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Los Altos Hills resident escalates decade-long tussle with U.S. Postal Service

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Armed with complaints of misdelivered mail and lack of cooperation from the local postmaster, Los Altos Hills resident Vladimir Preysman is taking his case to Washington, D.C.

For the past 10 years, Los Altos Hills resident Vladimir Preysman and his wife have traveled to France, where they stay for several months at a time. After recurring problems with the U.S. Postal Service’s failure to forward their mail to their international residence, Preysman plans to file an official complaint with the federal agency’s Office of the Consumer Advocate in Washington, D.C.

When he submits his complaint, the paperwork will include his neighbors’ similar accounts of inconsistent service, which he solicited on the online Nextdoor site. It’s a “terrible problem that needs to be addressed,” Preysman said in a phone call with the Town Crier last week.

The Preysmans prepare for their absences from their Los Altos Hills home in advance, redirecting their mail to their address in France. Beyond their poor experiences with mail carriers in Los Altos Hills, Preysman said dealing with rotating USPS employees presents an additional challenge.

“The problem is that most postal workers don’t know how (the international change of address) works, and it’s very difficult to get them to deal with things when something goes wrong,” he said. “The (USPS) form looks for state, ZIP code, etc., and we don’t have states in France. France is the only state.”

According to Preysman, his mail delivery in France is inconsistent – sometimes it arrives at the correct address, other times it never shows up. He tried to work with the local post office and Postmaster Anli Zhao before going above her head, as demonstrated in a series of emails he forwarded to the Town Crier that begin Oct. 8.

Zhao forwarded Preysman’s requests to associates at the Loyola Corners post office, then advised him to contact another supervisor. She informed him in the email exchange that it took 11 days to correct an error in the Preysmans’ change-of-address request for their 2019 trip to France. Preysman was not satisfied with Zhao’s response.

“After that, I decided to complain and go to D.C., but before going there I decided to see what other people think about this. … I wanted to see how many people would get involved and include their responses in the complaint,” he said.

Preysman first considered contacting the regional USPS office in San Francisco, but after an outpouring of input from his neighbors, he decided to take the problem up the ladder.

“At this point, there are so many people unhappy about it and unhappy about the postmaster, how she handles her job and interacts with people,” he said, noting that this was not the first time he had reached out to Zhao.

Often, Preysman said, neighbors will bring misdelivered letters and bills to one another. With a more complicated service like forwarding, he added, “it’s all downhill from here.”

Zhao said that after Preysman contacted her office, a supervisor corrected the address and the local office “did everything they could to help him.” She explained that in the change-of-address form he filed, his handwriting was not clear, leading to the discrepancy.

“We have no control to make processing short,” Zhao said of correcting the mistake. “But we did the best we could.”

A continued theme

A total of 11 Los Altos and Los Altos Hills neighbors commented on Preysman’s Nextdoor post, all describing their problematic interactions with the local USPS branch. One of them, Ellyn Bush, said her mail carrier refused to exit her truck, marking Bush as not at home when something required a signature even when she was.

“Last year at some point I saw her doing this and raced out to the mailbox and asked her about it,” Bush later said in an email. “She told me she ‘did not wish to be injured.’ Our driveway is downhill, though not the steepest. There is also room for the mail truck to turn around at the bottom of the driveway were she to drive down. ... There are no obstacles in the way of our mailbox.”

Problems with the post office preceded Zhao’s tenure, as resident Dinesh Desai illustrated through additional forwarded emails to the Town Crier dated August 2013.

When a public mailbox in Los Altos’ Highlands neighborhood disappeared without any warning to residents, Desai contacted then-Postmaster Makhan Makal to determine why. Makal ultimately approved reinstallation of the mailbox, but when Zhao came on the job, the box was again set for removal in November 2015. Desai went to the Consumer Affairs division in the regional San Francisco office after Zhao allegedly did not respond to his concerns. After speaking to a higher-up, he received a call from an employee that no final decision had been made. The mailbox is still there today.

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