Thursday, November 19, 2009

Going Postal, part 5

V: Delivery Confirmation?
(November, 2009)

As the "part 5" would indicate, I am now reaching the close of my postal tirade. Over the past few days, we have learned a lot about geography, a lot about systems, and a lot about procedures. The posts and stories have made us have laugh, made us cry, made us ponder, and made us facepalm. Now, if I may, let me share with you the last—and, perhaps, most egregious—offense in the ongoing war between the USPS and myself.

Through my virtually daily perusal of craigslist, I recently found a chap on the other side of the country who was selling, well, in the interest of half-disclosure, let me say a certain video game accessory that is of great worth to me. I ordered one from him and a week or so later, it arrived in the mail. Overjoyed, I showed this accessory to one of my friends, who instantly wanted one. I ordered another one and a week or so later, it arrived in the mail. Another one of my friends heard about this accessory, so I ordered one and, true to form, a week or so later, it arrived in the mail. I was in functioning postal system heaven.

cartoon facepalm
In retrospect, I should have stopped at three, because as School House Rock taught me, "three is the magic number". However, another one of my friends heard of the accessory and, having assumed that the USPS had repented of its sins—as a major part of repentance is refraining from them—I ordered another one from my newfound associate. As always (though not previously mentioned), the package was sent with a tracking number. For those not in the know, this is basic tracking number theory:
  1) The package is given a number and barcode.
  2) At each stop along the package's route, the barcode is scanned and the status is updated online
  3) All this is to prevent, nay, eliminate the risk of a package getting lost.
Keep in mind, that is the theory...

polar facepalm
Naturally, when the tracking number online informed me that the package had arrived but there was no sign of it in my mailbox, I was a bit concerned. Back at home, I searched for quite literally an hour, trying to find the phone number to my local post office. However, since the USPS does not seem to believe in any form of customer service, the closest thing I was able to come up with was leaving a message with the conflict resolution center at A few days later, I got a phone call from Jill, who was pictured in the first "Going Postal" entry. That is when the fun began.

baby facepalm
Right out of the gates, Jill insisted that there was no way her postal worker could have made a mistake, as he is a "good guy". When I asked if she offered any other solution as to the whereabouts of my package, she actually had the gall to imply that I had either lost it or was trying to pull a fast one on the post office. I asked her what the process of scanning a tracking number is, to which she replied that the postal worker literally scans the package one foot away from the mailbox, and then puts it in. Upon hearing this, I put Jill on hold and called up NASA, as it appeared that a black hole had emerged, entirely localized one foot away from my mailbox. After the NASA call, I called Jill back and asked her what exactly the point of a tracking number was; she explained to me the aforementioned theory.  I then made the suggestion that while the theory of tracking numbers might work, perhaps there was a problem in the execution, as I was still packageless.  Apparently, this was something Jill did not want to hear, as she quickly told me that she had other things to do and tried to get off the phone.

presidential facepalm
Before losing her entirely, I asked her what the USPS intended to do as far as reimbursement. She asked if insurance was purchased for the package; I told her it was not, as I see something fundamentally flawed about paying someone money to do a job, and then paying them extra to assure they do it correctly. Imagine if all businesses operated this way:
  "And I'll have the lobster bisque."
  "Very good choice, sir."
  "Oh, and waiter?"
  "Here's an extra twenty to make sure you don't drop my food on the way out."
  "Thank you, sir. I shall see to it."
To this, Jill—who I assume at the time was sitting atop her throne made of crushed hopes and candy stolen from children—actually laughed and said that if I wanted, I could file a formal complaint with the post office in thirty days. When I asked her why the thirty day period, she replied (and I quote): "Just in case the package shows up." That is right: at the end of it all, apparently the USPS's contingency plan for lost items is nothing more than hoping they somehow grow limbs and walk their way to your front door.

implied facepalm