Sunday, June 21, 2015

Is It Just Me, or Does the Mail Now Suck? - Father's Day Rant

By Mel Carriere

I am not the most faithful of children when it comes to Father's Day.  But just as my Navy stories improve the more I repeat them to my yawning children, I think I've also gotten better with age in the Father's Day department; the proof being that I actually mailed off my Dad's gift before June 21 this year.  The way things are looking these days with the US mail, however, mailing early might not be a safe bet anymore.

Being a Postal employee, there is sometimes a tendency to forget what it is like to be a Postal customer that has to deal with the consequences of delayed mail.  We letter carriers are exposed to the daily monotonous litany of "Hey Mailman where's my check," which lately seems to be growing louder and more frequent as processing plants close and bags of first class mail are left piling in corners to age awhile like barrels of fine wine.  Naturally we grown weary of these complaints and tend to form protective mental barriers against them so we can get about our business. 

Then comes the time when we too have to stand in line at the Post Office just like everybody else to send a Father's Day card or some other time sensitive item, just like I had to do on Thursday, and we discover to our displeasure that mailing a letter or a package just ain't what it used to be.  Or is it just me?

I thought that since it was Thursday, our recently degraded delivery standards would impede the gift card I was mailing from arriving on Saturday via first class mail, so I decided I would try Priority.  The clerk behind the counter entered my Dad's zip code, and informed me that the card I put in the flat rate Priority envelope would get there on Monday, the day after Father's Day.

I looked up at the menu board above the queue of window clerks.  My eyes fell upon a spot that said "Priority Mail - 3 to 5 days."  I scratched my head.  Is it just me, or does anybody else out there remember a time when Priority Mail used to be 2 to 3 days?

Wanting to be a dutiful son for a change, I decided to bite the bullet, pay the $19.99, and send it Express; or Priority Mail Express, as we now call it. The clerk behind the counter smiled and cheerfully told me that my card would arrive on Saturday.

I scratched my head again.  Like I said it was Thursday, and I recalled a time when the day after Thursday was Friday, not Saturday.  I asked the clerk about it, and he assured me that Friday still came after Thursday, but my very expensive letter would arrive on Saturday because my Dad's home was located far from a major mail hub.

Is it just me?  Am I being unreasonable to think that if I pay $19.99 to mail a gift card it should get there the next day?  My Dad does not live on Mars and he does not live out somewhere in the middle of the icy Alaskan Tundra.  I could understand the delay if he did, but he lives in Arizona and I live in San Diego.  Where he lives is not even rural Arizona, exactly.  He resides in a town of approximately 15,000 people that is located about 80 miles north of Phoenix.  One gets there over a good highway that has two lanes going into the town and two lanes going out.  I can drive there in about 7 hours with light traffic.  Maybe I should have.

Sometimes I have this paranoid tendency to believe that I am the only one who complains about certain things.  Maybe it is just me.  Maybe I'm just a grouchy old fart.   But then I read an article on Postal News that kind of reassured me that perhaps I am not completely delusional, that maybe it is not just me after all.

The article was about the House Appropriations Committee voting to restore the recently lowered service standards back to the levels that were in place on July 1, 2012.    It seems to me that if a Republican dominated House passes an amendment that makes the Postal Service better instead of worse, it's a pretty reliable indication that Congressional constituents are really pissed off now by the slow mail, and some of those Representatives that are normally deep in the pockets of anti-postal interests are starting to get fidgety about reelection because they are being bombarded with phone calls about slow delivery.

Postal leadership responded indignantly to this vote in the House by complaining that it will cost the USPS 1.5 billion dollars annually.  Once again I confess to being befuddled by Postal math.  I remember that back when 5 day delivery was the flavor of the month, the Postal brain trust was saying the elimination of Saturday delivery would save the organization a whopping 2 billion a year.  Whoo-hoo!  We're saved!  But now they contend that throwing an extra bag of Express Mail into the back of a truck already going 80 miles up a good highway is going to cost them nearly as much as an entire day of delivery?  Is it just me, or does none of this make sense?

Who is this current Postal leadership in league with anyway, besides the devil?  I'm not a conspiracy theory guy, but this insistence upon deliberately providing bad service is certainly starting to stink of an intentional, organized plot to destroy the public's faith in the Postal Service so that it can be privatized, dismantled, and then have its broken pieces handed over to its greedy competitors.

Seems like the mail kinda sucks now, and it might be on purpose.  Or is it just me?

Oh yeah, Happy Father's Day to all you remarkable Dads out there.

Where is my check? More by Mel on the death of first class delivery standards here.

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 Mel making his rounds:  By Smithsonian Institution from United States [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. You're not crazy. I used to send my dad priority 2-day packages. They are now priority 3-day. I nearly got burned by waiting until Thursday as well.

    As a mail carrier, I am growing more and more disappointed with the lowered service standards. Taking that blame for late checks. I have even been followed by a customer. He found my truck at a later relay then parked and waited there so he could ask me again. Yes, I'm sure I didn't see your check.

    The next morning he's at the counter in the office asking for his mail. I go through my dps...lo and behold there is his check. But it's the mailman's fault.

    1. Thank you KJ I think this is happening to everyone since January, when it took effect. Glad I'm not crazy.

  2. If I have time (LOL) I'll check the postmark on cards/letters just to see how long...and I crinched on thursday/friday picking up outgoing cards for the next town or two away, knowing it wasn't gonna be there by saturday.

    1. My Dad told me that they used to process mail in his small town and so you could mail a letter across town in a day. Now that same letter goes to Phoenix and takes 4 days. Thanks for reading anonymous.

    2. When I pick up fresh mail and notice that it's destined to somewhere else in town, more and more often I find myself keeping it in office. Too many times, I have picked up a greeting card (you know, something special) from one house on a route to another house on the same route, sent it downtown, and gotten it back several days later...sawed in half. Literally half of the card just gone. I felt really bad, because when I originally picked it up I had the debate; do I send it downtown like I'm supposed to, or keep it in office.

  3. No, Mel, you are not crazy. You clearly have been in the postal trenches long enough to remember the "good old days" when times were much simpler. First Class, Priority Mail, Express Mail, etc. was just that. No mixing of product names, let alone classes of mail. Calling it Priority Express Mail won't get it there any faster, and implies speed and efficiency. We don't do that anymore. When was the last time you had your presort standard mail get to sit by your case for a day, maybe two before you were scheduled to get it delivered? Now we just mix it all together and it's all treated like First Class. I could go on and on about the idiocy that management perpetrates on a daily basis, but I think you are as aware of it as I am, so I'll spare you my rant.
    Thanks for the Postal Tsunami blog. Always a good read. ( 29 year postal clerk )

    1. Thank you Robert. I hate to sing the praises of management, but I remember when Runyan was PMG and we delivered on time AND made a profit. The man may have had faults, but being an outsider he was not corrupted by the Postal system. Maybe that's what we need. Thanks for reading!