Living With Sclerosis

In this case, the sclerosis of the USPS.  My wife thought I’d taken care of it, and I thought she’d taken care of it, so neither of us took care of it and our P.O. box rental lapsed.  “No problem” says the postmaster to my son on Friday, “you can still renew it on-line by the end of day Saturday.”

After much searching I find the PO boxes link in that grey fine print at the bottom of the page.  Then I have to create an account.  Funny – I’ve never run into this hurdle before, “profanity in the password. please choose another password”.  I always figured no one would ever see your password, so why the hissy fit?

After much fussing around, I finally get to enter my particulars.  “Street Address”  That’s an easy one.  It’s been the same for decades.  As far as I know it’s been the same since the house was built, more than 100 years ago.  “Invalid Address.  Please select from the the alternatives below.”  There were none, so I click through and this time it accepts it.  Next is “Post Office Box Number”.  So I enter that along with my zop code.  That box number with that zip code has only existed since that post office was built, sometime in the mid 20th century, so I can understand how they might not have gotten it entered into their database yet.  So it comes up “invalid Post office box”.  I quit.  I did get a nice e-mail notice this morning though, thanking me for setting up an account.  It listed four or five things that were really super great about having an account with them, one of which was “manage or renew a post office box”.  Super.

So I went in to the post office this morning, saying I’d tried the on-line thing and failed, explaining in detail.  “Oh, No!” the flabby man behind the counter says, “you should have entered your PO box number, not your street address…”
“It asked for the street” and I spell it out for him “Ess Tee Awr Eee Eee Tee, Street Address.” He ignores that. “So what can I do”  Now this is the Monday after the Saturday that was our last day to renew.
“I have to change the lock, and you’ll have to pay the fee. How many of the new keys do you want?”
“I’d rather keep the same keys if it’s all the same to you. Charge me the fee and you can avoid the absurdity of changing the lock” Well that put him all in a pother.
“I’ll have to fool the computer….” and he pittered and pattered around the office for a bit, printed something off, cussed, threw it away, printed something off again, I wrote the check, thanked him, and was on my way.

All I could think of after that ordeal was the old saying among business owners everywhere; “If they ran a business like that, they’d be bankrupt.”  Oh wait.

It also reminds me of Douglas Adams’ Vogons, or of Ayn Rand’s description of the Soviet Union as a “morbid absurdity”.


5 thoughts on “Living With Sclerosis

  1. You’re wrong – if they ran a business like that, they’d be rich. They only have a few customers, who happen to be ultra-rich – the US Senate and House of Representatives. They do a good job of catering to their customers; it just happens that you are not a customer.

    It’s like a big name university, where some senior complains that the classes are all worthless and the requirements for graduation are humilitating and capricious. Silly students – the purpose of a university is to shake down federal grant money, not to educate citizens. I’m not sure what the Post Office does, besides delivering campaign ads and adding a few jobs to every district, but I’m sure they are focused on what Big Govt wants them to focus on.

  2. @dustydog: They are also the only approved “official” method for delivering papers to other parties in most courts (other than service by sheriff or process server, which is only required for certain documents). True story: the firm I work for sent a pleading by UPS Next Day Air to an opponent – which includes tracking and delivery confirmation with required signature – and almost lost the case because only service by the USPS was legally recognized in that circuit. Fortunately, the judge denied our opponent’s motion to dismiss for improper service, calling it “harmless error” and specifically noting that there is actually a circuit court split on the question, but noting that any further “service by mail” had to be done through the post office.

  3. Obviously they are NO LONGER in the public service mode (if they ever were in an actual post office)… And their on line stuff needs SERIOUS work…

  4. Hey, levying draconian penalties for missing a deadline by a few minutes is part of the new corporate hegemony of our fantastical economy, isn’t it? Try being one day late on your mortgage. Or any credit card account. Try bouncing a check, having your checked bag weight 52 pounds instead of 50. The corpulent pus-bags who run our great corporations have learned that since we can’t push back effectively, they can charge us whatever they want for whatever minor contractual infractions they can define. In the olden days, these sort were called “robber barons”, but now we call them CEOs. The USPS is just trying to emulate big business.

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