Thursday, August 29, 2013

An Open Letter to the U.S. Postal Service

Dear Post Office,
I like you.  I like having mail delivered to my house and look forward to it each day.  I am one who will be sad to see Saturday delivery stop, even though I know you are just trying to make things work. I use your service to mail packages and even defend you to my husband who is a UPS fan.  But I have to say, you really let me down yesterday.  Let me explain my complete frustration.

I had a package to mail from Virginia to Florida.  It weighed 3 pounds.  I like to use the online service because I can compare prices without a line of people behind me impatient for me to make my choice and I like the small discount I receive for conducting my business online.  When I did this with my package, comparing a flat rate box and my box, I discovered that the least expensive way to mail this was with a box called Regional A.  Now, I didn't have such a box at home, but you very nicely list the box dimensions and I could tell that it would fit my items perfectly.  So, I paid for and printed my label, gathered my items and went to the post office expecting to box it up there.

I was the only one in the Post Office when I arrived. After studying the display and having trouble deciding which of the practically identical boxes (honestly, these are the SAME box except that some say "Priority", some "Express" and some "APO") I needed, I asked the clerk for a Regional A box.  Imagine my surprise when I was told, "We don't carry those boxes. You have to order them online."  Huh?  Really?  You offered me a postage rate, charged my credit card, allowed me to print postage without whispering a word about the difficulty in finding a Regional A box.  I asked if any of the nearby post offices might have one and was provided with phone numbers to call and ask.  I called the numbers from my car, but none of them had the elusive box. When I inquired about using the label I had paid for, or perhaps getting a refund the desk clerk really didn't know how the internet postage worked, but she thought that was possible if I went back online.

Now, I can buy a tangible item like a pair of pants from a retail store online and decide to return it to their store in the mall without any trouble.  They are able to manage to restock this tangible item without trouble, issue me a refund and keep the store financially solvent, and make me feel like a valued customer.  I didn't really buy an item online from the post office, but rather a service that had yet to be delivered, but I can't receive my refund from the store...only online.  Something is wrong here.

So, to make this already long story a bit shorter, I did a bit of calming, deep breathing, drove home, requested a refund online (I will give you credit here....that was an easy process), printed out a new label using my box which oddly costs me more even though you are not actually providing me with a box, packed my items, got back in my car, drove back to the post office (We will skip the part about how much bigger this is making my carbon footprint), parked, stood in a long line and, finally, submitted my package for delivery.  Phew.....Honestly now, it shouldn't be this difficult.  Let me point out a few things:
  • It's silly that you charge me more to use my own box.
  • You don't carry that many boxes.  Why on earth offer postage on a box that you don't stock in the post office?  If Regional rates are being phased out, at least give me a hint on the website. After all, your new ads claim that I am your priority.
  • It would seem that you are trying to encourage people to use the online services.  It would be very helpful for the desk clerk to know something about these services.
  • It would be helpful to integrate online and in person services.
  • The whole system is still confusing.  All three boxes: priority, regional A and my box are about the same size and would be handled the same way probably by the same people and/or machines.  Why even have three options anyway?
  • A box is a box is a box.
In a customer service oriented post office the encounter would have gone like this:
Me:  "I need a Regional A box."
Clerk: "We don't carry those."
Me: "I've already printed out my postage.  Do I have any options?"
Clerk: "Let me call around and see if I can find you a box."
                                  or, even better:
           "I'm so sorry for the confusion.  Let's take a regular Priority Mail box and write Regional A    on it for you and use your already paid for label.  After all, a box is a box is a box."

I still like you Post Office, but, seriously, you can do better. And for both of our sakes, you NEED to do better.




  1. I do so hope you actually send this to the Post Office, it's beautifully reasoned and written, your frustration shows without boiling over and you have a really valid point. You should send it.

  2. What a wonderfully executed letter. Our society is doomed unfortunately due to all of this gobbledygook protocol people have to go through for something so simple.

  3. Oh dear, Nina ... What a crazy system indeed! Keep smiling, m'dear :)