Thursday, May 28, 2015

The End of the Pennysaver - Should this Mailman Mourn?

By Mel Carriere

The information circulating through our Post Office that the Pennysaver is now a thing of the past seems to be fueled by innuendos, rumors, incomplete attention to news stories, and perhaps wishful thinking on the part of letter carriers.  There is no doubt that Pennysavers are not popular among San Diego letter carriers, at least, and when the dingy gray, ink staining, sloppy, cumbersome, falling apart flyers didn't show up in our office this week I confess it sparked a small celebration from the clerks that don't like to stack the heavy bundles in front of our routes and from the carriers who don't like to lug the flimsy, bulky things on the street.  If there had been a champagne bottle on the premises we would have uncorked it, and to the devil with the consequences.  But is the Pennysaver really, truly going away everywhere and if it is, should Postal Employees be happy about it?

Tuesday, April 21st of this year was the first time our office partied prematurely in celebration when the Pennysavers didn't show up.  Many letter carriers started spreading the word they got from who knows where that the Pennysaver was only going to be distributed to certain zip codes in San Diego, and since we didn't have them for the first Tuesday ever, in my memory, we were doing a lot of triumphant fist pumping in anticipation that we were not one of these zip codes.

It turns out the festivities were premature.  The Pennysaver showed up on Wednesday of that week; the delay being caused by the closing of the Vista Pennysaver plant that formerly serviced San Diego County.  It turns out the printing of the San Diego Pennysavers had merely been moved up the road to Brea, California, in Orange County, and from then to the present the Pennysavers arrived on unpredictable days of the week; once on Wednesday and twice on Thursday.  But last week the Pennysavers appeared on their regularly scheduled Tuesday, so it looked like it was back to business as usual.

Then Tuesday a letter carrier in our office said he heard on the news that Pennysaver is gone for good.  Since this coworker's pronouncements and opinions are of somewhat dubious value, I hesitated to believe it. I went online to check it out and sure enough, according to an article in the LA Times the company had to shut down unexpectedly after its lender closed a line of credit.

So there is joy at the Mudville Post Office after all, now that the mighty Pennysaver has struck out.  When I take the podium at the celebratory Pennysaver retirement roast, here's what I'm going to say:

The messy things always came bundled up with a few of them in pieces, and if you are the type of letter carrier that liked to spend time putting Humpty Dumpty back together again you are a better man or woman than me.

Unlike the smooth, pliable paper that the Red Plums are printed on, the Pennysavers were produced on coarse newsprint that sometimes did not bend well when you tried to stuff them into mail boxes.  I suffered more knuckle busters from Pennysavers than any other mail item, by far.

Sometimes there was an oil change coupon in the middle that fell out if you grabbed it wrong.  I would stoop to pick up about two, maybe three of these, but after four or five I didn't see anything.  Call me a litterbug, if you like.

The coarse newsprint of the Pennysavers meant that the messy ink rubbed off on your uniform, and even permeated your very being, right down into your soul.  When you got home on Tuesday you left a practically unwashable black ring in the shower.  A coworker of mine, in fact, had a special Pennysaver wardrobe consisting of permanently stained Pennysaver shirts that she wore on Tuesday only, because she didn't want to mess up her good shirts.  I hate to think of what will happen to these poor Pennysaver shirts now that the giant stain machine has shut down.  Not even the most destitute CCA is going to want to pick those out of the used uniform box, I think.

On the positive side, the Pennysaver was a place to go when you needed to find a cheap Chihuahua or a cheap room for your son when you were about to boot him out of the house.  As a matter of fact, we even found our first home via an ad in the Pennysaver.  In a way the closing is sad, because it means the end of an era.

But is this abrupt end of the Pennysaver era a bad omen that signifies a new era of lost advertising revenue for the Postal Service?  Should I be mourning, in fact, instead of celebrating?  Is this merely the opening domino in a long line of Postal Dominos that are going to fall because computer ads are quickly replacing the mailbox flyer?

Apparently not.  According to that same LA Times article I referenced above, "...home mailers still draw the greatest share of spending on local ads in the US."  The power of home mailing is that even when postal customers didn't like the Pennysaver, I'll bet they still flipped through the ads before they pitched it, to see if there was some juicy coupon in there.  What brought down the Pennysaver was not the flyers stuffed inside, but the classified ads that populated the pages.  In the Craigs List and online job search era, I think people just don't read those classifieds anymore.

Alas, the Pennysaver has passed, at least for now, and unless someone with deep pockets resurrects it like the Hostess Twinkies and Ding Dongs that were on sale on the supermarket flyer always stuffed in there, I think my stained shirts can breathe a sigh of relief.

Friend or family member looking for Postal employment?  Be prepared!


 The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please see what my sponsors on this page have to say.

Image from:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mel's Memorial Day Meditations - The "Greatest Generation" is Still Alive and Kicking on my Route

By Mel Carriere

One might think that history and the US Mail  don't mix, but being a letter carrier also involves being something of an amateur historian, because by paying attention and really listening to postal customers talk one can't help but learn a lot about the way things used to be.  There are customers out there with some really good, albeit sometimes tragic stories to tell, and the letter carrier is a better therapist than the psychiatrist, minus the $150 an hour bill.

It is hard to believe, but there are still a few surviving members of the "Greatest Generation" still checking their mailboxes these days.  Per Tom Brokaw's definition, this "Greatest Generation" includes those who were brought up during the great depression and then went on either to fight in World War II or to struggle to keep the war effort going here on the home front. 

The Greatest Generation consists of remarkable people, remarkable heroes who participated in this country's last righteous war; maybe its only righteous war, a conflict about which it could be said that if they didn't stand up and fight, evil would have triumphed and ruled the planet.  There is still plenty of evil to go around these days, but nothing to the degree of malicious, cold-hearted wickedness that would abound if the Greatest Generation had not put an end to it.  I'm not saying that the veterans of other wars should not be recognized on Memorial Day; they are equals in heroic stature because they went into danger when their country called, even when their country used their lives lightly in wars that were often fought for dubious purposes.  But there was nothing dubious about the purpose motivating the Greatest Generation and this is why, fairly or unfairly, it has the adjective "greatest" attached to it.

The reason why I am using this space here on Memorial Day to celebrate the Greatest Generation, at the expense perhaps of those equally deserving warriors who served in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan Iraq, and other seemingly innumerable conflicts, is because there are still plenty of veterans around who made it through these more recent wars, whereas the Greatest Generation is thinning out at a frighteningly quick pace.  Fortunately, I was able to meet many of these great men and women while they were still alive, and absorbed quite a bit of living history in the process.

11 years ago a customer I had that I'll call Mr. L passed away.  Mr. L fought the Japanese in the Aleutians and on Leyte, in the Philippines.  When I was his letter carrier, he would scramble to the mailbox on his walker to regale me with his war stories.  Mr. L was shot up pretty badly back in the war as a crazy 19 year old (the exact phrasing he would use), and continued to suffer the painful consequences of a battle-battered body 60 years after the fact.  His war wasn't quite over, however, because he still had to fight the penny pinching VA for his health benefits, which the politicians were always finding excuses to reduce.  I thought Mr. L would be one of the last of the Greatest Generation that I would have the pleasure of listening to, but not quite.  It turns out there are still a handful of these heroes around.

Currently I have a customer named Mr. R who served with the 2nd Armored in World War II, a division once commanded by the distinguished George S. Patton.  The 2nd Armored fought in North Africa, Sicily, Germany and the Netherlands.  It was the first American unit to enter Berlin.  Mr. R has never told me how old he is and I have never asked, but assuming he entered the army in 1943 at the age of 18, which I think would be a fairly typical scenario, Mr. R would be about 90 years old now. 

Mr. R still proudly wears a 2nd Armored ball cap.  He still walks a half mile to the store every day to buy his newspaper, instead of having it delivered to his house, and maybe that is why he has lived to be 90.  He doesn't go too fast; I finish delivering the block during the time it takes him to get from the corner to halfway to his house, but I'm sure there was a time 70 years or so ago when he could have easily knocked me on my ass.  A couple of weeks ago, on the 70th Anniversary of VE Day, I tried to thank him for what he had done, but he just shrugged it off like it was no big deal.  The Greatest Generation is nothing but humble too.

The photo above of these jaunty fellows from the 2nd Armored Division was taken about the time of the Normandy invasion.  I would like to think there is a place in heaven that looks something like this, a hall reserved especially for the Greatest Generation, a place where these aged warriors are once again restored to the hale and hearty vigor of their youth, and they stand around a piano just like this, regaling one another with tales of their heroic deeds.  The angels serve them drinks.

So remember to say thank you to one of the aging WW II warriors or Rosie the Riveter warriors on your route one day soon, don't wait too long, and enjoy your Memorial Day Holiday.

The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please see what my sponsors on this page have to say.

Image is from:   "Archivesnormandie39-45 P000461" by Conseil RĂ©gional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA[2]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Friday, May 22, 2015

"That's not my Dog!" - How Does Your Postal Sup Respond to Dog Denial?

 By Mel Carriere

Sometimes it's a chore trying to think of meaningful topics to write about here.  Since the overwhelming response to my last post on the Scanner Selfies, I have been banging my head against the Post Office wall, trying to think up a good idea for a fitting, meaningful encore, something that will stir the soul the same way the idea of getting spied on by your voyeuristic supervisors does.  Alas, I haven't had much luck.  Today's topic was supposed to be entitled "Percent to Standard Rants for a Rainy Day," but it didn't rain after all, leaving we San Diego letter carriers as dry and crusty as ever, and my topic crawled off to the same place bogus weather forecasts go to die.

The one thing we can count on our Postal Supervisors for, however, is to provide us with interesting examples of  human beings behaving badly.  If you sit there hunkered down behind your blind and observe quietly without trying to get involved in the experiment; kind of like Jane Goodall watching chimps in a Uganda game reserve, it won't be long before they do some kind of neat trick that you can share with your family and friends.  Supervisors haven't mastered the technology of digging tasty termites out of a hole using a twig like chimpanzees have, but there are other peculiar and notable; albeit laughably predictable things that they do when they think nobody is looking.

This brings me to the observation that lately we have been having a lot of safety stand up talks in our station.  San Diego is number three in dog bites in the nation - I don't know what happened, we used to be number one, but just like our sports teams we can never bring home the top trophy.  It's not for want of trying, I'm sure, but all the same our dog bite status has been getting us a lot of attention.  Two or three times a week we get assailed with those same old dog safety mantras; take your satchel when you go to a door, keep your foot on the door when there is a dog behind it, don't turn your back on a dog, rattle the fence before you go into the yard, etc. etc.  I'm sure even if your place hasn't cracked the top ten in dog bites, like San Diego can proudly proclaim, you are  still hearing these same tired dog safety tips, to the point where they drone maddeningly in your ears, like the buzzing of flies.

But the single most repeated phrase they give us at these talks, to the point where it makes me wonder whether if it is a stand up talk or stand up comedy, is - "Let your supervisor know about a dog incident as soon as it occurs so we can immediately investigate."

This makes me chuckle because, in the first place, in my experience supervisors very rarely get off their thickly padded hindquarters to investigate dog incidents like they are supposed to do, and in the few cases that they do, probably because the Union jumped on their case, they screw it up and you wind up wishing they hadn't bothered.

 A textbook example of this occurred today.  I overheard the letter carrier at the case next to mine having a conversation with the supervisor about a dog incident that the supervisor had actually responded to, much to my surprise.  The investigation did not go well, however, because the Sup swallowed the customer's story hook, line and sinker.

Are you old enough to remember those Pink Panther movies from the 70s, the ones starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau?  If not there is a video clip down at the bottom of this post to show you the kind of humor that used to entertain us back during those olden days.  We were easily amused back then.

Anyhow, in one of those movies Inspector Clouseau eyes this shaggy dog sitting in a hotel lobby, and asks the aged proprietor "Does you dog bite?"

The proprietor answers "No, my dog does not bite." Reassured, Inspector Clouseau kneels down to pet the dog, who immediately begins to chew off Clouseau's hand.

"I thought you said your dog does not bite," Clouseau protests painfully.

"That's not my dog," says the proprietor.

I know it's a pretty tired old gag, but it's appropriate because probably every letter carrier with at least five years in The Postal Service has heard something similar at least once.  Sometimes the wording is a little different; a paraphrased version might be used instead that means exactly the same thing.  For example - and stop me if you've heard this one before, I once was charged by a pit bull who luckily was not particularly hungry that day and veered off at the last second.  When the customer came in to sign the dog letter he told the supervisor "I don't have a Pit Bull, I have a Chihuahua."

This is practically the same thing as saying "That's not my dog."  Now, I don't claim to be an authority on dog breeds, I can't tell the difference between an Appenzeller Sennenhunde and a Bergamasco Shepherd, but I can distinguish between a Pit Bull and a Chihuahua.  Therefore, I had to do a bit of SMH-ing as my supervisor was able to keep a straight face while telling my coworker today that she checked out the situation and knew for a fact that this particular customer did not have a dog.

My coworker got a little bit speechless, to say the least.  Her face went a little white and a little blank as she contemplated the more than a little ridiculous audacity in the remark.  When she finally rebounded, she explained to the Sup how she sees the dog every day, barking madly as it follows her, jumping up and down angrily so that she can see the top of its non-existent head over the top of the fence.  Furthermore, she didn't just bid on the route yesterday, she has been battling with this non-dog for several years now.

But just like the elderly hotel clerk said to Inspector Clouseau, this customer told my "investigating" supervisor - "That's not my dog!"

I wish supervisors were always this easily duped.  I wish I could fool them into thinking that I need three hours overtime on a lazy May Saturday when there is no mail, for instance.  That is the subject of another blog post, I'm sure, but in the meantime I continue to marvel how Supervisors always pay lip service to safety, but when push comes to shove they are usually too lazy, or too scared, or maybe they want to believe the customer because they don't like the carrier.  What do I know, but the point is, nothing gets done.

Watch the Pink Panther "Does your Dog Bite" Clip Below


The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please see what my sponsors on this page have to say. 

Image of dog and Clouseau's hand is taken from The Pink Panther Strikes Again

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Scanner Selfies - Smile for the Supervisor

By Mel Carriere

The buzz around our office these days is that the new scanners we received just a couple weeks ago are equipped with a camera that can be used to spy on letter carriers.  This news came down the grapevine through one of the carriers I work alongside, who is married to a clerk at another station.  This clerk was apparently invited by a supervisor to watch the peep show on the computer.  I don't know what you think, but to me this Big Brother capability is fraught with disturbing implications, because I think we all know we can trust our supervisors not to do the right thing.  The very fact that a supervisor is letting a clerk in on the fun demonstrates that the system is already being abused.

Supervisors love to spew out vast volumes of warm air reproaching carriers for their perceived dishonesty and lack of integrity.  They do this because they have none themselves, and when the planet you live on is inhospitable to honesty and integrity there is an unscientific tendency to assume the neighboring planets must be the same.  Supervisors are not scientists, in case you haven't noticed.

To demonstrate how unscientific managers mostly just pay lip service to personal integrity, consider the following story of a station manager at an office I used to work at, who had a set of  employee IDs in his desk that had been rejected for some reason.  During meetings he and the supervisors would engage in games of "War" with the badges; the worst employees being the high cards and the good ones the low.  They got many good hours of belly Lols doing this.  The letter carriers at the station were never the wiser.

This Selfie capability is going to give your supervisors many more lols, plus a godlike omniscience over your personal life.  No matter what they say, supervisors will be using these powers for evil.  I can envision them sitting around the computer in a remote, forgotten office next to the janitor's closet, two or three of them huddled in front of the screen laughing their asses off while the junior 204b is posted by the door to sound the alarm.  Somehow the Postmaster storms in secretly, pretends to be indignant at first, then chills out and joins the fun.

Can you imagine all the  selfies the new scanners are going to get for these bored, easily amused supervisors? Nose picking selfies, and selfies of you scratching various prohibited parts of your anatomy are among a few.  Talking to yourself selfies - let's face it, this job can get lonely and who else is there to talk to?  Strange psycho face selfies because my doctor told me to stretch my face muscles five times a day but some people don't get it.  Selfies of your rude lunchtime table manners; mainly your yogurt dripping down your chin because your momma ain't there to slap you or clean your face with a napkin.  Peeing in the jug selfies...Selfies of you hungrily eyeing the fallen Dorito on the LLV floor, then casually picking it up and eating it in clear violation of the five second rule.  Selfies of you squirming around and pulling on your postal pants to clear out the sweaty underwear butt creep.  My twisted imagination could dig into even deeper, darker places...

It's a little disturbing to know that we are being watched. As I was eating lunch yesterday I felt the perverted, leering gaze of  my scanner staring at me from its holster, which I have hooked to the dashboard of the LLV.   I'm not doing anything wrong and I don't think anybody wants to take a voyeuristic peephole look at my ugly mug, but who can relax even with the possibility of being stared at while eating?  I stuffed the contraption deep into my satchel until lunch was over.  If you can't mind your own business I banish you into the darkness.

Be careful, you are being watched.

Image from:

Friends taking the CCA test?

The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please see what my sponsors on this page have to say.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Thoughts on an "Obsolete" Postal Service

By Mel Carriere

It's kind of becoming a tired habit by now, but once again I apologize for my prolonged absence from my blogging obligations.  This time I blame the dormancy of the Tsunami on a bad stomach bug I caught on fight night at Chilis; one that had my wife and I huddling beneath barfy blankets in between frantic sprints to the bathroom.  In other words, the better part of the once mighty Postal Tsunami was flushed meekly down my toilet.  The ironic thing is we underwent this gruesome gastrointestinal ordeal and still didn't get to see the fight on Saturday because Chilis wasn't paying the ridiculous $5000 extortion fee to broadcast it.

I did have to emerge from my quarantine for a brief period this afternoon to send a check to my starving student son in San Jose.  Since one can still only mail a letter at the good old United States Postal Service, I drove by there and dropped it in a friendly blue box, but on the way to the drive through collection box queue I couldn't help noticing that the parking lot was packed.  As a matter of fact, the parking lot at the Post Office in our neighborhood is always packed, no matter what day of the week it is.  This realization got the sickly wheels of my head spinning again, so much so that I stopped to take this picture and to mull over a few things in my still slightly feverish head.

When I first started delivering mail I did a brief stint as a PTF in Coronado, that quaint little "island" across the bay from us.  For about a week I was doing the route that services 7 of the 10 high rises on Avenida Del Mundo; the home of the idle rich, along with Mexican drug barons and public officials siphoning from the public trust to finance an opulent lifestyle.  A few legitimate millionaires live there too, I suppose.  This was about 20 years ago, and at the time it was the residence of Orville Redenbacker the popcorn magnate, who had apparently forsworn the harsh Indiana winters for California sunshine.  He was supposed to have been one of the nicer guys in the place, but I never had the pleasure of meeting him.

I remember I was standing there one day stuffing Pennysavers into gang boxes, without much grace or style because I was new, when one of those idle old rich guys with apparently nothing better to do came down to watch the show.  I guess he could see I was stressed out by the knuckle-busting round peg into square hole endeavor that Pennysaver delivery can be, so he thought he would improve my morale by allowing me to partake of some of the accumulated wisdom and prophetic vision that had transformed him into one of the indolent rich.

"There isn't going to be a Postal Service five years from now," he told me suddenly, almost as if he had been lying there in ambush waiting for a newbie to spring this distressing revelation upon, having given up trying to impress the bored regular.  "Computers are going to take it over.  You wait and see."

That was in 1994.  Here we are in 2015, 21 years later, and contrary to the astute predictions of that mailbox Nostradamus, the Postal Service is still here.  We've been through a lot, we survived a near disastrous recession, but despite the concerted efforts of several incompetent Postmasters to destroy us we're still around.  We're still "relevant," to quote our latest PMG, for whom the jury deciding the issue of her competence is still in deliberation, although the preponderance of evidence seems to suggest that she intends to keep steering the ship toward icebergs, just as her predecessors did.

The full Post Office parking lot I saw today, the one I see everyday as I drive home or when I have to stop and queue up myself (no head of the line privileges for the boys and girls in blue), demonstrates to me that in spite of the best efforts of our competitors to discredit and destroy our organization, America still loves us and is more than willing to wait in line to take advantage of the most economical and reliable delivery service in the land.  There is no doubt that first class mail has not bounced back, but parcel delivery has picked up the slack, and if not for the disastrous PAEA act of 2006 we would be operating in the black.  I just busted a rhyme.

My poor poetry notwithstanding, the balance sheets and my drive by inspection of the parking lot prove that we are not, by any measure, "obsolete."

One more important question to ponder:  Why do they keep watering the dead grass on the corner you see up there every afternoon about 4:30, in flagrant violation of the Jerry Brown's water restrictions?

Mel's latest on Hub Pages - "Have Satchel Will Travel - The Daily Life of a Postal CCA"

The Postal Tsunami is a powerful wave propelled by copious quantities of Starbuck's coffee, which is not cheap.  I have nothing to do with ad selection here, but unless these ads completely annoy or offend you I would appreciate if you could check out what my sponsors to the right and down below have to say.  Thanks for your support.

Photo above is mine.