Dreaming of the post-Post Office era

Heart disease and high blood pressure do not run in my family, thankfully.  But I am convinced that, should I ever suffer a sudden brain hemorrhage, I will be at the post office when it happens.

The post office is not a place I normally spend time.  The USPS has been steadily losing money for decades, and it’s not hard to understand why.  Cheaper, faster package delivery by commercial shipping companies; bloated benefits and pensions for a huge, aging workforce eating an obscene portion of the service’s revenue; an increasing reliance on electronic media for distribution of content and advertising; and the complete failure of its management to predict future trends and adapt.

I, for one, will not mourn the USPS when it finally caves.  Why? Because the post office provides terrible, terrible customer experience.

In the last year, I’ve been sending small packages outside the country.  They have all been small, light, and relatively inexpensive.  I have packed them well—I spent many years in shipping and receiving, so I at least know how boxes should be packed and sealed to prevent damage.

I’ve mailed five, maybe six of these boxes.  In each case, I’ve prepared them exactly the same way I did the previous time.  And, every time I’ve made it to the counter, I’ve been told I’m doing it wrong.

Wrong label.  You should write the country on the box in big letters.  Fill out your full name (no initials).  Be more descriptive on the customs form.  This is wrong customs form, use the other one.

All of these sets of rules cannot be correct.  Either each person behind the counter has their own interpretation of the international shipping guidelines or those guidelines change from week to week.  (Actually, it can’t be the first, because I’ve dealt with several people multiple times.)

It’s happened enough times that I now assume there will be some confusion when I reach the counter.  Which makes the 20-minute wait in line more stressful that it would normally be standing next to the “having a conversation with himself” guy who stands to close to you.

I would certainly use the self-serve machines if I could.  But international mail has to go to the counter.  Other shippers won’t deliver mail to the remote area I’m mailing to.  I think this is how the USPS is holding on: they still provide services that other companies can’t or won’t.  But I imagine the markets for those services are shrinking.

I look forward to the day I can order a drone to fly to my house, grab the package I’m sending, and whisk it away to lands far away.  Until then, I guess I’m stuck doing breathing exercises in line while the guy next to me mutters to himself about Spider-Man.

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