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Mel's Mail Moments - DPS Dance of Death

Updated on April 26, 2013
Mel Carriere profile image

Although many are mystified by his mysterious moniker, Mel Carriere is a San Diego mailman who writes about the mail, among other things.

Behind this box an evil dog lurks

Behind this innocent looking mailbox an evil dog lurks
Behind this innocent looking mailbox an evil dog lurks

The US Postal Service's DPS System, flaws and Misconceptions

Today I had 16 inches of residual letters. When you do the math, that comes out to 303 pieces of letter size mail. If I case at the minimal standard 18 pieces per minute, this comes out to 17 minutes to work this amount of mail. In all probability, this is 17 minutes that I was cheated out of in DOIS. The likelihood is that the DOIS Workhour/Workload report tomorrow will show me over in the office tomorrow, because the route I was casing on was most certainly not given 303 pieces of letter size mail. I know this because when I used to work on the other side of the aisle we junior supervisors were instructed not to conduct a linear count of caseable letters based on the actual volume, but instead to input a minimal amount of letters, usually between a dozen to 20. Therefore, I was certainly cheated out of mail volume today and if the supervisor comes back and tells me I was under standards tomorrow I am going to throw a fit.

I apologize for using a lot of postal terminology that any non letter-carrier will be mesmerized with, but it all comes back to good old human greed and the concerted, organized effort by one group to agrandize or enrich itself at the expense of another. In this sense, the postal service is not any different from any other institution. To put it in postal terms once more, DPS percentage is a fraud; a sham, bogus number that is continually manipulated so that managers can make their numbers and projections, while letter carriers are forced to conduct the "DPS dance of death" to deal with the inefficient sorting of mail that this process creates.

Not only are letter carriers cheated out of cased letter volume on a regular basis, but other nefarious practices are put into place to manipulate the DPS number that make a letter carrier's job more difficult on the street. From having worked in an administrative capacity for quite a few years, I became familiar with one of these practices, and it still disconcerts, disgusts, and repulses me to think that I took part in it. i was only following orders, by the way. That didn't save the Nuremburg Nazis, but hopefully it will save me Anyway, we would get the word, usually before the end of the fiscal year, that we had to go into the database and remove the tags from the high-rise and street defaults. The high-rise defaults are basically used to capture mail that either is missing a secondary number such as APT 12, STE 501, UNIT 300, etc., has a bad number, or has a bar code that is unreadable for whatever reason. The DPS machine throws these mail pieces to the beginning of a group of deliveries. For example, 400 Main Street has 100 apartments that are put into 6 different arrow lock separations, be they gang boxes, CBUs, etc. Typically, say there are 10-15 mail pieces that fall into the "crap" unreadable category and cannot be sorted in sequence. The DPS machine sorts these to the high-rise and street defaults. The defaults are supposed to be tagged so that the mail goes to the carrier's case, where they can be sorted in the correct sequence, but usually they are not.

The consequence of this "crap" mail being taken directly to the street, instead of being cased by the carrier in the morning, is detrimental to the carrier's performance and to delivery efficiency altogether. It results in that woeful "DPS Dance of Death," in which the nimble letter carrier must dance back and forth among several arrow locks in order to get the mail into the right boxes. Needless to say, it is an inefficient, time wasting practice that could be easily corrected by putting the tags back in on the defaults. Admittedly, the tags are not necessary when only a single "footprint" is involved, but when there are multiple arrow locks at a given location it becomes cumbersome, to say the least. When i used to walk routes I witnessed the DPS Dance of Death time and time again, so I know it is not an isolated practice. It is widespread and rampant. But the higher-ups continue to make it a reality because DPS Percentage is typically one of their performance objectives. In other words, they make themselves look good at the expense of the people suffering through the actual work that has been made more difficult by this corrupt, unprofessional practice.

This is my rant for today. In summation, when one sees the DPS percentage continually improving, the figure has to be looked upon with extreme skepticism. For instance, today I had 303 pieces of residual letters, while my DPS number was 1549. Using my trusty calculator and removing my reality block, which postal supervisors are forced to apply liberally at the mandate of higher management, I come out with a woeful DPS percentage number of 83.6%. There were several routes such as my own that were forced to case a large quantity of residual letters today, but I am sure the DPS percentage for our station will be calculated somewhere in the neighborhood of a clean, acceptable 95%, or something close to this. In other words it is a fraud and a sham, and comes dangerously close to that dreaded term "falsifying of documents" that every postal employee dreads, but tends to only apply to us poor saps on the bottom of the food chain.

Well, these are my happy thougts today. What are some of your own? Feel free to comment, and to take the poll below. Are you also an active participant in the DPS Dance of Death?

Your friend,


Has your route been effected by the DPS Dance of Death?

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    • Mel Carriere profile imageAUTHOR

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      Thanks for reading. This hub was a little too postal specific I'm afraid, but I'm glad it enlightened you a bit. I have very fond memories of Mesa, where in my day there were still quite a few orange groves right in the city limits. Glad you could drop by.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      I am also learning....and appreciating. I always knew it wasn't an easy job but thanks to some of postal carrier customers and now you, I am getting a better perspective and understanding!

      Interesting to know about your Mesa roots. I have been here for almost 6 years now and, so far, I love it. I don't live too far from Mountain View. I am on Greenfield and Main. Small world!

    • Mel Carriere profile imageAUTHOR

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you greatstuff. In spite of the dark picture I sometimes paint it can still be a satisfying job, particularly for the interaction with the public that you describe. Thanks for dropping by!

    • greatstuff profile image


      4 years ago from Malaysia

      You know what? When I was a kid, my ambition was to be a postman as I saw people were eagerly waiting for their postal delivery and I envied that. From your article, thank God I didn't pursue my childhood dream! Mel, thanks for sharing.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      5 years ago

      Very interesting. I never knew there was so much to it. Thank you for this insightful Hub!

    • Mel Carriere profile imageAUTHOR

      Mel Carriere 

      5 years ago from San Diego California

      I appreciate your comment, aviannovice. Wouldn't it be wonderful if everything was as simple, clear cut, and spiritually stimulating as our hobby of birding is? Keep the faith!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Well, Mel, I happen to know what you are referring to, as when I worked the Bangor part of EMP&DF, I would bring over the mail that had to be hand sorted, and there was a lot of it. Ben Franklin is rolling in his grave, as he never wanted this to happen to his department.


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