Outside the Union Bank branch on Old Mammoth Road in Mammoth Lakes sits a forlorn-looking United States Postal Service Collection box. The iconic blue paint on the front of the box is bleached in spots and the labels detailing collection times are likewise faded, the dark ink reduced to faint outlines on a stark white background. Compared to the clear labels and updated paint on the boxes in front of the Post Office on Main Street, the collection box at the bank seems woefully out of date.
When The Sheet off-handedly asked an employee at Union if anyone came around to collect from that box, the employee answered in the negative. So is that box still a part of the Mammoth Lakes Post Office collections? Has it become a “rogue” collection box whose mail isn’t regulated and/or collected by USPS Mammoth Lakes branch?
According to an email from a representative of the Postal Service, “Collections are still being made at that location.”
Further, that mail is “processed at our processing and distribution center in Bakersfield.”
When one uses the Postal Service website to determine collection boxes/sites in the area, the only ones that are listed are all at the post office on Main Street. There is no mention of the box at Union Bank.
Further, USPS doesn’t have a street presence in Mammoth Lakes; no friendly neighborhood mailman to wave to on their routes and no mail trucks driving around the streets.
As a result, the box at Union Bank is left in an odd sort of limbo as to who is responsible for collecting and processing the mail from that box.
A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed that although someone does come by and pick up mail from the Union Bank location, this person is not paid to do so and the box itself is not on any route sanctioned by the Post Office.
For to anyone who may be upset to learn that their mail hasn’t been going through their services, the response from postal service directed The Sheet to their initial response: “Collections are still being made at that location.” Which they technically still are, with the caveat that the mail isn’t going through the Post Office in Mammoth Lakes.
That means that whatever goes in there isn’t subject to the Post Office’s regulations, which are supposed to be displayed on the box itself and change relatively frequently. So if you send a package with something like batteries in it, for whatever reason, you could potentially ignite a fire on a mail-carrying airplane because the Postal Service wasn’t able to check the contents of your package.
So if the Postal Service isn’t responsible for the collection box, why is it still there in front of the bank? Simply put, removing a Post Office box isn’t an easy task, especially when the box in question isn’t really sanctioned and when the box is in Mammoth Lakes. Like other things in town, they have to wait until the regional/state service schedules a trip to come up and take care of the problem.
The California USPS representative responses are technically true, as collections are still being made at the Union Bank box and anything the Post Office collects processes through the regional facility in Bakersfield. It’s just that the person doing the collecting in this case isn’t from the Postal Service.
For the time being, the box will stay in its familiar place under the overhang and “if/when the box is removed, signage will be posted informing the public.” No signs have been placed yet, so the aged collection box will continue to wait for its full retirement from service.
When the Sheet called the Post Office, it encouraged people looking to ship packages and other mail out of Mammoth Lakes to use the boxes in front of the post office, as those are under Post Office jurisdiction and anything collected from those boxes is subject to USPS regulations and standards.