Neither Snow Nor Rain nor ... Oh, Screw It. The Post Office is a Dead Letter

This is a very Harry Potter-like story, and, even though as a writer I shouldn't telegraph my punches, I'll go ahead and tell you that it has a happy ending. In fact, I'm so happy about it I'll go ahead and tell you what the ending is.

I obtained a package that was sent to me via the U.S. Postal Service. By "obtained," I mean I got that sucker. It's mine. The package is in the house!

Of course, it wasn't easy, and that is what our story is about today. Oh, there were adventures and mysteries and a really scary part too.

I have a true reverence for the post office. When I was a lad growing up in a little stone cottage deep in the darkest forests of Michigan, the arrival of the postman every day but Sunday was a reminder that, even though we lived in Michigan, we were connected to the civilized world.

In fact, we were even linked to a place called Washington, our mighty national capital, a place of grandeur and power galore. Back then, strange as it may sound today, we had respect for our national government. It built our highways, kept our planes from colliding and caught and punished the bad men who sold watered-down polio vaccine. What was not to like?

So it was with heavy heart a couple years ago that I made up my mind never again to check the "USPS" box when choosing a delivery method for something I ordered online. It was an emotional and psychological defeat.

But you know why I did it, right? When you check "UPS" or "Fedex," you get a package on your porch. When you check USPS, you get some kind of legal notice telling you ... something. It's unclear what. But you're not getting a damn package.

I even went to a lot of trouble to see if it was the fault of the shippers. I emailed them and asked them if they were telling the postal service not to give me my packages. Maybe they were telling them to make me sign or something. But, no. That seemed to have nothing to do with it.

There was always a place for me to sign on the notice. I always did sign and then left the notice where the postman could find it. The notices disappeared — picked up I assumed by someone from the federal government. Then I got nothing. Ever.

So sadly and with regret, I stopped checking USPS as my preferred method of shipping and delivery. But some people ship USPS anyway.

I don't know how closely you've been following what's going on in Washington with the Postal Service. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said last week the Postal Service, which lost $3.3 billion last quarter, is looking at shuttering thousands of post offices and nearly half its mail processing centers nationwide.

This comes on the heels of a steep erosion in services and personnel in recent decades. In the last 20 years, the national corps of urban letter carriers has dropped 19 percent. Between 2010 and 2011, the most recent years for which I was able to get data for Texas, the total USPS workforce in Texas decreased by more than 15 percent.

The USPS, which has a top management cadre dominated by people who have worked their way up from letter carrier, has signed contract agreements with its unions that bar layoffs except where positions have been eliminated because of facility closings. So in the face of a tsunami of red ink, facility closings are the agency's only real way to stay afloat. This is all against a backdrop of privatization and high-tech success for European postal services.

I'm not quite sure how to describe what seems to be going on in our own neighborhood. We have a rotating crew of delivery persons, all with their own unique delivery styles. We have one woman who stands right out in the middle of the street with her mailbag for the longest, looking up and down and all around with a wide-eyed expression like she was just dumped out of a flying saucer.

There's Mr. Zig-Zag, who does a house on one side, crosses the street to the other side, crosses back, all the way down the block in a kind of zipper pattern. He's very OCD-seeming.

One day recently I saw Mr. Zig-Zag coming, and I rushed out to ask him if he could help me find a missing package. In an otherworldly sounding dialect with head down he muttered, "Checkata pozetoffitz, checkata pozetoffitz."

So a day or so later I did go to my neighborhood post office where I have mailed stuff and bought stamps for years, and I waited in line. Got to the head of the line. They told me they were not my neighborhood post office. Wrong ZIP code. My bad.

They told me to go to another one. I did. Waited in line. Finally the lady behind the window asked me if I had a notice telling me to come to that post office. I told her I had no notice, because the notice went away.

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23 comments
Mailman's wife
Mailman's wife

I think this is a hilarious view of the post office. I can concur with a lot of things here...

My husband is a 14-year veteran of the post office, the last 6 years as a carrier. I can assure the author that his comment about management working their way up from being carriers is a joke. The post office is top heavy but wants to cut the jobs of the people that actually do the work. The management are people who couldn't hack it as either carriers or clerks, so because the union prevents a lot of bad apples from being fired, they were put in management...not because they worked hard but because they couldn't actually hack real work. Common sense is not usually the strong suit of the management of the postal service. There are some who did work their way up, but a majority of the middle management that you get or even postmasters are either those that were mentioned above as well as white trash women who have slept with everybody in the places where they've worked. I've heard it all from someone who'd be great to work for, but who wouldn't lower himself to working in postal management. I'm not saying all of them are bad. I know at least one decent one. Maybe two.

buster
buster

if you lived in an apartment or condo, you'd be just as frustrated with UPS and FedEx. they won't leave packages at your door, and getting to their facilities to pick one up is extremely frustrating. The FedEx one is so hard to get to that I finally just found a FedEx truck on the freeway and followed him in. I go to my neighborhood post office to pick up packages all the time with no problems.

SueBlue
SueBlue

Hilarious! Thankfully I live in 75230 and have great carriers, also helpful people behind the window at the station on Forest Lane.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

Jim, I can tell you that USPS has gone to hell. I've seen packages from Houston routed to Denver before they came to Dallas. A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I each ordered something from the same place. They were both picked up by USPS at the same time. They arrived on separate days. And, don't get me started on the Fed-Ex "Smartpost" (FedEx delivers to your local office, and the local office is supposed to deliver to your house). I've never received so much as a slip of paper when stuff is sent using that method.

Lynnmoondtr
Lynnmoondtr

Jim, Love your work but please make it clear that most management are clerks not carriers. If letter carriers ran the P.O. it would be a people friendly company!

fitzgerald
fitzgerald

Darn it. I must either live in the correct zip code or I go to the local post office that handles my zip code. I have been one lucky duck. Given that, my most recent experiences have been pleasant at the local post office. Of course, I pay 99 percent of my bills online and rarely receive any mail through the post office except envelopes and an occasional book (delivered to my house). Going to the post office and prying a package from a postal employee just isn't my cup of tea anymore.

Shadow60
Shadow60

Schutz, your writing, on this article, is the journalistic equivalent of Mr. Zig-Zag. It could have been an interesting article. One might write a similar article on Fed Ex or UPS. Clearly the Post Office needs to be reorganized, but if it's eliminated, watch the rates go through the roof.

NONE
NONE

PONY EXPRESS, WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM, SWITCHBOARD TELEPHONE OPERATORS, BUGGY WHIP MANUFACTURERS

WHY ARE THEY NO LONGER AROUND?

AND WHY ARE THERE NO LONGER USA MIDDLE MANAGEMENT MANUFACTURING JOBS?

HINT.....NONE OF THESE ARE EVER COMING BACK AGAIN.

LEARN A NEW SKILL, OR GO ON WELFARE.

tim_lebsack
tim_lebsack

The USPS is a failed government agency that is being creatively destructed by history. Selling this behemoth to the private market soon would allow 50-60% of the current employees to retain their jobs. Allowing it to continue the unavoidable slide will eventually push the USPS to a position where perhaps 10-30% of the current employees retain their jobs. The longer we wait, the more capital will evaporate. Maybe the sorters and carriers would like to choose which option they prefer?

Dalguy
Dalguy

USPS should eliminate bulk rate. Our mail box overflows with huge meaningless catalogs that go straight to the recycle bin. The postman has to lug all that garbage around for a pathetically low rate. If there is a sincere desire to save USPS they will DUMP BULK RATE.

mmarks
mmarks

We had a dumbass mail delivery dude who stayed seated in his little curb-hugging truck to deliver the mail in our neighborhood. If one of the neighbor's kids parked a car in front of our house he'd drive right by without stopping and and deliver NOTHING. One day my husband was outside pulling weeds when Mr. Dumbass drove by. He chased the truck halfway down the block, retrieved our mail and then reported him to our local post office. They may have killed him because somebody else is delivering our mail now.

guest
guest

No wonder your package didn't get re-delivered. You don't put a signed USPS re-delivery notice on your door, you put it BACK IN YOUR MAILBOX. All your problems would've been solved if you bothered reading the fine print on the re-delivery notice. The USPS also prints the exact address of the office that your item can be picked up at. Sheesh!

RandyF
RandyF

You need to understand that the USPS is required by law to operate in a specific manner. The laws governing shipping companies are different. Since you mentioned it a couple of times, just signing the delivery notice will NOT cause your package to be suddenly delivered. There is some reason that a notice was left for you instead of the package. Also, the delivery notice would have had the address and hours of the particular Post Office where your package was taken so you know where to go to pick it up.

Reading that slip a little would have saved you an enormous amount of time and grief but, it seems you just assumed that signing it, like you can for FedEx or UPS, would work.

You also seem to not like the idea of the USPS not just leaving the package. Usually, the carrier may deem that there is no secure area to leave the package. Of course, as you mention, UPS or FedEx tend to leave a package as often as possible.

I just read an article about a couple that has been arrested for trailing delivery trucks and taking packages that were left on doorsteps.

USPS is still a tremendous bargain and has been offering more services to the public to make the USPS easier to use. In the past, you had to take your package to a post office, wait in line and pay at the window just to get it sent. Now, if you use Priority Mail, you can print and pay for a shipping label at your home and notify the USPS that you have a package to be picked up.

I think if you would take some time to really learn about all that the USPS has to offer, you might be pleasantly surprised. Anecdotal evidence is suspect at best.

Good luck!!

james
james

postal service has gone to hell. last year we bought an item from ebay. when it didn't arrive, first they told us they left it at the wrong address. then they named a nonexistent address. then the post office manager was gonna help. he wanted to know what was in the package. then he stopped answering our phone calls and did nothing. we never got aour package.

Bill Lumbergh
Bill Lumbergh

No one in the private market is dumb enough to take on the governing rules that USPS must abide by. And members of Congress that like to screw with USPS probably don't want to hand over their power to a private company either because it takes away from one of their reelection bullet points.

JimS
JimS

I think it's Switzerland where you can choose to have your letters delivered hard-copy or scanned and emailed to you. Things like that are going on all over Europe, where national postal systems have been privatized or semi-so. Some of the comments here are obvioulsy from USPS people. I love the whole attitude about how it's up to us to read the fine print. It's like you walk into 7-11, hand the guy ten bucks for beer,. and he hands you back a two-page document explaining thathe's keeping your mney but you can't have any beer.

Lorlee
Lorlee

I hate to tell you, but it is bulk rate that makes the rest of mail possible. Dump it and the post office is certainly gone.

And technically it is not run by the government but is sort of privatized.

JimS
JimS

Ah, yes. The fine print. Anyway, I misspoke, We live in an old house. Our mailbox is right by the door, and we do stick the stupid fine print thing on the box itself. ButI don't want no stinking fine print. I just wnat you to figure out how to get my damn package to me when I want it, without any fine print or other bullshit. I am your customer. Satisfy me, not yourself.

JimS
JimS

I do not want to learn about you. I just want my son of a bitching package.

Montemalone
Montemalone

The preceding message was brought to you by the U.S.P.S.

Sa
Sa

What *was* in your package? I'm gonna be up tonight speculating...

 
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