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A Day at the Post Office

June 17th, 2010
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10.22.2012 update, page bottom

A Day at the Post Office

A slightly humorous real-life experience, yet a challenging look at how our tax dollars are supporting potentially duplicate government jobs.

original article written by Net Advisor

Yesterday, I was in the post office, and there was a postal worker walking to every customer with a clip board and a stack of photo copied papers with check lists. Now, I have been to the post office many times before, and like most people, I knew what I needed to do before I got there.

The USPS lady had a strong accent that was a little difficult to decipher, so probably not my 1st choice as USPS PR person.

She then asked, what I was mailing; was it perishable, potentially hazardous, etc?; all the security questions they ask which is fine and required by law.

I said, I’m mailing a small package, and said none of the above apply to all the security questions.

She then proceeded to ask if I wanted to send it express mail, priority, or first class?

I said politely, “No, I am mailing this parcel post.”

After a little debate of whether it could be mailed parcel post, I still had 6 people ahead of me waiting in line.

She then asked if I wanted to insure the package in case it gets lost or damaged in the mail.

Holding my breath about how I hope the government doesn’t frequently loose mail, I declined, as the package had very little value, and I could easily absorb the loss. Naturally, I didn’t tell her this last part, or else my package would have got lost, right?

She didn’t let up. I felt like I was at a multi-level marketing seminar where I could not leave unless I bought something I didn’t want or need.

As she had been staring at my package — the one I was mailing, she proceeds to ask if I want to mail it certified, return receipt, registered mail, or delivery confirmation? Now, I already had filled out and properly affixed a delivery confirm to the package. I politely told her that I just want the delivery confirm.

I now had three people in front of me, and I hoped she was done.

She then proceeds to check off services I wanted and crossed out what I did not want, all according to her viewpoint. Then she apparently scribbled something on the note that I could not read or decipher. Soon I discovered she wrote that I had a question about which method to ship the package. I already told her that I wanted parcel post. It was sent to me this way, so I figured I could send the exact same thing back the same way.

She then takes this USPS memo sheet with all the markings, placed it on my package and moved on to the next customer.

I began to wonder. How many other post offices are doing this? How much paper they are wasting? And since the Post Office is always in need of more money, was this a way to keep non-essential government workers employed courtesy of the U.S. tax payer?

I said out-loud, somewhat quietly but loud enough for nearby people to hear my frustration:

“What a waste of paper and tax payer money. No wonder the government is so screwed up.”

Apparently I wasn’t the only person who agreed and found this amusing. The persons in front and behind me starting laughing and nodding their heads.

The postal worker went right down the line from one person to the next doing the same thing.

Now here is the funny part.

I go up to the counter, and the counter post office employee said, “So, you have a question on how you want to mail this package?”

I nearly went postal, (that’s humor.)

A little more firmly spoken and being a bit more frustrated at the waste of tax payer dollars and USPS personnel failing to listen; this time I said, “No, I don’t have a question about how I want to mail this. I indicated to the other postal worker that I wanted to mail this parcel post, thank you.”

As if the blind was leading the blind (no offense to blind people, this is just a figure of speech), the counter post office lady then proceeded to tell me how much it would cost to mail the package express mail; how much it would cost to mail it priority; and completely ignored my request to ship the damn package parcel post.

Maintaining my composure on the outside I said, “No, just parcel post please.”

As if I thought I was done now, déjà vu had occurred once again.

The counter clerk continues to proceed to ask me all the reminder questions asked by the last postal PR person. Such as, do I want insurance, certified mail, registered mail, etc. I had already told the previous USPS person with her check list of what services I did, and did not want. I thought she wrote it all down supposedly making my time at the post office go by faster. Not exactly.

The ONLY thing this counter clerk did is not ask me was if I was mailing anything perishable, liquid or potentially hazardous. One would think that should be the only question that might be worth repeating for security reasons? Nope. Ship it faster; get more postal fees, who cares if it’s potentially hazardous?

Coming from a long history in sales, I understood this was a sales initiative. The USPS is just trying to get people to spend more money to send a package that should get there eventually, and in one piece.

So in my mind I had to question.

“Is it a good use of tax dollars so the USPS can have a sales force telling people what is already printed on the postal boards above the counter clerks regarding the services offered? And it is a good use of tax dollars to have USPS staff just repeating essentially the same questions what the counter clerk is going to ask anyway; and all this assumes as if I had no idea what I wanted or what I was doing there in the first place?”

I was there for about 28 minutes.

I figured the estimated $6.00 I spent on postage didn’t offset the average $22.64 hour union wages, not including the costs of health care, pension and other benefits for both people who asked me the same questions.

I would think that all these questions could be addressed when I reached the counter, and tax payers would save $48,000 a year plus $1 million+ in retirement, health, life insurance, and other benefits, with one fewer worker. Now multiple this by all the post offices, and now that might help keep postage rates down.

The funny part is that some people believe that the post office is “self sufficient” and does not need tax payer assistance.

Well, if you raise the cost of postage, who is paying for that?

2001 GAO Report on Postal Costs (PDF)

2007 USPS Retirement Costs

This article is not to generally complain about postal workers. Most are very friendly and hard working. The challenge is when the federal government is spending money beyond its means; we should take note on ways to eliminate some of that waste.

10-22-2012 UPDATE:
Since the above article. The USPS has faced huge economic challenges discussed here.


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