Macomb County designer and Etsy businessman Lewis Haney from Warren says postal delays leave microbusinesses like his “stuck in a sort of limbo.”
WARREN, MI — Lewis Haney runs an Etsy store called Windy Woods Designs. He ships out his products weekly, every Saturday. And until recently, that routine worked for him. Now, though, postal delays are disrupting Haney’s business.
Haney makes things like enamel pins, stickers, keychains and pillows for customers on the online platform Etsy.
“We get solid sales weekly and ship out every Saturday,” he told The ‘Gander. “We get a lot of 5 star reviews and I pride myself on having great customer service. I’m grateful to my customers.”
While President Donald Trump has indicated holding up critical postal funding is an attempt to prevent mailed-in votes from being counted, absentee ballots aren’t the only things being held up. Haney’s products are as well.
“I would say the post office delays have impacted my business in less of a direct sales way and more of a customer service aspect,” he said. “The delays started in late July around the time the ballots started to come in for the early August election. My packages started to sit unscanned for almost two weeks. I had to reach out to every customer and let them know that the USPS was having some kind of crazy delay.”
Some of Haney’s customers were understanding. Some weren’t, and demanded refunds.
“I try to be as proactive as possible when issues arise, but it’s hard to come up with solid solutions to these problems once [a package] leaves my doorstep,” he said. “Friends of mine who also have digital storefronts have looked up the shipping prices for FedEx and UPS say the prices aren’t comparable especially for shipping smaller cheaper products. So for now we’re stuck in a sort of limbo.”
Haney’s story isn’t an outlier.
According to data from the Postal Service, 70% of businesses with ten or fewer employees rely on the post office exactly for the reasons Haney does. On average, these microbusinesses spend around $350 a month shipping products, and most primarily use the USPS.
That leaves many of those businesses in Haney’s situation. Though the Postal Service is a government program, it is funded entirely from user fees and not by Federal dollars, and as the coronavirus pandemic stressed the service, that tight budget has become a problem. Following the appointment of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, policies implemented to save the Postal Service money like decommissioning sorting machines and stopping overtime, have caused extreme delays in service.
This comes together with a staffing crisis at the postal service, which shed 77,000 jobs prior to the pandemic, leaving the agency critically understaffed.
And though DeJoy has reacted to investigations into those decisions by suspending his policy changes until after the Nov. 3 election, microbusinesses will be right back in the limbo Haney described on Nov. 4.
In spite of all this, Haney continues to back the Postal Service, though admits he has concerns about what Warren’s mail will be like going forward.
“I want to support the USPS because it sure does need it right now,” said Haney. “I’m worried about my local mailbox. It’s where I usually drop my packages. I’m avoiding the post office itself because my girlfriend is post-cancer and I don’t want to risk bringing COVID home to her.”