Sunday, November 8, 2009

A new meaning to going postal

The United States Postal Service is in financial trouble. Have you heard? Even if you haven't read the details, you've probably seen the evidence of this at your local post office.

The first time I knew things were seriously awry, I arrived at my local post office in Virginia to find that it no longer opened at 8:30 a.m. It was opening at 9, closing at 4:30 and closing during the lunch hour, supposedly just for the summer. Then the changes were announced as permanent. None of these changes make much sense for customers who happen to have jobs. Try getting away from work at mid-morning or mid-afternoon to mail a care package to the kids at college or a Christmas present to someone far away. And try to imagine the lines during those shortened hours as the holiday season approaches.

When I returned later on the same day, at mid-afternoon, I discovered that most of the place was in the dark. The only lights functioning were in the lobby and directly over the counter. Yet another cost-cutting measure. The whole place was eerily silent.

A few days later, a friend who handles bulk permit mailings for his church was sputtering with outrage. The local post office would no longer accept the mailings. He'd have to drive them to the next county, wasting time and gas. The logic of this one completely eludes me, so if some postmaster somewhere reads this, please explain it.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I concluded that this had something to do with the post office being in a smaller, more rural location. I didn't anticipate these kind of changes carrying over to a major metropolitan area, but I was wrong.

On Friday, I went to my local post office in Miami at 8:30, only to discover that it too wasn't opening till 9. I was annoyed, but not shocked. I was running errands off of my island, so went to another post office in another community. By then it was after 9. That post office wasn't scheduled to open until 10 a.m. On my third try, I found a post office that was actually open and -- surprise, surprise -- very busy. When I commented to the clerk that driving around to three different post offices to find one open was enough to force me to send all of my packages via FedEx, he said, "Sure, if you want to pay more." I explained the concept of customer service and added that my time is a whole lot more valuable than whatever cost difference might arise. I don't think he got it. Let me add that I just bought nearly $1,800 worth of stamps for my next postcard mailing, so I'm not really the kind of customer they should want to lose.

I mentioned all of this to a friend up in Virginia yesterday and she, dealing with those inconvenient, shortened hours there, went on a rant of her own. She said a nearby community had officially blown a fuse over the new hours and they'd been changed back. Ours had not been, quite probably because no town official had taken on the postal service.

I understand the need to take sometimes drastic cost-cutting measures in tough economic times, but does it make sense to anyone to make things so inconvenient for customers that they look for other ways of conducting business? I think I could actually accept the idea of mail delivery on only five days of the week, rather than these erratic cutbacks of hours that seem to vary from location to location.

I'd love to hear what's happening in your community, especially if you live in a rural area. Has your local branch closed, cut hours, turned out the lights? Click on comments below or email me directly at

Sherryl Woods



Blogger Kathleen O said...

We are lucky here in Canada. Some years ago, the Post Office became a crown corperation. Which means it is is privatized. But they did away with a lot of postal carriers and now have contracted out the delivery of mail, espeically in rural areas and new subdivisions. But we are lucky, that a in our big chain Pharmacy, Shoppers Drug Mart, they have postal outlets that are open usually from 8am until 9pm. You get get anything from Stamps to money orders. And you can also go online to mail and print labels for your packages, or buy stamps etc. It may cost a little more, but I can always rely on the Post Office to be open when I need it.
Good luck with your US Mail..

November 8, 2009 12:31 PM  
Blogger still karibear said...

Seems like every time the PO decides to 'streamline' something, it gets a lot more complicated instead. And a lot more inefficient and expensive. Forty some years ago I had a friend who lived semi remote in Alaska, and he got a letter that was addressed to "J, who lives by himself in the woods and has his own boat," sent to the nearest very small town. Last winter I ordered something from Amazon with delivery confirmation - it was confirmed as delivered in West Palm Beach, FL, which is a very long way from rural Oklahoma where I live.

I frequently don't get statements for bills, or they show up every couple months instead of monthly. I have to keep a log of who and how much I owe, because I certainly can't rely on the PO to get statements to me. I pay via the internet or in person as much as possible, and any time I have to send a box, it goes by UPS - I just sent a couple off a few days ago, and both together cost nearly as much as the postage would heve been for one. If UPS lowered their flat rate delivery charge just a bit, I think that would be the end of the PO for all practical purposes. It would be a shame in some ways, stamps are made in sheltered workshops which provide people with disabilities employment opportunities. But every time I hear anything about government subsidized programs, it reminds me of the time the IRS seized one of the whorehouses near Las Vegas for back taxes - they ran it until it went bankrupt. Only the federal government could go broke selling legal sex and whiskey.

November 19, 2009 7:16 AM  

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