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UChicago researchers say thousands of postcards for paid study went missing in mail

UChicago researchers say thousands of flyers for study went missing in mail
UChicago researchers say thousands of flyers for study went missing in mail 02:06

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Researchers at the University of Chicago are dealing with a missing mail mystery.

They told CBS 2's Jermont Terry that a previous story of ours tipped them off that thousands of their surveys may have been lost.

The surveys were for a study geared toward correcting a problem with a different means of communication delivery. It's hard to go anywhere and not depend on internet service – and the Internet Equity Initiative at the U of C is on a mission.

UChicago Internet Equity Initiative Flyer by Adam Harrington on Scribd

"Measuring the quality of internet service delivered to folks in the Chicagoland area," said Alexis Schrubbe, the director of the program.

Schrubbe questioned whether people's ZIP codes play a factor in the speed of their internet service.

"We sign up for internet service, and we just take for granted that we're going to get that speed we pay for," she said.

So the program sent out flyers.

UChicago Internet Equity Postcard by Adam Harrington on Scribd

"We mailed 10,000 postcards advertising a paid opportunity," Schrubbe said.

People in two neighborhoods – Logan Square on the Northwest Side and South Shore on the South Side – would get paid to test their broadband services.

After 10,000 mailers and 10 weeks, Schrubbe said in South Shore, "We've had zero engagement whatsoever."

It left them baffled.

"We're just wondering if potentially our mail got lost," Schrubbe said. "I mean, how do you lose 10,000 post cards?"

They received less than two dozen responses – from Logan Square only.

Terry: "Is there a possibility that no one out of 10,000 people wanted to respond back to you?"

Schrubbe: "I've never had that happen. Even if we had the lowest amount of engagement - 1 percent or less - we'd probably expect to hear from 100 people, and so far, we've only heard from 20 or so."

And of those 20 people, again, none were from South Shore.

It happens that Schrubbe saw a recent report from CBS 2 where a South Shore woman was not getting any USPS mail back in November.

"We noticed that you were investigating lost mail, and thought that perhaps we might be impacted by this as well," Schrubbe said.

Schrubbe checked her vendor, who had a receipt that the 10,000 mailers were dropped off at the Post Office. The organization then filed a complaint with USPS – and they're waiting.

"I'm wondering if other neighborhoods in Chicago experience similar challenges - whether it's delivery of mail delivery of internet services," Schrubbe said.

But while Schrubbe and her organization wait for an investigation, the deadline for people in South Shore to jump onboard the paid study is nearing.

"There's around $1 billion the state has to improve internet infrastructure - and Chicago needs to stand up and be counted," she said.

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