Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Check is Not in the Mail


By Patricia Adams

For more than thirty years, Tony Granchelli has been the mail carrier for South Ozone Park residents Martin and Irene Weiss. “In the beginning,” says Irene, “he was like the merry mailman.” Now, according to Irene Weiss, Granchelli is the nightmare of 117th street. “He’s not the same man.”

Martin and his wife have lived on 117th Street for 23 years after moving from another house nearby. Granchelli was the mail carrier for both houses. Weiss was a tow truck driver for almost 30 years until his company was forced to lay off much of the staff. “I wasn’t ready to retire,” said the 64-year-old Weiss, “so I took a job with Home Depot.” But while working at the store he was assigned a 74-year-old helper who dropped a cast iron sink on Weiss. “I tried to pick it up and threw my back out.” Now he collects permanent disability.

The trouble between the Weiss family and Granchelli began several years ago according to Martin Weiss when he stopped Granchelli near the corner of his house and asked if the postman could give him his mail. He was on his way to the bank and didn’t want to have to make two trips. “He told me he wasn’t giving me my mail and that I should wait for it at my house,” said Weiss. “So I went about my business, but from that day on my troubles started.”

Weiss’ “troubles” as he calls them, lie in the fact that his disability checks, scheduled to arrive twice a month on Mondays hardly ever get to him. And important bills from credit card companies and utilities have been disappearing. “Ever since I had the altercation with Tony, my checks come late, don’t come at all or are delivered to the wrong address.”

And Weiss adds, further complications arose after the mailman refused to give Weiss his mail away from his house. “It was right before Christmas a couple of years ago. Tony came to me and handed me an empty envelope that said Merry Christmas. He was looking for a Christmas gift, but I just took the envelope and tore it up.”

Weiss said that in prior years he had never given the postal carrier less than twenty dollars for the holidays, but after what happened he decided to stop tipping him. Since then the Weiss’ say they have been living in “mail hell.”

As his wife describes, Martin Weiss is arguably one of the most organized people you could ever find. “My husband knows the dates that every bill and check arrives. If anything is late he calls immediately.”

And a look at the Weiss kitchen calendar is all the proof anyone needs to verify Irene’s testimony about her husband’s capacity for organization. Listed clearly on the calendar is the date that each bill arrives regularly and a schedule of dates that checks are expected. A look through the Weiss check register details payments that are issued on the day they are received.

Upstairs in another room are boxes of impeccably organized files of records that Martin Weiss has kept for decades. Weiss has a good case in defending what some may call obsessive behavior with the mail and the bills—his over 800 credit score has not been marred by lateness in an over forty year credit history. But the issue goes much further than Weiss’ credit and his personal drive to keep things organized.

“I have reported these problems to the United States Post Office Inspectors and been assigned a case number,” said Weiss. “I have worked with the supervisors at the branch, three of them so far, and still no action has been taken. I don’t know what to do.” Weiss says he is so frustrated that he didn’t know what else to do and so at the suggestion of a friend he decided to try and get the local newspaper to help him.

A call to Sedgwick Claims Management, the company that issues Weiss’ disability checks, verified his reports about his checks. Claims Supervisor Diane Triolo told The Forum she was happy that someone was finally stepping in to help her client. “Our company policy is that we do not direct deposit, nor do we certify or register mail. So he seemed to be at the mercy of the Post Office.”

Triolo said that out of the last 26 checks sent out to Weiss for the last year, there were problems with more than half of them being received. “Our checks are automatically generated in the computer so there is no problem with the address and we have confirmed that the checks have been mailed out by several that have been returned with the correct address and date on the checks.”

Although it is not policy, Triolo said she has made several exceptions and sent Martin Weiss’ check by overnight mail. “People have to understand that people receiving disability checks, especially the elderly, need that money to come in on time.” In Weiss’ case what he receives in those checks helps to cover thousands of dollars in yearly prescription costs for him and his wife each year.

Two return phone calls from the United States Postal Services (USPS)- one from Corporate Communications and another from the regional Postmaster, Jim Burns -suggest there may be some light at the end of the Weiss’ tunnel. According to Bob Trombley of USPS Corporate Communications, all reports by postal clients that are reported through proper channels are taken very seriously and investigated to the fullest. Trombley also said that any impropriety with regard to delivering checks would be tampering with the mail, a federal felony offense.

Several names and numbers for Weiss to contact were supplied. In a call to The Forum, Postmaster Jim Burns said he knew of the ongoing situation between Mr. Weiss and mail carrier Tony Granchelli. Mr. Burns said it was his intention to “meet with Mr. Granchelli and call Mr. Weiss. We will work this situation out. It’s very simple, he [Granchelli] has to do his job properly.”

According to the president of the South Ozone Park Civic Association West (SOPCAW), Anthony Gellineau, there have been many problems with the Post Office located off Rockaway Blvd. at 126-15 Foch Blvd., out of which Granchelli is based. “In the past we have had problems with understaffing at the branch. Lines have been out the door and the facility was really dirty,” said Gellineau, who also acknowledged there have also been situations with discourteous mail carriers.

“The members of the civic have not reported problems to me as of late and the situation is definitely better after we had several meetings with the Post Office including the Postmaster, Jim Burns. Mr. Burns is a very frank person and helped us to deal with our problems. He has seen to it that we got more staff in the location and things have cleaned up a bit under the new branch supervisor, Ms. Coleman. I am confident that with problems that arise we will get help from the Post Office officials when we need it”.

For now, Martin Weiss will wait and see if he gets a Christmas gift from the USPS -his mail.

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