Won’t Someone PLEASE Get My Mail?

How’s this for strange:

I’ve been a loyal customer of the post office for years. I think most of us have been, but I have a vested interest in this because several of my family members have served their time – I mean worked dilligently – at the post office for decades. And before I get hatemail, I know being a mail carrier is a thankless job. And I try to meet my mailman at the door every day and tell him “Thank you” because of it.

But Monday’s mail carrier takes the cake.

I run a business out of my home, and I “train” all my carriers to expect several packages per day to be waiting for them when they arrive to deliver my daily mail.

Most of the time, there is no problem. My carriers are a delight to work with, and several of the window clerks (like my friend Mark) are just amazing when it comes to delivering superior customer service. Those stories about crazed postal employess do not reflect the quality and character of the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with in the past decade.

But through some mix up that was apparently my fault (which I still can’t figure out), 7 packages that were set out for delivery did NOT get picked up at my home.

Good thing I only live about 4 minutes from the post office – and that my aunt is the delivery supervisor at that location.

At least, I thought it was a good thing

Remember the good old days when you could put the red flag up on your mailbox and the carrier would know there was a pickup? Well, according to my aunt, they now have to CHARGE me for same day pick up of mail parcels. Seems odd, since they’ve never done it before.

According to the USPS website, I don’t have to pay as long as the carrier is picking up as part of their regular routine. As long as they have a delivery, they just pick up whatever’s waiting for them and take it on their way.

Not so, says my aunt, who starts telling me about on demand pick-up and the fact that carriers should be charging me for picking up my package.

So my carrier returns to his regularly scheduled route on Tuesday and tells me “don’t worry about it, just keep leaving the packages, and I’ll pick them up as usual – and don’t tell your Aunt.”

That puts a big smile on my face, but makes me wonder whether or not I’m breakin’ the law.

I mean, I don’t want the Federali’s coming after me for making my carrier work extra hard.

Yet on the other hand, I’m stymied by the fact that even the supervisors aren’t clear about what’s procedure, and what’s not. And this isn’t the first instance of miscommunication in postal regulations.

My mom used to tell two stories: one about media mail, and the other about the flat rate envelope’s “one piece of tape” rule.

Media mail is very specifically for books, periodicals and the like. It’s an ultra-low rate that makes shipping heavy books more economical. Mom told a story (over and over) about how she bought a 3-wick candle on ebay (weighing in at approximately 10 pounds), and the shipper was only charging $5 for shipping because she was going to send it media rate. USPS reserves the right to open and inspect any media mail shipment, and had that candle been opened, it would have been rejected and returned to the sender.

Priority mail regulations state that the flat rate envelope may not be altered so as to enlarge the envelope. To further restrict the contents, the rules stipulate that one piece of tape may be applied to the seal of the envelope to reinforce it. At my mother’s post office, there are sticklers that would reject her parcel if the tape wrapped around any side of the envelope, or if more than one piece of tape was used. They would cite this rule religiously when rejecting her package.

Then came the day my mother got a flat rate envelope from Hawaii. “It had half a roll of tape running around it lengthwise and crosswise, and it was STILL ripped open” according to mom.

In larger companies, it can be difficult to establish and enforce rules across the board, but doing so is an imperative. Either let everyone slide, or get sticklers in every office. Know the rules, communicate those rules to the people that are in charge of enforcing them and make sure they’re CLEAR on how to enforce them. I don’t mind paying my fair share, but I get a little indignant when no one can tell me clearly what the rules are because then it doesn’t seem so fair.

Consistency is the “David” in any “Goliath” company. But even if you’re small, it’s easy to get lax on communicating consistently.

It’s days like this when I think I should just ship via FedEx.