The USPS has nobody to blame but itself for its impending demise.
Just a few days ago I had another (click here for the last one) extremely frustrating experience with the services of the USPS. I was going to let it go unsung, but then I received a message from my postmaster friend about losing her position – and here I go.
She has been a postmaster in a rural post office for decades. Her customer service is impeccable. The rural postoffices in our country are institutions. The postmaster is like the pastor, the mayor and the teacher in the country of old. Yet she is being let go, after decades, without a career opportunity out. The postal service is dying, rapidly at that.
A few days ago I had to send a letter, certified with return receipt. I went to the post office in Escondido. This is a large post office, with counters everywhere. There is a machine to buy stamps, a kiosk to mail. There are racks of forms to fill out everywhere. You have to fill out two cumbersome forms by hand to mail a certified letter with return receipt. There was counter space all around the place.
But there was not a pen to be found.
Every place where the pens were supposed to be attached to the little chains, and I counted a dozen of those, the chains and pens were missing. There was no container anywhere with pens. There were no pens lying around.
I had to wait in line, ten people ahead of me, until a got to the counter, with blank forms. The clerk looked at me like I was an imbecile. Didn’t I know I needed to bring a pen to the post office? He pulled the precious pen out of his drawer of valuables. It had a big green slip of paper pasted to it so it was hard to write with. I am sure this was meant to keep it from getting stolen. I then had to stand aside while he helped a couple of other customers to fill out my forms, which I could have done many times over while in line right next to a counter.
I get pens by the dozens when I go to conferences and I throw them away. I can go to Costco and buy a lifetime supply of cheap pens for a few dollars. But a large postoffice, with significant counter traffic, has only one pen to share, like a bathroom key at a gas station.
Who has the pen right now???
The post office should have an entire barrel filled with pens, with the phone number and the web site of the USPS printed on it. They should make you take the pens home. You should want to go to the post office rather than Staples or Costco when you run out of pens and get a few more free ones. What an opportunity missed. Customer service, coupled with a necessary task of filling out the (stupid) forms, and advertising all in one! The postoffice is where you get your stamps. The postoffice is where you ship all your stuff. The postoffice is where you get your pens.
But the postoffice is missing all of those opportunities.
In an age where we no longer go down to Main Street to buy many an item, shipping locally and across the nation and the world is booming. FedEx, DHL, UPS are all burgeoning companies fed by this boom. This will not slow down. We have no viable alternative to shipping goods in sight. Shipping will grow. The USPS could have been the giant of this industry. It had all the infrastructure in place. It had the staff, the expertise, the local outlets down to every rural postoffice in the country. And yet, it can’t seem to compete and it is declining, crashing rather.
I can’t help but speculate that it must be because it’s a governmental body without the profit incentive and therefore the ingenuity, motivation and creativity it takes to survive in a dog eat dog economy, society and age.
(Is this what we’re building with government administered healthcare?)