UPS strike having effect in Portage

By Julie Pavelich and Mike Sever Record-Courier s Published:

"Some of the increases we've had have been astronomical," said Kent Postmaster Matthew Smith Jr.

Throughout Portage County, businesses, large and small, are feeling the effects of the Teamsters Union's Aug. 4 strike against UPS, as many companies' shipments have arrived late, or not at all.

The Kent Post Office and others county-wide are trying to accommodate these businesses by mailing out more packages than normal.

"We have gone out of our way to help our customers who have relied on us and UPS in the past," Smith said. "Some of them have doubled or tripled the business they have wanted to do with us."

The offices also were assisting customers who normally didn't use their services. However, the large amount of parcels, the small staffs and extra work has caused many post offices to only cater to regular customers.

"Right now, we are stressing our work force and hours, so we just can't accommodate any new business," Smith said. "Our express mail has increased by about 85 percent each day, and our priority mail has increased by more than 300 percent."

The Ravenna Post Office also has seen triple the amount of packages and is making extra runs to the Akron Post Office to handle the additional load, said Tyra Thompson, supervisor of customer service.

The Ravenna office has activated a contingency plan to accept only four packages per window customer "unless they have an appointment to bring more to the post office," she said. Also, the post office limits parcels to a maximum of 70 pounds and a 108 inches in total dimensions.

"The best thing they can do is call ahead and make an appointment if they have a large number of packages," Thompson said.

Eclipse Blind, a window blind manufacturer in Ravenna, started using the post office to send shipments after first using another service, said Roberta Wilson, a customer service supervisor.

"About 90 percent of the stuff shipped out the week before they went out on strike still hasn't been delivered ... we're having to reship it when packages are lost in UPS," Wilson said. "We're not being able to ship out the volume per day we used to ... (but) one way or another, we still have to get this stuff to our customers," Wilson said.

DuBois Book Store Inc. in Kent is awaiting shipments of school supplies, text books, T-shirts and Beanie Babies that were to have arrived via UPS.

Store employees are hoping the strike will be over and shipments will arrive before Kent State University's fall semester begins Sept. 2.

"We do a lot with Roadway Package Systems and other freight companies, but there still will be some problems, I'm sure," said DuBois employee Cathy Sopko. "If we don't receive books by the time classes start, we will call the different (KSU) departments."

The KSU Bookstore consolidated its orders and is relying on other carriers in order to supply students with necessary text books, said David Hall, KSU director of purchasing.

"The trouble areas are if there are small publishers who only work with UPS. Then we may not be able to get those books in time," he said.

KSU also is using other parcel services and couriers to send and receive supplies and other items.

"We normally use UPS for incoming and outgoing shipments more than any other courier ... we are still getting our supplies but are getting them through other means," Hall said. "We normally accept 250 or greater packages a day from UPS, and because of the strike, we are accepting only about 20 each day.

"The strike has hindered our business, but we think we are in pretty good shape," he said.

Allen Aircraft Products Inc. in Ravenna also has managed to shift to other delivery systems which has helped the company avoid having any difficulty with receiving shipments.

Like many area businesses, the Cleveland Punch and Die Co. in Ravenna keeps serving customers throughout the country and world despite feeling the effects of the strike.

"It's not good," said company president Dan Brown. "We're keeping, up but it's difficult. Our customers don't seem to understand that UPS is on strike. We can get a call in the middle of the afternoon from a customer in California, and they expect us to ship something out that day. And we do. That's part of our business."

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