Sunday, August 07, 2011

Soon to be Post

HERE is the article for today, about the U.S. Post Office posting a $3.1 billion operating loss and warning of a default.

This news makes me sad, because I like the Post Office.  I know many financial commentators love to bag on the PO as an outdated system in a virtual digital seismological age.  It's the perfect example of a "government job" for its inefficiency, expense, and general wait.  Every friend I have on Facebook who has even a slight libertarian streak is someone I've seen rant about the PO and how much it ruins America, hurts women, or punches babies.

But I for one approve of the post office.  In the course of performing my job, I'm there three times a week or more, waiting in lines to ship packages to Gott knows where.  The shop uses another carrier for most of our domestic shipments, but USPS is *always* my first go-to for international shipping.  Every single time.

Part of that is the flat rate boxes.  Nothing makes my job simpler than being able to put a mouthpiece or other small item in a box, seal it, and dash it out the door for an utterly predictable amount of money.

The other part is the cheap rates.  We ship most trumpets and other like equipment in a box that's approximately 30 inches by 14 inches by 10 inches.  I can ship that box practically anywhere in the world for $100 or less.  Certain carriers who advertise a lot and have sports domes and race cars bedecked with logos can cost triple.  At minimum.  As someone who's trying to get things into people's hands for as cheap as is safely possible, if I give them the option of $97.50 or $362.61 they'll appreciate having the variety.

More to the point, I spent two and one half hours at the post office on Thursday and Friday alone.  Trying to get an oversized package to Australia, which might as well be the end of the world.  While there, the postal clerks were helping me find information, making friendly conversation, and laughing along with me as I struggled to get the International Commerce Terminology correct.

Here's a quick list of tips for trips to the post office, from my time in line.

1)  Do research on your item ahead of time.  You can't ship a coffee table to New Zealand.  No way, no how.

2)  If you want to work on your passport application, make a lot of time available.  Passports are incredibly complicated, even more so with all of the security of the last ten years.  It takes time, and if your picture is taken incorrectly, they will make you start again.  It's just that simple.

3)  Everyone else: Passports take a lot of time, so if a clerk ends up with a canditate, that window is now out of commission for at least 20 minutes.  Which means the line will slow down.  Tutting and exasperated exhaling about how long this is taking don't accomplish anything.  It just means the clerks won't like you when you do reach the window.

4)  Some children love waiting in line.  Some children run riot in the waiting area, screaming and pulling things down from shelves.  Only my long habit of pacifism stops me from kicking those kids at all opportunities.  I have more horror stories about children from post office lines than I do kids on airplanes. 

5)  No one in line is on your side if you loudly say, "I'm too important to stand here!" and then leave.

6)  You can't ship a loaded gun.  I don't know why I have to make this a tip, but I do.

7)  The post office doesn't know why you keep getting sent these catalogs (books, magazines, tea cozies, etc).

8)  Having a smart phone makes waiting in line very easy.

9)  Speaking Spanish to the Sikhs expecting them to understand betrays a comical lack of cultural experience.

10)  Seizing the opportunity to talk about how much you hate Iran when three Buddhist monks walk in is REALLY awkward.  For you.

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