Monday, January 18, 2016

Mel's Disappointing EXFC First Class Mail Test - Whatever Happened to Overnight Delivery?

By Mel Carriere

It was a grueling holiday season but guess what - we made it happen!  The scuttlebutt around the office is that Amazon is giving us a lot of extra FedEx and UPS business as a result of our stellar Christmas performance, so the fun continues!  Parcels remain abundant even as the holidays have wound down.  Anyhow, I am sorry for neglecting my blog, but with long hours and no days off it is sometimes hard to write.  Pathetic excuses aside, I proceed with the Postal Tsunami's first offering for 2016, which I hope will be a great year for you and I both.

I haven't been secretive about the fact that I was in management for a while, four years of that spent on a detail assignment that had nothing to do with beating up letter carriers.  When I did decide to try the 204B thing, it was only on an experimental basis, and I did it based on the misguided assumption that I could make a difference for the better.  Because crappy people of limited intelligence taking supervisory positions is the cause of the whole lousy labor/management relationship, I thought that maybe if I did it I could make a difference for the better.  I felt a sense of duty to use my talents to help change the situation.  But then I discovered that management didn't care about my theoretical intelligence, or about anybody fixing a broken system.  They just wanted a butt that could fill a seat without complaining too much, and somebody they could place the blame on when necessary.  The situation was hopeless, so I abandoned ship in an inflatable life raft before my soul could sink into complete oblivion.

True confessions aside, I'll get on with the story.  When I was on a detail assignment back in those days, one of the things our office did was damage control whenever a zero bundle was reported.  For those of you who are unaware of the Postal Service's once vital, but now woefully neglected EXFC system, I will give you a little primer on it, to the extent of my own spotty knowledge of how the process really works.  From what I understand, our auditing company Price-Waterhouse places bundles of mail into collection boxes, then measures what percentage of these letters arrive overnight in a certain local delivery territory, usually comprising a metropolitan area.  When none of these letters arrive overnight it is called a zero bundle, and it sets off deafening alarms in the Operations Department.  Not actual audible alarms with flashing red lights, but the effect is exactly the same.  People scramble for battle stations, and an immediate investigation is launched to see who is responsible.  The culprit is usually a letter carrier who didn't pick up a collection box, or a manager who didn't assign a letter carrier to pick up a collection box.  Of course the manager will always s**t on some letter carrier and say so and so was supposed to do it but didn't.  I have heard, although have never seen it for myself, that sometimes a manager has a copy of the collection box scan in his desk and, when in a pinch, will scan it without actually having anybody check the box.  This trick has probably changed since we got GPS on the new scanners.  Whatever the case, a letter carrier will almost always get blamed and the manager will get a promotion for being resourceful.  You know how it goes.

EXFC used to be very important in general, and zero bundles in particular had to be avoided like an Ebola victim bleeding out in your bathtub.  I know that's a horribly vivid comparison, but it's the most appropriate one I could think of on short notice.  The times they are a changin' since the downgrading of first class mail that took place last year, however, and as proof I offer up my own recent EXFC experiment, which I dejectedly report resulted in another zero bundle.  It didn't set off any virtual alarms in any virtual Operations Departments, but it does demonstrate how crappy first class mail has now become, for lack of a better technical term.

Early last week I finally got around to finishing the Christmas thank you notes for customers who were thoughtful towards me during the holiday season.  Wednesday morning I put 20 stamped thank-yous in the outgoing mail slot of my neighborhood CBU.  On Thursday I went to work anticipating that I would be delivering at least most of them on my route as I made my rounds.  I work about eleven miles from where I work, so it should have been an EXFC slam dunk.  Instead, my letters laid a big goose egg, a huge zero bundle with a capital Z.  None of them came in on Thursday.  Not a single sad and lonely little thank you note came trickling down the first class pipeline.  

I found this strange and disappointing, because in Xmas 2014 every last one of them arrived overnight.   Patiently I waited for Friday, thinking that maybe the regular was off on Thursday and had failed to check the outgoing mail.  That would be a poor excuse for a lack of overnight performance, but better than accepting the horrible reality that our first class mail standards are now abysmally inadequate; incapable of serving the American Public as we are sanctioned to do.

Still nothing on Friday.  Snail-Mail was no longer a mostly jokingly used metaphor, it was the literal truth.  I had visions of sluggish gastropods painstakingly lugging my little thank you notes down from the plant with agonizing slowness, little blue eagles painted on the sides of their curvy shells.

Saturday I was pleased to discover that my thank-you notes had not been lost in the mail.  They finally oozed down their slimy path to our Post Office; or at least 19 of them did.  One is still missing, perhaps not having been unloaded from the curled cargo compartment of some particularly lethargic slug-related invertebrate.  That thank you note is still in transit, and since today is a holiday, won't get there until tomorrow (hopefully), 6 days after my eager fingers first deposited it in the outgoing mail.

6 days used to be considered bad performance for a letter to traverse the country, much less eleven miles in a city crisscrossed by ample, open freeways, and prowled by stressed out delivery employees who regularly exceed the speed limit.

I did notice that the postmarks on my overdue thank-you notes said January 14th.  That could mean that somebody did fail to pick them up on the 13th, the day I deposited them.  Even so, they still should have rolled in on the 15th, at least most of them.  Instead, they got trapped somewhere in the postal drain between Chula Vista and San Diego - a nasty first class sinkhole as clogged as the still broken toilet in our men's restroom (another blog, another time), and they didn't drip in until the 16th.

Meanwhile, sometimes Amazon packages don't show up until 11 AM, and they still have to be sorted by the clerks and delivered by the carriers.  I've done that topic to death, so I'll let it rest, leaving you with the concept of "skewed priorities" to chew on today, as you grow old by your mailbox waiting for your delayed W-2s to roll in.  Happy belated New Year from the Tsunami!

The above image, which is not me but very well could be, comes from:

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