Not only are postal authorities investigating whether someone — perhaps an employee — orchestrated mail thefts in Marion.
We also have to worry as well about a much less serious but still concerning matter: the Case of the Missing Newspapers — specifically, copies of last week’s Marion County Record destined for subscribers on Marion’s Rural Route 3.
Our phones have been ringing off the hook for several days about that case, and lots of rumors — some fanciful, some not — are circulating about the more serious case involving possible package and even identity thefts.
Some say thieves may have been tipped to follow letter carriers and swipe packages, which they then would fence to local drug dealers in exchange for hits of meth. All we can say for certain is that local law enforcement and regional postal authorities appear to be taking the allegations seriously.
If a package you expected to receive in the mail didn’t show up for any reason, let not only the sender but also the police or post office know.
A lot less is known or even suspected about the Case of the Missing Newspapers.
Each week, we mail dozens of bundles of newspapers using an assortment of large plastic tubs.
Papers have to be bundled in very specific ways — in the precise order, for example, in which subscribers’ homes appear on each of thousands upon thousands of carrier delivery routes nationwide. We pay for a costly computer program to handle the sorting of each bundle for us.
But that’s not the only complication. You might think it would be as simple as taking all the Marion papers to the Marion post office, all the Hillsboro papers to the Hillsboro post office, and all the Peabody papers to the Peabody post office.
If we did that, many of our readers wouldn’t get their papers until days if not weeks after they were printed.
To get this week’s Marion paper to Tampa, for example, we’ll mail those copies in Hillsboro. That way, they’ll have to go only to Wichita then back to Tampa, with a possible stop in Salina. If we didn’t do that, the papers would go from Marion to Emporia and then to Kansas City before heading to Wichita to finish their route.
Local postmasters, who didn’t invent this system but have to live with it, have been quite helpful in letting us figure out ways to make things run more smoothly.
As a result, we now deliver all papers destined for addresses served by the Florence, Peabody, Hillsboro, and Marion post offices directly to those offices in separate tubs for city routes, rural routes, and post office boxes.
We even have special procedures for papers that go to Cedar Point, Lincolnville and Lost Springs. They stay in Marion because routes for those post offices originate here. We have a special procedure for readers in Burdick and other places with ZIP codes beginning with 668. They avoid Kansas City and are stopped short in Emporia. A similar procedure exists for papers to ZIP codes beginning with 670 and 674. They’re stopped short in Wichita to avoid going to Kansas City.
If you begin getting the impression that Kansas City is a pariah to be avoided except when rooting for Super Bowl teams, you might have a future in our delivery department.
The problem is, a bundle of Marion papers labeled to go to readers on Rural Route 3 somehow made it into a wrong tub. Normally it would be in the same tub — though in separate bundles — with other Marion, Hillsboro and Peabody papers going to this and other Marion rural routes.
Exactly where the bundle went is anyone’s guess. It didn’t stay in our office. It didn’t stay in the Marion post office. It apparently went to Emporia, according to Marion postal officials, but then it vanished. It may have gone on to Kansas City. It shouldn’t have gone any farther. But it hasn’t been found in either place.
Perhaps this lonely bundle of orphaned newspapers is buried under a stack of Santa Claus letters. Maybe it’s sharing space with the remains of Jimmy Hoffa. Or perhaps it was beamed up to eager readers on the Starship Enterprise. Until and unless some of those papers ever arrive, we won’t know. And we might not know even then.
All of which is to say that, if your paper doesn’t show up when you expect it, give us a call. If your copy of the Record, Star-Journal, or Gazette-Bulletin has decided to go on walkabout somewhere within the maze of post offices nationwide, drop by our office and we’ll give you a replacement. And we’ll call our friendly and cooperative local post officials to enlist their help in figuring out how to avoid such problems in the future.
— ERIC MEYER