Monday, January 18, 2010

What happens when your mail carrier goes on vacation

Just some of the mis-delivered mail
hand-sorted by my neighbors last weekend.

MB here...

Last Monday I was pleased and surprised to find the daily "Food 4 Less" circular missing from my mailbox. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that pretty much all my mail was missing from my mailbox. A few days later a client called to ask for my new address, as the check they had sent me had been returned bearing a yellow "NIXIE" sticker reading "Return to sender - attempted - not known - unable to forward". Yes, somehow, my little mailbox which had happily accepted mail for me for close to two years suddenly is refusing to accept checks. To protect me from the corrupting influence of teh filthy lucre, no doubt.

Calling the USPS 800 number yielded nothing but a promise that someone "who can handle this" would return my call within two business days.

So I lurked around the mailroom at the appointed time to harangue the mail carrier. "I don't know, I'm just a sub. You have to talk to your regular carrier. She's on vacation." I told her about the "NIXIE" sticker on my envelope. "Oh, you have a sticker? That's because you moved away and gave a forwarding address." No, no, I still live here. See? It's me, standing before you, and I'm still here. Is there someone I should talk to at the Post Office, other than just the 800 number? "No, the supervisor won't know, none of the carriers will know, no one will know anything. Your regular carrier will be back Monday. You will have to ask her." Got that? Your letter carrier goes on vacation, she takes all knowledge and accountability with her.

Now, I would think that magically disappearing and reappearing mailboxes would raise alarms in the computerized systems rather than print yellow stickers, but that is just me. I would think reliability is paramount in a mail system. Hell, I would even go so far as to think that a system as large and experienced as the USPS would have some backup systems to catch and work around the fuckwittery of a substitute mail carrier who can't find a mailbox that's only clearly marked and numbered and placed in order among all the other clearly numbered mailboxes.

Email has stolen a lot of business from the USPS, but the Post Office still plays a critical role in delivering physical things such as checks, legal papers, etc. There has been talk of dropping Saturday delivery as a way to make up for sagging sales, and I'm all for it -- if the savings are applied to increasing the reliability of the system and removing opportunities for one person to fuck up the chain of delivery all by themselves.

I would ask my regular carrier about this Monday, as the sub carrier had suggested, but their is no delivery on MLK day.


Anonymous said...

That's how it works. The USPS "workers" don't have ANY accountability. They don't care and there is nothing you can do about it.

Just keep the tax money rolling. We don't care, as long as our big salaries and benefits continue.

YOU are the chump. Paying for services that we have the option to provide...or not provide, if we choose. Ha!

Anonymous said...

I feel like the USPS can easily put that sticker on 1 out of 30 or 40 pieces of mail randomly, simply to increase revenue. I mail invoices from my business constantly and when it comes back to me i make a note in the computer. My customers are serviced twice per year. It rarely happens to the same customer twice and seems to be completely random. A customer that pays promptly one time after receiving a bill, may not get it at all the next time. The USPS could make a ton of money doing this, but maybe I'm reading too much into it...