—including banking, which significantly helps the unbanked during COVID-19, a group disproportionately comprised of low-income households and people of color—which are now in jeopardy thanks to DeJoy's new cost-cutting measures.
The major cut has come to overtime hours for postal workers, in that overtime is prohibited across the board. Now, according to NPR, if a piece of mail arrives late, it gets “left behind and delivered the following day.” If it is between overtime or leaving mail behind, according to a letter sent to a Cincinnati post office, they are to leave it behind. Other post offices have reported processing machines being removed. When asked by Vice for a procedural reason for these removals, Iowa Postal Workers Union President Kimberly Karol stated, “I’m not sure you’re going to find an answer for why [the machines being removed] makes sense… because we haven’t figured that out either.”
This hamstringing of a centuries-old American institution is purely political. It is the machination of the president in an attempt to stay in power. With the spread of COVID-19, a call for mail-in voting to be implemented nationwide has been picking up momentum, but the president has tried to thwart these efforts due to how he believe they would affect his chances of reelection. Though there is no evidence that mail-in voting en masse would favor one party over the other, it is nonetheless more favored by Democrats, with Republicans fearing mail-in balloting would “increase votes for Democrats” by enfranchising “groups that typically vote in lower numbers,” including “young people, low-income people, minorities, and those without access to transportation,” per the Brookings Institute.
In order to erode the public faith—and thus stall the chances of mail-in voting come the general election in November—DeJoy is working doggedly to render the USPS ineffective while the president has been for months making baseless claims that mail-in balloting would lead to voter fraud. Just this morning, in fact, Trump went on Fox News to state explicitly why the Postal Service is being targeted. Per The Hill:
“[The Democrats] want $25 billion for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. “Now in the meantime, they aren't getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don't get those two items that means you can't have universal mail-in voting, because they're not equipped to have it.”
“Now, if we don't make a deal that means they don't get the money. That means they can't have universal mail-in voting,” Trump added. “They just can't have it. So, you know, sort of a crazy thing.”
If you're keeping score at home, the list of things Trump is willing to sacrifice in order to skew the chances of reelection in his favor include: the United State Postal Service along with the 600,000 people it employs, the ability to vote (another one of those pesky Constitutionally-granted rights) for those who don't favor him, and every small business that relies on the Postal Service to stand even a slim chance of surviving a global pandemic.
We as Americans find ourselves yet again in the unfathomable position of experiencing the politicization of a very un-political issue. The right to vote for all people is fundamental and the president is going scorched earth on any and all foundational elements that America great standing in his way to personal gain. Left in his wake as collateral damage are small businesses, hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of jobs, American institutions, and real, actual people whose lives could be irreparably damaged by one man's clumsy, un-Democratic power grab.
Will we be permitted to have a free and fair election this fall? Will the USPS crumble at the hands of these pudding-brained Baby Boomer wannabe despots? Will our coffee ever arrive? Stay tuned—and in the meantime, buy stamps.