Dear Post Office: This Is Why You’re Failing

21 Dec

Ah, graffiti. The fronds of malcontent.

Okay, to be fair, I’m sure you’re failing for lots of reasons.  A lot of them don’t have anything to do with you.  Online banking, email, and a general love and desire for more trees in the world among them.  Maybe something to do with the economy.  Maybe.  But I don’t know anything about economics.   All I know is you manage to complicate the shipping process beyond all human comprehension, and there is not one single post office in my area that doesn’t have a hell demon working the front desk when I visit.

Ever.

You see, I’m the kind of person that accepts that certain branches might just have a sour staff.  Perhaps they’re overworked or understaffed or generally malcontent.  Maybe everyone in the office is really quite lovely but the person who works the shift that I always chance to visit during is just a grumplepuss.  There are lots of things that could align themselves on any particular day that lead to an unsatisfactory visit. I accept these as challenges in the business place for which I cannot possible hold you accountable.  Sometimes there’s a bad egg that gets through the production process.  I understand. Really.  But I have visited no less than three offices in and around my neighborhood and not a single one has a pleasant person at the front desk.

Ever.  Do you hear me? Ever.

Listen: my mom works at the post office.  She’s been a loyal worker bee for well over a decade.  Because of this, I am wont to go easy on the post office folk. They have a rough gig.   That’s why I know the answers to their questions in advance (no, I’m not shipping a ferret, a bottle of  arsenic, or a box of anthrax, yes I do want delivery confirmation but not insurance), do my very best to be well-prepared before I make it to the counter, and when there’s a line, I remind myself that the post office has a lot of business to tend to during the day – most of which happens far behind the front counter.

I even try to be an advocate for the post office, and when I have a poor experience I go to usps.com and let you know.  But you don’t really want to improve.  I know this because when I go online and detailed my experience earlier this year when there were three people at the front desk, only one of whom was doing any work, the other two who were laughing and discussing procedures for Passports, and the one woman who was working was loudly complaining about her work conditions while a line containing half my neighborhood was bending out the door, you wrote back some garbledy gook about how the post office is busy and has peak hours and you’re doing your best.

That’s a bit defensive, post office, don’t you think?  You see, I want to be constructive.  I want to help you solve your problems.  I want to help you understand that when people can make the choice to go online to do all their business (or UPS, or FedEx, who you yourself do business with), they expect you to treat them well when they pay you a visit.   But I can’t help you if you’re in denial.

So let’s get real: ya’ll need to get some better customer service.

I still have to call my mother to figure out what ships where for how much and how big it can be.  Or what kind of paper it has to be wrapped in.  Or what happens if I answer the hazardous/liquid/fragile question with a yes.   You’ve got a very complicated system going on.

Now, I know you recognized this for a moment and attempted to put in self-service package centers in some of your lobbies, and I really appreciate that.  You also did the “if it fits, it ships” campaign with the flat rate boxes.  But let’s be honest: while that’s a good deal if I’m going to send a shoebox full of heavy metals from East Coast to West, it’s not the most cost-effective option if I want to send, say, a stuffed animal.

So why don’t you just have a person in the lobby to assist with these sorts of things? Why can’t I just put a banana on the counter and ask you to ship it for me? I don’t care if I have to pay a service fee.  I don’t care if I have to answer questions about the origin of my banana and my intent in shipping it.  I’d be so thrilled to talk to someone who is pleasant and wants to help me figure out how to get my banana from one place to the next in the most cost-effective, logical manner possible that I’d happily stand in line if you were understaffed, overworked, or – say – going bankrupt.

You know what? Not even a week ago I had a friend tweet about how she stood in line for a very long time just to get a book of stamps.  She didn’t know she could go online to order, get them from a brochure, or have them delivered to her by her postal carrier.

Hey: you know what you have to do.  You know what the problems are.  We’re confused, you’re over-complicated.  We’re busy and you don’t have the time for us.  We want to give you our money and keep you going, but not if you’re going to give us attitude and tell us how much you hate your situation while we do it.  So just put some smiling, patient faces at that counter, give us a shipping specialist with a heart of gold, and start spending your time educating people about how easy it is to order stamps from home so they get the heck out of line.

I’ve got stuff to mail. 

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22 Responses to “Dear Post Office: This Is Why You’re Failing”

  1. Stephanie Bennis December 21, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Unpleasant post office staff aren’t just a rarity in your area–I have them here too! I don’t doubt the job is hard some days and dealing with people isn’t always fun. It’s sad to see what’s going on with the US Postal Service and knowing there’s not an easy solution. Great post!

    Like

    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

      I think about the difficult job/difficult people thing too. But there are a lot worse jobs to be had where folks are far more pleasant (serving, anyone?) it’s aggravating that a company that’s going down the tubes wouldn’t make more of an effort to fix the things they can actually control.

      Like

  2. pegoleg December 21, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    There’s a little, neighborhood post office branch down the street from my office, and the guy who works the morning shift knows everyone, has a friendly word for all, and is helpful and knowledgable. I have no idea how he has lasted as long as he has there, because almost every other counter person at every other post office I have ever gone to, is the “before” picture in a customer service training video.

    Like

    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      Aw – kudos to the morning shift guy! If I’m ever in your neighborhood, I’ll have to swing by that post office just to marvel at the 8th world wonder: a pleasant postal clerk.

      Like

  3. Santa Clause December 21, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    All USPS locations suck. they are slow, staff don’t care, nor are they helpful. You bring something to ship, then they want it scribbled in handwriting on the box, vs. a nice neat scan and trackable UPS tag.

    Go visit a FedEX or UPS store, drop your banana, and see what happens. In my experience, they box it, ask where it’s going, insurance amount, and YOUR DONE.

    also ” Because of this, I am wont to go easy on the post office folk” doesn’t work.

    Like

    • Jackie December 21, 2011 at 10:50 am #

      Santa, it’s not “won’t”. It’s “wont” – as in accustomed to doing. It’s Shakespearean.

      Like

  4. Tara December 21, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I have to admit that I agree with you. If only head of something or the other at the post office could see your post and all the comments. While my local post office has nice people working there, I agree that there is no room for user ignorance in their system. I’ve watched people wait in a long line with their taped and addressed package, only to get to the front and have the post office worker say their package needs to be taped better, but they do not have tape. No. The customer must go somewhere else to buy packing tape, re-tape their package, and wait in line again. I get nervous about my knowledge everytime I go, and then feel like someone hits the timer as soon as I’m up at the counter, because of the long line. UPS stores offer a lot more. Like you said, they’ll wrap the banana. I think the post office is an old habit that will die hard with this next generation that knows we don’t need them.

    Like

    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

      I just don’t understand why they don’t conform to customer’s needs. I get that you need a system and some rules, etc. But every time I go, I get something wrong and it’s as if they just don’t want to deal with me instead of as if they would like to help me get it sent. It makes me feel stupid, convinces me that they’re rude and undeserving of my patronage, and drives me to write ranting blog posts 🙂

      Like

  5. Jules December 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    There must be a check box on the application form for grumpiness.

    Like

    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

      “general malcontent”. yup.

      Like

  6. thesinglecell December 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

    I hear ya. I was standing at the postal orifice just yesterday thinking, “You know, I understand that you’re all worried you’re going to lose your jobs, but it might help if you weren’t miserable.” Then again, my branch doesn’t even have the stamp kiosks. And the desk folk are sssssslllllloooooowwwww. Friendly most of the time (except for one of them), but Lordy. If I need to do anything other than get my mail from my PO box, I have to budget 30 minutes and use the bathroom before I go. What I wish they understood is that some people in their community (ahem, hi) choose to go there instead of doing things online so that we can preserve their jobs and their service!

    Like

  7. Momma December 21, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    okay……..since I am a Postal Worker and your Mother I must chime in here.I must address Tara….the Post Office used to provide tape but they sell in in the lobby so…..ask yourself……if you are a business loosing money and you are giving away products you sell how do you make money instead of loose it? You make customers use their own tape or have them buy it. That”s just good business sense.

    I could address so many ot these other issues but the comment section just isn’t long enough for me to do that so I will just say not all of us are grumpy and some of us actually do our job and serve you with a smile. =)

    Like

    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 10:47 am #

      You can address anything you please, momma. But you’re an exception to the rule because you’re a hard worker, knowledgeable, and super nice. 😛

      Like

  8. literarychicks78 December 23, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    Our community postoffice is a tiny cramped building that becomes crowded if a second person walks into the lobby. It is run by a cheerful, elderly man who moves faster than the town’s teenagers. He is pleasant, well-mannered, and seems to know the business extremely well. From what I’ve been reading, I think my town should consider itself lucky.

    Like

    • Jackie December 23, 2011 at 10:43 am #

      Lucky indeed! You should do something nice for him so he stays in the workforce. Maybe you can ask him to hold training sessions at other less-fortunate sites 😉

      Like

  9. Keri January 26, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    Customer service at mine in small town PA is great. The ladies that work there are amazing, friendly & knowledgeable. And HELPFUL! There’s rarely a line (and if there is, it’s like 3-4 people). And since I’m right on the Appalacian Trail, they do well by holding packages for through-hikers… I guess all post offices do that, but I always thought it was a cool service to offer.

    If they’re looking to improve, here are a few suggestions:
    1. If you have post offices with in a few miles of each other, CONSOLIDATE! It’s a waste! And with the money you save put the big blue boxes up (in our town, the vast majority have been removed or painted green & bolted shut. It’s obnoxious). I know they’re expensive… in fact I had to buy one when I was 19 due to a crash where the mailbox lost, but it saves me from driving the extra miles, out of the way to the post office & makes life a tiny bit easier.

    2. Get into the custom/personalization stuff. It’s great that I can get stamps for holidays I’ve never heard of, but really, I’d rather get my own picture printed on postage (like I can do on a myriad of websites).

    3. If people complain, deal with it. Don’t just blow it off.

    4. Listen to Jackie, that shipping expert is a great idea!

    Like

    • Jackie February 8, 2012 at 12:12 am #

      These are great – thanks for sharing! I’m especially a fan of #4 😉

      Like

  10. catherine January 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    This couldn’t be more spot on. Even the addititon of a person in the lobby able to answer questions and point you to the right materials one would need to ship would be tremendously helpful. Most retail stores have a greeter for just that reason, anddd though most people are “jst browsing” it’s comforting to know they are there.
    I recently had to return a christmas present, and spent an hour wandering around trying to figure out what package to use, what all the forms meant and their uses, and then looking for a damn pen that would write on the package! I gave up on the pen, waited in a ridiculously long line, got to the counter, and was helped by the one friendly person there – his shift was about to end. He confirmed my choice, told me to address it, and then get back in line. And no, he didn’t have a felt pen. So after following his directions and poking through my package about a million times trying to write with the only pen I could locate, I eventually found a sticker that took ink just fine. Another time through the line and I get the nice guy’s replacement – and she was SO over her job. My sticker turned out to be a priority mail sticker- which tripled my shipping costs – but faced with a third time through the line, I ate the extra charge. The kicker had to be when I explained why the sticker was on my package in the first place: the woman looked at me, blinked twice, and said “Well why didn’t you just ask for a pen?”

    Pens in the lobby and one greeter per shift would be my recommendations for the USPS. For everyone else, just go online.

    Like

    • Jackie February 8, 2012 at 12:10 am #

      Why are there greeters at WalMart where you don’t need them at all but no greeters at the post office where you’d kill for one? Hey, I just read an article today that WalMart is phasing out greeters. Maybe we can put those seniors to work at the postal service 😉

      Like

  11. Meghan Nines January 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    I don’t think I’ve ever been to a post office in any of the towns I’ve lived in where the person at the front desk was friendly. It really makes me dread going in there for anything.

    But the second thing that makes me nervous about going in is that I never know where I’m supposed to go, what forms, if any, I should fill out, and approximately how much it’s going to cost me. So, usps, if you could even just put up a huge sign by the entrance with some of that info, like price per pound for standard ground shipping (and what must be on the packaging to do it) would be super helpful. Also, please don’t give me the stink eye if I get it wrong.

    Like

    • Jackie February 8, 2012 at 12:08 am #

      I totally agree! Sometimes even if I do my very best to get it right, I get something wrong and not only am I embarrassed that I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person who can’t even properly mail something, but I also have to endure the mocking eye of the desk clerk who thinks it’s all straightforward.

      It is not. straightforward.

      Like

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