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Charly Haley , Published April 28 2013

It's My Job: Post office clerk’s workdays often begin before sunrise

MOORHEAD – When you find mail in your mailbox here, it’s possible Terry Strand helped get it there.

She’s a distribution clerk at the Moorhead Post Office, where she spends hours sorting mail each day, among other duties.

What does your job entail?

When the mail comes in the back door off the trucks, we are responsible for sorting all the mail. Whether it’s flats or letters or parcels, we sort everything to the different carrier routes.

We have 20 city routes, we have six rural routes in the city of Moorhead, and we also have two Glyndon routes and two Dilworth routes, and a Sabin route.

Everything will come in as raw mail, meaning it all has to be sorted. We do have letter trays that will come pre-sorted (from the Fargo post office) – all we have to do with those is pull them off the racks and give them to the appropriate carrier.

We deal with stamps by mail, when people get stamp orders. Business reply and postage due mail – we sort that and charge the appropriate accounts for that.

Any mail that’s sent here that doesn’t belong here – people that have forwards on their mail and so forth, that has to be sent back out of the facility.

Express mail deliveries are done by the clerks. We switch off to do that.

The distribution clerks will also substitute in at the (customer service) window if the need is there.

When does your day start?

Two days a week I come in at 3 a.m., three days a week I come in at 5 a.m.

Do you like the earlier workday?

I enjoy the earlier day because you’re done earlier, and you can get a lot of things done in the afternoon while everybody else is still at work.

Do you ever run into interesting or problematic packages?

We have in the past. The Postal Service has an inspection service, and if there’s anything that we would deem as suspicious type of mail the postal inspector would be contacted, and they would come over and take over from there.

We’ve had, in the past, where packages may be leaking or we get mail from overseas with strange-looking addresses, and we’ll isolate those packages to have first a supervisor probably look at it, and then a postal inspector.

We do get packages on occasion where people are not supposed to mail certain types of things, for example liquor cannot be mailed, and it’s obvious when the smell of a package is a broken wine bottle – that type of thing will happen on occasion, but not often.

Other than that, I guess for the most part everything that comes in is pretty cut and dry. There are times we’ll get packages with incomplete addresses on them, and it’s kind of a guessing game.

We do our best to try and find the people it’s partially addressed to.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I really like the people that I work with.

Everybody here is easy to get along with, and we all kind of know each other’s jobs so we’ll all step in and do what needs to be done to get the mail out.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311