Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I'm Going Postal On The US Postal Service!

For reasons that are unimportant (except to say it was NOT my fault!), I had to wait until last night to mail my tax return. I knew this would be a pain in the ass, so I made sure yesterday morning to go to the U.S. Postal Service website to find which post offices would be open late. Sure enough, I was greeted by a banner on the USPS site promoting extended hours and extra help for April 15th tax filers.... But when I tried to find out which post offices were open late, was that information available? NO! I spent 15 minutes turning that website inside out, and the single most important piece of information that anyone would need was not there! So I went to the next step... I looked up my nearest post office, and found the phone number, which turned out to be an automated national USPS voice mail system. I needed to call three times to get the information I needed, because the first two times, the recorded message did not work.

Eventually, I did find an acceptable place to make my delivery - The Leisure World post office, which was closing at 6:30 pm. I pulled into the parking lot at 6:20 and found a line going out the door. Fair enough... I had expected a line. What I did NOT expect was to find that there was no one available to tell the customers what to do... No signs telling people where to drop their mail. No encouraging notices telling them that their letters WOULD be postmarked April 15th. There were two lines, and two postal employees scrambling to keep up with the traffic. In the line, people were asking each other what to do, because there was no information available.

At the stroke of 6:30, one of the two postal employees walked to the front door, and told everyone outside they would have to come inside because the post office was closing. Imagine about 40 people cramming inside a shop that's about the size of an average Starbucks. After everyone came inside, the postal worker locked the front door. Now - this was surely a CLEAR fire code violation, but I wasn't going to say anything. For the next few minutes, as two or three customers were ready to leave, the same postal worker had to stop what she was doing, and go unlock the front door so the customers could exit. Eventually, one of the customers volunteered to stand watch at the front door so it could remain unlocked and keep out the straggling late arrivals.

I need to mention here that the postal employees were doing the best they could do given the circumstances. This was not their failure... This was a big-time management problem. The USPS promised to deliver a service that ultimately it could not deliver. April 15th should be the one day a year that the USPS proves its value... but instead, it proved its incompetence!

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