Thursday, November 5, 2009

Going Postal, part 1

Recently, I had a rather unpleasant altercation with my local post office over, well, what I view as their inability to do their job correctly. This conversation between myself and Jill—the postal manager who not only could not be brought to an understanding that perhaps one of her workers could have made a mistake, but who also implied that it somehow must have been my fault, though I obviously never touched/saw the package—left me more-than-a-little irked and left the package more-than-a-little lost.

Jill (artist's rendition)
Now, I am aware that it is a mite bit cliche to talk about how ineffective, unprofessional, and at times worthless the United States Postal Service is. However, after a quick jog through my mind, I was able to come up with five examples (including this most recent incident) from my own life of the USPS's ineptitude, poor customer service, and general incompetence.

I: The Dollar Stamp
(April, 1999)

Being a young and spry teenager who had access to the relatively new innovation that was "Free Electronic Mail", I had little use for the postal system growing up. In fact, virtually every piece of mail I received when I was younger could be filed in one of two categories:
  1) Birthday/holiday cards from grandparents and the like, which were always fun as they allowed me to figure out how much my relatives loved me, down to the exact dollar amount; and
  2) Credit card offers from solicitors who not only somehow got hold of my personal information, but who also somehow failed to realize I was barely old enough to have a checking account, much less a Visa Platinum with no preset spending limit. Although, in retrospect, perhaps they did realize that, and they were trying to start me young.

During this time, one day I found myself in need of a stamp to mail a letter. Not finding one around the house, I took a quick walk to the post office. As always, the line was inexplicably long; but as fortune would have it, there was a machine off to the side of the lobby which sold stamps. I approached the machine and inserted a dollar bill, with the intent of buying three $.33 stamps and getting a penny for my change. However, the machine quickly laughed in my face, informed me that it was out of said stamps, and suggested I make another selection. I obviously could not afford a book of stamps, so I pressed the change return button. The machine ignored my request and again suggested I make another selection. Again I pressed the button, and again I got no response.

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
After pressing the change return button a score of times and getting no response, I realized I would have to do as the machine suggested and make another selection. A quick browse through the options showed me that the only stamp within my price range was the $.01 American Kestrel Stamp. I selected the stamp (with a quantity of one) and was asked if I wanted anything else. When I informed the machine I did not, it then and only then told me that exact change was required and that I would not be given any change back. And since I had already said I did not want anything else, I lost any chance I had at recouping my loss. The machine must have been able to see my shock at the time, because it then kicked me while I was down by telling me to "Have a nice day."

Before / After
Defeated, I hung my head and returned home. I never saw the machine again after that fateful day, but I assume it is still out there somewhere, scamming another person out of their hard-earned cash.

Find the Queen, get the green, fellas!


Katie said...

ha ha! I miss you Adam!

Chris said...

Adam -- that's nothing. I have to suffer the ineptitude of the U.S. Postal "Service" on a monthly, gross (that's gross as in "quantity" and not "disgust," although both definitions apply here). I'm in charge of the total layout and production of our monthly newsmagazine and journal, and every month it's basically a crapshoot when addressees will receive both copies in the mail (not to mention the various types of permits you have to figure out in order to send bulk mail out of various post offices -- oy!). It all ends up in a Kafka-meets-The Prisoner-esque phone call where nothing gets resolved. So, in other words, the Postal "Service" is a definite oxymoron.