Saturday morning, I paid a rare visit to my local post office — and gained some telling insight into the troubled institution known as the U.S. Postal Service.
I went there to overnight a cashier’s check to a friend who needed it by Monday.
Not familiar with the process, I picked up what resembled a FedEx envelope and accompanying label. After filling out the label and adhering it to the envelope (as instructed), I got in line to pay for my transaction.
As I stepped up to the counter, an uber-serious Asian male took one look at the label and scolded me.
“Wrong envelope,” he said matter-of-factly.
The clerk then began trying to pry off the label I had so meticulously stuck to the envelope.
“Which envelope should I have used?” I asked sheepishly.
“Blue one,” he replied, grabbing a nearly identical-looking envelope from behind his counter. I noticed the blue-trimmed envelope was labeled “Express,” whereas my red-trimmed one was labeled “Priority.” Such an obvious distinction…
“Is there a reason why there aren’t any blue envelopes in the rack?” I asked in a pseudo-innocent tone.
“More expensive for customers,” he said.
Which didn’t really answer my question, of course, but did give me some perspective on the convoluted logic of our beloved USPS.
Unable to successfully remove my label from the envelope, he asked if I minded completing another one. I gave him a well-earned eye roll, grabbed the new label and envelope, and retreated to the waiting area to repeat the addressing process.
I still can’t comprehend the logic of hiding the “more expensive” envelopes from public view. Not only does it fly in the face of basic customer service, but one might assume the “more expensive” envelopes also carried with them “more profit” to the U.S. Postal Service (an institution that has publicly acknowledged it’s losing billions of dollars).
No matter. The Express envelope is now jetting cross-country, and I learned an important lesson or two about Going Postal (sans violence).
The unfortunate reality is that this whole incident probably won’t even be possible in the near future, as Saturday services are likely to evaporate.
Why, you ask?