They’re difficult to miss — bright-orange pallets, white bins and mail sacks emblazoned with “United States Postal Service” — and somehow they’re missing, likely stacked and forgotten in back rooms or used for storage.

If you have them, the postal service is giving you two weeks to return them, no penalties, no questions asked. Please.

Pretty Please.

“We really would love to have this stuff back,” said Auburn Postmaster Leigh St. Pierre. “Particularly with Christmas coming, it gets very frustrating when we’re forced to bed load. That’s when you basically stack mail on the floor of a truck because you just don’t have equipment to put it in.”

The U.S. Postal Service announced the amnesty program late last week. Until Nov. 26, mail-processing equipment, such as that sturdy white bin your postal carrier used to deliver your scads of business mail a couple of months ago, the bin you were supposed to give back when it was empty but didn’t — can be returned to a post office, or a mail processing or distribution center.   

It’s unclear how many items are missing locally or nationally, but the Postal Service, which reported a $5.1 billion annual loss Tuesday, said it spent $50 million in the past fiscal year to replace equipment that was never returned. Pallets, which are used to deliver tons of packages and mail to companies, cost $20 each. Bins cost $4 each. 

“You lose 10 here, you lose 15 somewhere else, the next thing you know, you’re $100,000 short,” St. Pierre said.

She understands the allure of the equipment. Those bins are great for storage.

“I carried mail for a long time and it was not uncommon to go into a business and, you know, many people would have one beside their desk,” she said.

But St. Pierre said the postal service can’t afford to keep losing equipment, and it can’t do its job well without it.

Substantial items, such as a bulk supply of pallets, can be easily returned to the Auburn post office at 258 Rodman Road, which has a loading dock. To arrange to use that loading dock, call 786-0604. All other items can be returned without calling ahead.

The Postal Service will pick up large amounts of equipment and pallets. To make arrangements for pickup, email [email protected], include “Equipment Pickup Request” in the subject line and include the company name, equipment type, quantity and location, and contact information in the body of the email. 

To report hoarding, recycling or other misuse of equipment, call 1-866-330-3404. Theft or misuse of postal property can result in a $1,000 fine and three years in prison.

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