A day after defaulting on a $5.5 billion payment, leaders with the United States Postal Service are reminding the public about the importance of returning mail transport equipment because it costs so much to replace.
USPS workers use "mail transport equipment," such as flat tubs, trays and mailbags, to accept, sort and move mail.
When they deliver to big apartment buildings or offices, workers often leave the equipment with the good faith expectation that consumers will return them within seven days.
Arrangements also can be made for the Postal Service to pick up larger amounts of equipment and/or pallets by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "equipment pickup request" in the subject line.
Consumers should include the company name and address where equipment is located, the type of equipment and quantity, and a contact name and phone number.
To report the misuse of equipment, such as hoarding or recycling, customers are urged to call the MTE hotline at 866-330-3404.
"Unfortunately, there are many instances where the equipment is never returned by customers, who sometimes use the containers for personal use," USPS Tennessee spokesman David Walton said in a news release.
The USPS will spend $120 million this year replacing missing and damaged mail transport equipment. A flat tub costs $4 each, and pallets used to transport mail cost $16 each.
"With our current financial situation, we can't spend [to replace these]," Walton said via phone Thursday.
The equipment is federal property, and anyone caught stealing or misusing it can be fined $1,000 and face up to three years in prison.
USPS leaders are asking customers to return the equipment—no questions asked. Consumers can do so at local post offices or processing and distribution facilities.
Anyone who has the equipment at home can put it by their mailboxes to be picked up, Walton also said.
"The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations," Walton said in the release.