The United States Postal Service: Flying Like a Turkey

By Richard Thayer

Because I’m the editor of The North Carolina State Association’s quarterly newsletter, The North Carolina Letter Carrier, wherein my name, address and phone number are listed prominently, I sometimes receive letters and phone calls from retired and active letter carriers. In many of these cases they have written or called to voice a complaint. Sometimes they just want to vent, and at other times they’re seeking answers. In the first instance, I just listen, and in the second, I try to point them to those who have the answers. I’m always happy to listen or to read one’s complaints and, when applicable, point them in the right direction.

Occasionally I will even get letters from disgruntled customers, which is kind of amazing since they don’t get my newsletter. Maybe they get the information from our Association’s website or this blog. At any rate, obviously out of desperation and unable to get satisfaction from normal channels, they write to me.

Over the last year in particular we’ve heard about the various problems being faced by the Postal Service, most of which are either self or congressionally-inflicted, on a national scale. In recent months even the public is becoming more aware, and alarmed, at what’s going on.

What many may forget in seeing all of this being played out on the national stage is that these problems cascade like a waterfall down to the local level. And down there at the bottom both employees and customers alike are struggling to stay afloat.

Which brings me to today’s rant.

Last week I received a letter from a dentist who lives and works in a small town in northeastern North Carolina. Obviously frustrated with the response he had gotten from his local postmaster and not knowing where to turn, he has written to me. For the purpose of this posting we will call him Dr. John Smith.

Here’s a summary of Dr. Smith’s problem. On November 30 an important lab case on one of his patients was sent via Priority Mail from California to his office, arriving at the post office on Monday morning, December 5th. Although the package was taken out on the route, it was never delivered to him even though his office was open for business that day.

Therein lies the problem. The office was open but the Priority package wasn’t delivered. Why?

Good question, but not so good answer.

According to the explanation Dr. Smith received later from the postmaster the package wasn’t delivered for the following reasons: (1) His office doesn’t have an outside mail box, (2) the carrier would have had to make 25 steps from his/her vehicle in order to reach the front door (additional steps required once inside), (3) had the carrier taken these steps he/she would have incurred additional overtime, and (4) the carrier isn’t paid to take that many steps at one stop (not sure what the maximum number of steps is allowed per stop, but obviously it’s less than 25.)

Not only was the Priority package not delivered for the above reasons, but the slip notifying Dr. Smith of the package wasn’t even left in his p.o. box. I wasn’t real clear on the postmaster’s explanation of why this wasn’t done other than the fact that if a business does not have a mail box on the street they shouldn’t get a notice in their p.o. box once the package and/or the slip are sort of attempted on the street. Apparently, the postmistress believes that if a carrier cannot deliver a package or a notification slip because there’s no outside mailbox, they shouldn’t receive a notification slip in their p.o. box either because that would be seen as a “time-wasting practice.”

So, the package was sent back to California, since that was evidently easier to do and cost less money. It has now been re-sent back to Dr. Smith via FedEx. At FedEx they don’t see delivering packages inside businesses as a nuisance, they see it as a service. Imagine that.

Dr. Smith’s complaint at his local post office was received with a shrug and a “sorry-about-that” attitude from the postmistress who apparently believes in her heart-of-hearts (if she has one) that she did the right thing and saved the Postal Service a couple of bucks.

Says Dr. Smith of his recent postal experience: “The sign at our post office says, ‘Priority Mail–Fly Like an Eagle.’ I told the postmaster it’s more like fly like a turkey.'”

Granted, I haven’t investigated the validity of Dr. Smith’s claims and I haven’t called to ask for the postmistresses’ side of the story. In forwarding his letter to the appropriate people, I will leave that up to them to determine. However, having the pleasure of working for the Postal Service for 21 years and having worked with postmasters similar to the one Dr. Smith describes, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this turns out to be true.

But even if this particular incident turned out to be false, I know for a fact that incidents like this one are true in a lot of post offices all over the country. And in many of these cases the postmasters and their supervisors are carrying out these absurd rules because they are being ordered to do so by their superiors at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC. This is known as the blind leading the blind.

If the Postal Service continues to fly like a turkey it will one day share in the same fate as did many of our fine-feathered friends this past Thanksgiving.



One Response to “The United States Postal Service: Flying Like a Turkey”

  1. Jesse R Lowe Jr Says:

    As usual your words ring clear and true! And we wonder why people aren’t using the postal service as they once did!! Of course, this e-mail is also killing the post office as well!! I guess that is the price of the computer age we now “enjoy”??

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