Thursday, August 8, 2013

What's wrong with the Post Office?

“The Post Office Department was created by the Second Continental Congress on July 26th, 1775. The first postmaster general was Benjamin Franklin. The Post Office is one of the world's largest business concerns…” Fred Gailey (John Payne) Miracle on 34th St. 1947

Have you ever wondered why the post office seems to have so much trouble keeping afloat?  Of course you haven't.  Nobody cares.  In this day of electronic mail, instant messaging and the overly abundant use of social media, who needs mail?  What do they deliver?  Bills and junk mail!

Their value to us is diminishing.  And the less we use them, the higher the postage goes.  So we get less and less value for more and more cost.

Here is one anecdotal account:
Last week, I needed to mail some paper contracts to a publisher.  I had two copies of the contracts, one for the publisher and the other for me.  Each contract was signed and notarized.  All I needed was to send them off with a self addressed return envelope.  I don't want any mistakes, so I went to the experts to make sure the postage was correct.  That was my first mistake.

The first thing you do when you arrive at the post office is get in line.  While in line, you can count how many clerks are tending the patient customers.  I counted two, or as I prefer to look back on it, too few.  While in line, two other workers routinely (and frequently) came out from the back area and asked, "Is anybody here to pick up a package?"  During the not so inconsiderable time that I was in line, nobody came forward to pick up a package, but they persisted.  It was obvious to me that they did not have enough to do and could have been better allocated.

Maybe it's not their fault.  Maybe union rules prevent them from working up front so people can return to their lives.  Or, it could be lack of training.  Whichever the culprit, it was a terrible allocation of resources.  This is not the kind of work management that makes a business efficient and it certainly does not help keep costs under control.

Eventually, I made it to a clerk and explained my situation, "I want to purchase two envelopes.  I need enough postage on one of them to carry one of these contracts.  The other envelope needs enough postage to carry both contracts and the other envelope."
"No problem," he says.  He weighs one of the contracts with one of the envelopes and affixes additional postage over and above what was already printed on the envelope.  He then takes the folded contracts and one of the envelopes and stuffs them into the other.  "That's extra thick," he says, "and will cost extra."  He punches some numbers on his register and affixes more stamps.

Excellent!  I address the envelopes and post them.  I'm in business.

Five days later, the publisher still has not received the contracts.  They were returned to me with insufficient postage.  I'm not happy.  I wanted the contracts executed so I could begin the next phase of this novel series, but that's not happening yet.

I take it back to the post office.  I keep my cool, but I'm going to explain their error hoping they will at least apologize for their error.  That was my second mistake.  I got a different clerk this time and she says, "No, it's over 1/4 inch thick and there's extra postage."
"I know," I said, "That was already explained to me when I purchased the stamps."
"But you didn't purchase enough stamps."
"I never touched the stamps.  Your office weighed it and applied the postage"

At no time would the clerk admit or even accept that the error was theirs. 

I'd had enough with this mess and paid the postage thinking I wouldn't spend any more time on this.  That was my third mistake.  I couldn't get it out of my head that easily.

I think it's time for UPS to purchase the USPS in a bankruptcy sale so they can take over the business.  I'd also recommend changing bulk mail so it is MORE expensive than standard mail.  It's time to stop giving price breaks to junk mailers.

Let me know what you think.


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