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No wonder nobody likes the post office

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I have a bill to pay. At my old job, we had a postal meter, so I could "buy" stamps from the company; as such, we never keep stamps at home anymore. Now that I no longer have that option, I have to buy a stamp the old-fashioned way.

Yesterday after work I went to the nearest post office which is, conveniently, two miles out of my way. I got there to find they no longer have vending machines in the lobby. Seriously? Apparently so. Okay, I thought, I'll just get one on my way in to work.

Except I know the service desk won't be open, so I'll have to pay a markup. Fine, whatever. I stopped at a gas station. Nope, don't sell 'em. Stopped at a grocery store across the street. Service desk not open. Stopped at another gas station. Don't sell 'em. Stopped at a drug store. Yeah, we sell them. By the book. Gah.

I need to be at work, so my last option now is to go back to the post office at lunch and wait in line with all the other people who have to go to the post office at lunch because apparently it's near-on impossible to get your postal business done outside of normal working hours.

People often complain about the postal service, but when you think about it, mailing something across the country within a couple days for less than the price of feeding a child for a day a cup of coffee is actually a pretty good deal. So if my letter takes three days instead of two, I won't raise much of a fuss. But when you make it difficult to even initiate the process, then we got a problem. And closing more branches isn't going to fix your problems.

Look, the vending machines were a great solution. I've heard stories of how they were expensive to maintain, blah blah blah, but you remove them at the convenience of the people that needed and used them. And you wonder why you're losing business to FedEx and UPS.

Over the last generation, the postal service has tried to be too many things to not enough people. Return to what the postal service does best — processing and delivery of letters and correspondence — and I think a vital societal service could be useful and used again.