U.S. Postal Service Inefficiency

I have a dear friend who is a Postmaster. Her post office in rural New York State is scheduled to be shut down, along with thousands of others across the country. I hope I do not offend her with my criticism of the postal service here.

On Monday I took a parcel to the post office to mail to the backcountry crew (a box full of various candy goods – not that it matters for the gist of this story). Over the weekend, I packed the box nicely and went online at USPS to create a label and pay the postage. This is actually a slick service, since you can create the label, and if you have frequent addressees, you can recall them for quick reference. It also remembers your sender’s address and your credit card number. So far so good.

But it needs to know the exact weight of the package to calculate the proper postage. Hmmm. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a postage-grade scale in my house. I step on the bathroom scale twice, once with the package and once without and arrive at the difference of four pounds. That’s what I type in. It figures out that it’s $8.06 postage. It prints a label and I stick it on the box. Still, so far so good, but here is where the problem starts:

You can’t just drop this package into a mail slot even though it fits. Anything over some limit – I don’t even for sure know what it is, needs to be accepted by a postal clerk. So I have to take my box to a post office. I stand in line with all the other people there, and after 10 minutes or so, I get to the window and hand the clerk the package. She takes the package and puts it in a bin behind her.

I now wonder why I couldn’t have done that myself at the local mail drop, but I shrug it off.

Two days later, the package arrives at my house:

Check out the professional slip of paper stuck to the top of it:

RTN 4 Add. Postage $2.19.

So somebody checked my box after I had left, determined that it was more than four pounds, and brought it back to my house.

I am certain it would have been cheaper for them to deliver this thing than to add the slip of paper and bring it back to me. Now I don’t know what to do. I have this label on the box. I will have to go back to the post office again tomorrow and pay $2.19 at the window and get this shipped.

I would have had no problem paying $10.27 in the first place for the package, had it just been a simple process.

I would have had no problem paying the extra $2.19 when I delivered the box at the window the first time.

What I really should have done is not bother with the online label and just write the address on the box and go to the post office so I can use a clerk’s time to pay $10.27 to mail a package. What good is the online service when you can’t figure out what it will cost and when you have to go to the post office anyhow?

The post office also has some boxes there you can buy for mailing at a flat rate. To use those, you have to bring your stuff to the post office and package it there. Great idea – and I am being facetious here.

At the end of the day, mailing this box has cost me $10.27 cash, at least 45 minutes of my time driving to the post office twice, standing in line twice, and the gas to get there. It cost the post office two deliveries, once back to me, once to the recipient, all to earn its $10.27 – but not to forget, the $2.19 that I, bad, bad consumer that I am, might have gotten away with cheating the U.S. Postal Service out of.

Next time I’ll mail FedEx.

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