MARYVILLE, Tenn. — An East Tennessee post office has begun throwing away books sent out through Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program that are returned due to wrong addresses.
The Daily Times reports that members of the Maryville Kiwanis Foundation used to be able to pick up the returned books free of charge, but recently officials with the Postal Service said they can't allow that anymore.
David Walton, spokesman for the Tennessee District of the U.S. Postal Service, said the practice is expensive and can't be continued, especially when the agency is facing financial woes of its own. The Postal Service lost $15.9 billion last year and has announced plans to stop Saturday mail delivery in August.
"They are wanting to go pick those books up without paying that return fee," he said. "We can't afford that. They are wanting to ... bypass that fee that most other mailers pay. For some time, they have been getting away with that. It's costing us money. We didn't change any policy. We just wised up to what was going on. They can pay for this forwarding service, but obviously, they are not."
Maryville Kiwanis Club member Herb Meyer says the change came as a surprise.
"All I know is that they allowed us to do this, and I guess they decided it was to be stopped," Meyer said. "As I understand it, it's nationwide. Hopefully, people will be more alert to getting their address changed, but it seems a shame to throw over 100 books away each month."
He said the group mails out about 4,500 books each month and about 100 of those are returned. With the changes, he said it will be impossible for Kiwanis to know which addresses are wrong.
"They will just keep mailing books to those bad addresses. We have no way of knowing which books get delivered. It's a waste of nice books and it also costs us money."
Since the program began seven years ago in Blount County, 345,000 free books have been mailed to registered children. The Kiwanis and the governor's Books from Birth Foundation split the $2 cost.
Meyer said the Dollywood Foundation and the Books from Birth Foundation have been alerted to the problem.