advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When will the post office die?

U.S. Postal Service ad: 1979. Story: yesterday.

Okay, maybe less a story and more a gripe. In line to weigh a few letters and send out some metered mail when the clerk, cashier, postal officer (what do they call them again?) says they *probably* shouldn’t accept the metered items. Cue Walken in True Romance to Hopper: Come again? “Yes, see, it’s dated more than two days ago, technically we can’t take this.”

Explain, please.

“All mail that’s run through a meter has to be sent within two days of the date stamped.”

Forget MTLB customer logic that since I paid for it, I can send it whenever I want. I explain that this is one of many batches of mail that have been already sent over the last month IN THIS SAME POST OFFICE with no problem, and well beyond their two-day limit—that I’m now just learning about. “Well, we can send it this time.”


(I didn’t yell, but you want to, ammirite?) This is also going on while the lady next to me isn’t getting the discount she read about on the Postal Service website for something she was sending. (Maybe there was a “Send shit free” day email blast that I missed?) Anyway, *her* helpful agent then counters with:

“The internet is wrong. Don’t come in here and be mad at us.”

It sounded less bitchy than it reads, but it seemed to sum up the disconnect they have with technology in 2010. In a perfect world, all aspects of a business are linked. Even if they may not be aware of a specific promotion, the pleasant, helpful staff can still look stuff up online and verify, see?


The week before, I’m in there and four dudes who look like they haven’t seen the better part of a salad bar like, ever, are hanging out behind the counter talking about a post-work function they’re going to. Perception that this is an agency staffed by people who know they can’t be fired? Check!

When I look at that ad, it’s as obsolete. Forget the extra $20, mom and dad transfer funds into their kid’s bank account now. Get the zip code right? You mean check and see if they’re on chat. Donate space to a government agency in a magazine for commercial purposes? Talk about a bailout.

Nowhere in that equation does the U.S. Postal service factor in. (Care packages, maybe.)

I suppose they’re not going anywhere though, considering Ben Kunz’s point that they still move a shitload of mail every day for a nominal fee. Even then, is that mail still relevant in a society coming to terms with adopting electronic billing? And when Uncle Sam has your back as one of the few services actually mandated in the Constitution, you’d probably feel untouchable too.

Which means until Saturday delivery cuts actually happen, my boys behind the counter can keep ordering all the pizzas they like. Why not, we’re paying for them.


Ben Kunz said...

You are right that USPS has problems with customer service.

Two important points, though:

1. Not all companies focus on customer service; companies with low costs (USPS, Walmart) often focus on *operational excellence,* which requires military-type efficiency to drive down prices. Complain all you want, but then you expect a 44-cent stamp to send mail across the United States, just as you expect cheap camping gear at Walmart. Customer service costs money; if companies are held to compete on operations and low prices, then service will be substandard.

2. USPS has exactly the opposite of a gravy train from the government. It is the only government agency required to be self-funding; it cannot raise its prices beyond the cost of inflation, which is why stamps always go up in little penny increments; and it cannot reduce service to unprofitable areas. This is unheard of in any business (do you, Bill, continue to work with unprofitable clients?), yet USPS has its hands tied. Rather than complain about its service, perhaps you'd invite them to actually have the ability to compete like a real business, manage its prices, and reduce its low-profit centers. Of course, this means your Aunt Millie in Alaska won't be getting letters from you for 44 cents, but that's what it will take.

(End counter-rant ;) )

mtlb said...

Maybe we’ve become poisoned by the expectation of good customer service from other industries that we expect it from everyone.

I don’t say gravy train per se, but there is a sense of entitlement by employees viewing themselves as untouchable/unfireable.

But they do compete now by offering overnite services. Next step for FedEx et al. would be to start offering mail delivery.