Why the US Postal Service is sinking

Today we had a perfect metaphor for why the P.O. can’t get any revenue and why the private sector is eating its lunch.

I had to mail some valuables to Seattle.  I wanted to insure them.  I could have gone to the post office; my route took me right past it.  Why did I not want to do that? Because the postal employees there make it quite clear that my personal satisfaction is not a priority.  The rules are the rules, they take pleasure in articulating them, and they seem to enjoy when it turns out to be a lot more expensive than one imagined.  Plus, you cannot get angry at them; the slightest action that could even be imagined by the most paranoid mind could be construed as one of the various felonies against the postal service which are punishable with heavy fines and long imprisonment.  In short, one has to just take it.  Or go elsewhere, which I prefer.  So already, we are with me preferring not to deal with the option that should be easiest and cheapest.

So I go to my usual mail place, where they are helpful and friendly and offer a variety of shipping options, including USPS, which is probably what I’ll use anyway.  (My complaint is not that they fail to carry the mail reliably–at that, they do fairly well.)  I explain what I want to do, assuming it’ll cost a little extra, which is fair.  They regretfully inform me that they can’t do insured mail anymore.  Why? Evidently the USPS took that option away.  Brilliant!  Force people to come to the dungeon since you can’t entice them with pleasant helpfulness!  So I ask what my options are.  My mail place makes three phone calls on my behalf (try getting the post office to do that).  Short version:  I could send it registered through them, for a hefty fee, but if I want it insured I must go to the post office.

I think about this possibility.  I could do that.  Then I do mental math, and based entirely on past experience, figure out that it will be significantly more expensive than my most irrational upward estimates.  Plus, no one there has any incentive to be helpful–I’m just annoying extra work to them, a pain to be endured, one more person in the long line.  I decide that insuring it just isn’t going to happen, and I send it UPS with a tracking number.

So, let’s recap.  Basic aversion to cold indifference and apathy sent me elsewhere, where I learned that in order to do what I wanted to do, thanks to the PO trying to force people to go to its facilities to use its services, I have to go to cold indifference and apathyland.  And I get disgusted enough that rather than do that, I choose to do without the service.  It bothers me that they get to be the government when they want to make rules, and a corporation when they want to advertise and make money, able to punish the competition by fiat on a whim.

What’s more, I’m one of their few remaining customers who actually buys stamps and mails first class letters (specifically, paying my bills).  I buy the stamps from someplace other than a P.O. and choose to pay more rather than go there.  I’m one of the holdouts who refuses to bank online, to have a debit card, to allow automatic withdrawals from my checking, or to make payment online at the company’s website.  I am one of their last old school customers.  And I don’t want to go to their store and transact business.  I would rather pay more and go to some other vendor.

That isn’t the only reason the USPS is in a state of fail, but I can’t believe I am the only one, and it’s certainly one reason.


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