The Best of Comrus: Postal Customers Should Be The Ones Going Postal

This post originally appeared on December 7, 2006 at

So, how is it that it’s postal workers who go nuts and shoot everyone and not postal customers?  I made the mistake of going to the post office today, to mail off a nearly worthless item sold on Ebay for $20 (minus $25 in Ebay, Paypal, and shipping charges), at about 4:30.  Perhaps the worst time to go to the post office, but what made it worse was that it was after Thanksgiving, but before Christmas.  Which means, of course, every person on the planet has to go to the post office every single day to mail off gifts to every other person on the planet. 

Usually, this isn’t much of a problem since my post office has an automated postal machine.  Which is great since, similar to self-checkouts in stores, most people are too afraid to give it a shot.  Oh, people still do give it a shot, and I applaud them for it, but why must they try their hand at it for the first time when the store is jammed and even the line for the self-checkouts is long?  And why must people line up for the individual registers, rather than standing in a single line, so that the next person gets the next available register?  It’s just more efficient and fair that way.  Hey, I’m talking to you, that fat guy wearing camouflage sweats.  And older woman, for the love of God, the barcode is on the bottom.  The BOTTOM!  There you go.  Now bag it.  BAG IT!  Oh, you’re kidding me.  No, no!  You cannot pay with a check at the self-checkout.  Why do you even use checks anyway?  Use a friggin’ check card!  You’re just slowing up the process for the rest of us.  And you, the meandering person who somehow ended up actually buying something which I can only assume you ran in to accidentally since you didn’t seem to have any particular destination in mind when you were single-handedly blocking the 10 foot wide aisle in front of me, the receipt pops out next to the touch screen.  NEXT TO THE TOUCH SCREEN!  You know, RIGHT WHERE THE MACHINE TELLS YOU THE RECEIPT IS! 

My trips to Wal-Mart tend to be stressful.

Anyway, as do my trips to the post office.  The self-service machine has been helpful.  However, even I take awhile when using it because the programmed process is mind-numbingly awful.  Perhaps the worst problem is when the machine gives you a picture of a stamp the size of bus stop ad and asks you if it will fit on the item you’re mailing.  Because of problems I’ve experienced with other steps with this machine, I always assumed that if I said it wouldn’t fit it would tell me to wait in line with everyone else.  I don’t usually have the time to walk to Canada to get to the end of the line, so I usually just say “yes,” and try to stick the poster-sized postage on to my envelope.

If you say no, however, as I’ve learned from my wife, it then gives you postage-sized postage.  How novel.  Now, call me Ishmael, but shouldn’t the machine either ask me what size I want or default to the small stamp, rather than assume I want a stamp the size of San Antonio (a place where they know what picante sauce is supposed to taste like.  Not like those fellows in New York City.  New York City?!  (Okay, that was too random, even for me.  What in the world did picante sauce have to do with postage, or even the size of San Antonio?))?

Luckily, most people don’t use this machine, even when the line for the regular service (two postal workers to handle the post office rush hour during the Christmas season) is extremely long.  Today, however, there was a person at the machine.  A person so evidently clueless, that she had her two young kids work the machine for her.  Naturally, she also had twenty-seven packages to mail.  So I did the calculation in my head, do I stand behind this single person, or do I stand behind the surprisingly short line of five people who are waiting for a surprisingly high number of three postal workers?  I decided on the normal service.

It seemed like it should have been quick, but as such things always go (like what happened the last time I was at the bank and let a woman go ahead of me to use the ATM.  She decided that now was the time to have her kid, a two year old, learn how to push the buttons for her), it took much longer than it should have.

The next person in line, when called up to be helped, had one of those pink slips, which means they’ll be a quick customer.  All they need is a package from the back.  So the postal worker went to the back, and thus began (I assume) her journey, by foot, to the post office where the package was originally dropped off.  You would think that it would be more convenient to move the package from one post office to the post office closest to the recipient, but apparently the process is for a postal worker at the recipient post office to go get the package once the intended recipient comes to claim it.  The postal worker went to the back, and basically never returned.

The next person in line, when called up to be helped, decided that now, and only now, was the time to consider whether or not to get delivery confirmation.  How much does it cost?  The postal worker didn’t know.  She looked at the gigantic sign directly behind her, in full view of the customer, and determined that it would cost such-and-such depending on how she wanted the letter sent.  The customer considered, considered some more, and then asked what “certified mail” meant. 

I was so pleased I just had to laugh.  And the postal worker searching for the missing package still hadn’t returned. 

The next person in line, when called up to be helped  by the third and final postal worker, started off very simply.  She just needed five hundred thousand stamps of a variety only available by all the local postal workers being called in to personally color them on stickers with crayons.  Or rather, she just needed an amazing amount of a particular type of stamp that was not readily available at the counter. 

It was about this time when the package-searching postal worker decided to organize a search party of all available postal employees.  In every state.  It was a very long process to call everyone, but she made it more efficient by creating a calling tree.

The postal worker, with the customer deciding on whether or not to use delivery confirmation, explained to the customer, in the most unclear language ever, what exactly certified mail was.  The customer nodded, and again asked what the price was.  The worker told the customer that it would be about $4 with the confirmation, and less than $1 with first class mail and no confirmation.  The customer responded with “oh, let’s just do it.”  Sadly, I knew that the customer meant first class without confirmation, and also knew that the postal worker assumed that the customer meant the certified mail.  I wanted to call out, but alas, it’s a government building, and as such, might be considered a threat.

The woman at the automated postal machine was still working on her packages.  Three down, by this time.  She now had a very irritated-looking person behind her, and I wondered if I looked as he did. 

The line behind me now stretched to the door.

The worker searching for the packages decided to wait until all existing postal workers were called in order to find the package.  In the meantime, she picked up The Davinci Code.  Unfortunately, when she finished the book ten minutes later, not all postal workers had been called yet.

The woman who asked for the many stamps, when finally told what the price was for all the stamps, decided that it was at this point that it was reasonable to pull out the checkbook from the apparent labyrinth that was her purse.  A CHECKBOOK?!  Oh, the dreaded checkbook.  Please, for the love of everything that is good and Stevie, please, everyone, just get check cards.

I smirked.  I couldn’t believe that she pulled out the checkbook.

The automated machine customer continued to struggle with the technology that is the touch-screen. 

The postal worker with the customer having the delivery confirmation quandary of the decade finally realized that the customer actually didn’t want delivery confirmation after all.  The customer made this known by again saying that she might as well go ahead with it, it was for her brother after all.  HER BROTHER?!?!  She took that much time to determine whether or not she wanted delivery confirmation for a letter sent to her brother?!?!?!  I would have had an aneurism if not for the fact that I would be forfeiting my place in line.

The automated machine woman finally left, the checkbook woman was still dotting every “i” and crossing every “t,” and the postal worker for the searching for the missing package booked a flight to Seattle on Orbitz in order to pick it up (unfortunately, she had to wait four days to get the best rate).  Luckily, the postal worker handling the confirmation women looked at me and said that she could help me now.  I’m not sure what happened, given the fact that the customer was still there.  The customer was filling something out, so I just have to assume that she was filling out an application.

Oh, I unnecessarily slam the postal workers.  It’s really not their fault, really, especially considering the problem the automated machine customer was having (although, given the fact that the machine does have a terrible interface, maybe they were trying to mirror the regular USPS customer service).

I finished my transaction within a minute, and then on to the next person.  I tried to leave the place, but given the size of the line, getting out the door was like playing an odd game of Red Rover.

I could continue on for a little while more, but I have further depressing events in my life, this time not on the job front.  I thought I might have found a Hartley’s Tomato Sauce supplier in Irish on Grand.  I gave them my number about two weeks ago for them to call me if they could get a case for me.  Alas, I have not heard back from them, so I have to assume they are unable.  The sadness.  The horror.  The non-Hartley’s-having-depression.

Oh well, cheers anyway.



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