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Keeping The Postal Worker At Arms Length

You know what? There are some people who work at or for the post office who are some serious jerks. Go to the post office and some of the people who work there will treat their customers like so much trash. All too often they are wearing their attitude on their sleeve and are waiting for the slightest provocation, or perception there of, to trigger their wrath. And the thought of quality customer service is a tasteless joke. I’d rather go to the dentist office.

And then there’s the letter carrier who refuses to deliver mail and parcels with even the slightest care. I remember ordering pictures of my son taken just minutes after he was born. The hospital offers a service where they take the pictures and you have a year to order them over the internet or over the phone. The parcel was clearly marked do not bend. But the letter carrier folded it anyway and shoved it into the mailbox putting a nice crease straight down my son’s face. We called the photographer and reported what happened. They sent another copy. It wound up with the same fate as if the mail carrier was hell bent on preventing us from having unmarred baby pictures.

By no means is this a reflection of all postal employees. I’ve met some seriously nice mail carriers and postal workers that are truly blessings. These people are true role models for others. But more often than not, my experiences with employees of the postal service are the type I would be better off without.

The local post office itself is no picnic. With so many postal employees spreading bad will it is inevitable that somebody is going to get so upset that they’ll forget their self, reach across the counter and smack one of them. So they’ll invest in bullet resistant glass to keep their employees safe. Screw anybody on the other side of the glass that might have to deal with one of their irate customers. Knowing some of those people who work behind the counter they’ll see a customer attack another customer and simply take their break until the damage is done, come back to the window and say “next”.

The post office seems to be stuck on the business model they had back in the wild, wild west when they were the only game in town. That particular model could weather poor customer service because there was no alternative. Don’t like the fact that your mail carrier is a jerk? That’s just too bad. Who else are you going to use to keep in touch with the world?

But these days, we have options. Email and tweeting makes communication relatively instantaneous. The cost of long distance phoning has been brought down to local calling levels. Federal Express and United Parcel Service and DHL are excellent alternatives for package deliveries. And the immediacy of the internet has made communicating with companies, ordering products and services, communicating with the customer service department of corporate America, a breeze. I don’t think the postal service even has a customer service department.

The postal service is quickly becoming one of those old fashioned black rotary telephones, complete with the finger wheel and hard wired into a jack in the wall that only the telephone man with the heavy duty utility belt touches, competing in an age of fourth generation iPhones. No sane person would settle for using a rotary phone these days unless there was absolutely nothing else around and doing without any communication was not an option.

While I appreciate the fact that I can still mail a letter across the country for less than fifty cents, at least for now, the fact of the matter is that despite the wonderfulness of this service it comes with such glaring drawbacks. It is enough to question its continued existence in its current form.

Unfortunately, because of the culture ingrained in keeping things exactly the way they are, the postal service is unlikely to adopt a business model that will allow it to adopt the best practices of the delivery industry. The very idea of the post office shedding underperforming branches is anathema. It ranks right up there with the post office shedding underperforming employees. The fat and redundancy built into the postal service will forever keep it a lethargic leviathan compared to its more nimble competitors.

These days, I keep my visits to the post office, my interaction to my letter carrier, to an absolute minimum. I have no interest in developing any kind of personal relationship with my local postal worker. Although I am sure there are plenty of exceptions, I feel that the postal workers’ reputation for rudeness and downright incompetence is well deserved. I really don’t have the patience to figure out which ones are the good guys and which ones are the bad guys who could not care any less about the lack of service they give. Besides, by the time I figure who’s who, they’ll change their rotation and I’ll have to start all over again.

And that’s a shame. I remember back in the day the postal worker that came to my parent’s house was like a family friend. Sometimes we would stop and talk and he knew what kids belonged to what houses. Now, the letter carrier is more likely to make his or her rounds with an MP3 player plugged in his ear or chatting on one of those previously mentioned iPhones. At least when the UPS guy stops at my house I know I’ll have their full attention. I know there’s a number I can call to report problems. The post office really is a totally different story.

Thursday, March 4, 2010 Posted by | Life, Thoughts | 5 Comments