Amazon had me at “free shipping” with the free offer of Prime to students for a year. Quick shipping speed, no minimum price limit, and great prices means that I’m a frequent customer of the US Postal Service insofar as I receive a large number of packets on-time and undamaged.
Being a customer of the US Postal Service when shipping items, however, is an entirely different experience. I ship things on a fairly regular basis, and it didn’t take me long to figure out a few things about the post office, such as:
- You can use any box you want, even one from home that has “Amazon” written all over it. They really don’t care what you use. If you do decide to buy a box there, it’s okay to write on it while waiting in line to pay for the box and the shipping.
- If you have something special regarding this shipment, such as “delivery confirmation,” “priority mail” or “sending to a foreign country,” there are forms you need to fill out. You should grab one in line and fill it out before going to the counter.
Seems simple, right? I now present to you the denizens at of the U-District post office, and the root of my anger.
I’m not talking about the employees. They’re calm, efficient, and very friendly. I’m talking about the customers who I have to wait in line behind and silently wish would spontaneously combust in front of me. Oh yeah, it’s that bad.
Let’s take a look at an average situation when I go in to mail something.
Normally mild-mannered Nikky has packaged and labelled a box he wants to ship. All that needs to happen is to hand it to the employee, have them weigh it, and then pay for postage after being told a few price points. Done in 90 seconds, tops.
When he enters the facility, there is an average line of about 6-8 people in front of him, and 2-3 postal workers processing the queue. However, Nikky soon realizes these people are completely unaware of how shipping actually works.
First there’s the “shipping something to Thailand” customer. They usually manage to at least get something packaged and addressed, but either a) had no idea shipping something overseas involved customs forms, or b) knew there were customs forms, but had absolutely no idea how to fill them out. These transactions usually last 5 minutes.
Then there’s the classic “box in front of the post office employee” customer. They will select a box to buy, and somehow think that they are not allowed to place anything in it or write on it until they get to the counter. So we all have to wait for them to package it before their transaction is finished. Approximately 3 minutes.
As a companion to the aforementioned box-difficulties person there’s the “stuff everything into the wrong envelope” individual. Their characteristic trait is to randomly select a priority mail envelope, notice that it doesn’t have a price, and stuff some extremely heavy and low-priority shipment into this envelope. When they hit the front of the queue, the employee then has to explain what priority mail is, de-package the content, and tell them that the envelope has to be flat and that placing a literal brick in it is not allowed. Approximately 5 minutes, because the customer usually doesn’t understand what “flat” means.
We also have the always fun “price complainer” who usually shares a category with the priority mail or international shipment customers. After everything is going smoothly, they then decide to complain about the pricing. This forces the employee to stop, explain the price, and wait for the customer to make up their mind. After taking about 400,000 years (approximately), they usually decide to continue the transaction after confirming at least three or four times that they really are getting the cheapest option to ship an elephant to Iceland. Approximately 4 minutes.
Finally, there’s the customer who thinks it’s okay to package their materials in something roughly comparable to saran wrap. This, of course, is not recommended and the ditful employee has to re-package it with proper materials and methods. Two minutes.
Then it’s my turn. I ship my package in 60 second transaction and leave, silently resolving to never return.