GRAND CROSSING — Every time Elizabeth Willis visits the James E. Worsham Post Office, the lines are long and the service is bad, she said.
"I hate coming here. It's terrible. The employees here act like they don't want to work, when they should be grateful to have a job," said Willis, who has lived in Chatham for 20 years.
"I'm sure if this post office was located in a white neighborhood, service would not be as bad. But because this is a black neighborhood, we get treated poorly," she said.
The Grand Crossing neighborhood has a predominately black population. All four employees at the Worsham station are black.
Postal officials, however, say race has nothing to do with it. It's about retirements and understaffing.
Victor Dubina, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, attributed long lines at the Worsham station, 7715 S. Cottage Grove Ave., to retirements.
"We had a lot of retirements this year and that caused a slight slowdown. Currently, the Cottage Grove office has one supervisor, two full-time retail clerks and another clerk, who has behind-the-scenes duties and will fill in at the retail counter as needed," Dubina said.
He said the office "is expecting one additional full-time retail clerk to begin at the window as soon as training and administrative requirements are met. That will bring the office up to full strength."
Dubina did not know when the clerk in training would begin or how long employee training typically lasts.
Mashawn Winfrey, 77, wanted to know why the supervisor, Jamie Griffin, does not help out at the front counter when lines are long.
"I mean, she gets paid with our tax dollars, too, and all I ever see her do is walk around," said Winfrey, who went to the Worsham station Tuesday to send off a package to his son in Miami. "I am an old man, and I cannot stand a long time. I came here last week and there were 15 people already in line, so I left and came back. But when I did return, the line was out the door."
Griffin said she would love to help out at the front counter but union rules prohibit her from doing so.
"Is it stressful being understaffed? Yes, it is. But we manage," said Griffin, who worked 15 years as a letter carrier before being promoted three weeks ago to supervisor. "Is it frustrating not to have items available for customers? Of course, but again, we get by with what we have."
Currently the station is out of stamped envelopes, Griffin said. "I put an order in last week but it has not arrived yet," Griffin said.
According to Mary Winters, a Grand Crossing resident for 19 years, the station has been out of stamped envelopes for a while.
"They didn't have any stamped envelopes last month, either. Why wait until you are out of something before ordering more? That's poor management on her part," said Winters, 53. "I'd rather go to the currency exchange and pay extra to get my stuff. At least they don't run out of anything."
Cynthia Rainey, 50, of Grand Crossing, said she's had better service at stations outside the neighborhood.
"I went to the post office in Hyde Park, and service was good and swift. But when I come to the post office in my own neighborhood, I get terrible treatment," said Rainey.
Dubina said while he can understand customers growing impatient, he insisted things will improve soon.
"The Chicago District [U.S. Post Office] is also reviewing the automatic product shipping process, as well as the orders placed, to ensure that products are available," added Dubina. "Help is on the way."