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Topic: Post Office Craziness

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Subject: Post Office Craziness
Date Posted: 11/27/2012 11:34 AM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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This past summer we moved back to the Seattle area. Since the job situation is very unstable, and getting mail delivered to where we live is not a good idea, we share a PO Box with my mom at a fairly busy post office. 

Last week or so, I ordered a TON of Priority Mail boxes in various sizes. I also ordered a ton of PBS books. I expected to have a TON of stuff to pick up on Monday. I also had a bunch of stuff to mail, but I had already paid the postage on everything. 

When I got to the PO at about 4, I was shocked to find the parking lot half-empty. This place is usually packed. I made several trips out to my car and placed the boxes to mail on the counter. Then I checked the PO box, and as expected, there was a pink slip telling me I had mail too big for the box. I assumed that the (19) they had scribbled on there by my box number indicated the number of items I needed to pick up but I didn't think that much of it at the time. 

So in the time it took me to do all of that, the post office had filled with people and there was a long line for the counter. This PO is big enough that they have a separate window if you are just picking up packages or doing certain things that don't involve money. There's a buzzer for the window and I rang it. They never answer when I do this. The instructions say to only ring once, wait 2 minutes, then go to the counter if no one answers. Well, recently, when I've gone to the counter. They send me back out to the window. 

No answer. I wait a few minutes and buzz again. I'm not getting in that line of people, I figure if I buzz it every 2-3 minutes, the counter people will get annoyed enough to yell at someone to deal with it. 

Suddenly half the people in line for the counter exit that part of the post office and get in line behind me. They tell me that the window clerks sent someone over. So the window finally opens, and a rather irritated clerk takes my slip and starts to look for my stuff.

This guy is probably the youngest clerk at this PO. He's usually in a pretty good mood, he's nice to the customers and English is his first language so he's easy to understand. So I am really trying to cut him a lot of slack about all of this. I am sure this is a really difficult post office to work at, based on the interactions I hear whenever I am in line. 

So he goes back to one area, looks for my stuff, can't find it. Then he comes back to near the window and is looking around. I just picked up some PM packaging on Friday, he's in the area where that was, and I can see a bunch of PM packaging laying around, so I try to be helpful and let him know I am expecting a bunch of PM packaging.

He nods and starts digging through this red thing on wheels that is full of packages. I see him set aside a tub full of packages... packages that look like books... I'm pretty familiar with what tubs full of books addressed to me look like :) Underneath is my PM stuff, so he pulls all that out and scans it and gives it to me. I ask politely about the rest and he growls, "That's all there is." I asked, "Are you sure, because I'm expecting some other stuff..." "That all there is"

There are five people behind me in line, and my arms are full anyway, so I take the boxes out to my car. Then I whip out my iPhone, go to PBS, and check my incoming books. Sure enough, one of the books has DC, and the scans indicate it is here, at this PO, notice left. 

I sigh. My mom is at home watching my toddler, and I don't often get to go to the post office without him. We're leaving town Wednesday. They won't leave another notice in the box tomorrow, so I really need to get the books picked up today for a variety of reasons. 

So I go back in and get in the same line I was in. The clerks mood is not improved by the people he is trying to help. One guy barely speaks English and someone at the post office called him that morning about a package they couldn't deliver because of the wrong address, but no one can find this package and the language barrier is making it so much harder... finally he tells that guy to step aside so he can help the rest of the people in line. 

So a few people later he gets to me again. He tells me again, "That's all I had. Look, anything I had for you would have been here" *gestures toward the red wheelie thing full of packages). I ask him to please check that white tub and see if the packages inside are for me... sure enough they were! In his defense, no one had put the little slip on the side of the tub indicating what box they were for. 

He half-apologizes, scans the books in, and gives me the tub. Rough day at work! 

So yay, I got my books and can mark a lot of them received before I go out of town. 


Tell me about your crazy post office stories :) 

Date Posted: 11/27/2012 10:01 PM ET
Member Since: 6/25/2006
Posts: 382
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 how come  you didnt use carrier pickup instead

plus  if  you had postage on them

you can place them in the mailbox [ there ususally a pacel drop

in most post offices

Date Posted: 11/28/2012 12:48 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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East King County, I have an excellent post office.  Although as of a few days ago, we actually have a wait time at the counter now lol.  Ours works a bit differently, the side window is only allowed to open when the counter is closed (some hours are posted, mostly early am).  If a customer is only picking up (salmon slip) or other non-money transactions, they do not have to wait in line....just hold it up when a clerk looks up, or a staff person will walk through and ask if anyone needs package pick-up only.

Date Posted: 11/28/2012 7:31 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,135
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I was at the PO a few days ago, during the first hour of the day when they only have one clerk working.  There was a line of about 5 people ahead of me, so I didn't think that was too bad.  Then I noticed the woman 2 places ahead of me was holding a big stack of manila envelopes.  Sure enough, she had around 65 envelopes, each of which had to be put into the computer separately and a postage sticker generated.  The man ahead of me demanded to see a manager, who just said they're always shorthanded now and there was nothing they could do.

I understand being short staffed, and if everyone had had the usual few items it would have been fine (I always bring a book to read while in line there, I expect it to take at least 15-20 minutes).  But I think that when someone comes to the counter with that number of items the manager should have come out and helped.  

I know she had a right to bring all those items in but honestly, if it were me, I would have just bought the stamps for them and stuck them on myself.


Date Posted: 11/28/2012 7:40 PM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2009
Posts: 706
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Managers aren't supposed to do bargaining unit work.  If the manager had done it, she'd most likely have had to pay a grievance to the clerks for stealing their work.

Date Posted: 11/29/2012 11:58 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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I don't use carrier pickup because I don't think it would work for where I live. I am in the second floor in an apartment inside the back corner of a historic building at a State Park. USPS actually does deliver here (they have not many places I lived) but the mailbox is in the middle of the parking lot, so I would never leave anything there, and we choose not to receive mail there. The office is not consistently staffed (thanks budget cuts!) and my apartment is a hike from anywhere a vehicle can go and the door is inside a locked building. So there's nowhere safe I can leave packages, and no door for the carrier to knock on. 

These were not PBS packages, these were eBay and boxes from my online business. Several were too big for the APC, and I had 6 regional A boxes that would probably fill up the APC package collector which seemed rude. Much too big for the blue boxes outside :)

Sorry about the person who got stuck behind someone mailing 65 envelopes! If you're going to be doing that kind of bulk you really need to buy a scale and do your own postage, IMO. But maybe it was a one time thing, I shouldn't judge. 

Date Posted: 11/30/2012 8:36 AM ET
Member Since: 5/16/2009
Posts: 8,500
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Wow... I hate those long lines too. Or when you have to keep explaining something because you know you're right, but the window clerk just refuses to listen.

We've been having some major issues with our postal service lately too. Quite frankly, I'm really worried about it. Our mail used to be delivered at around 2 pm. She was always on time and sweet as could be whenever she brought my books to the door. Always knocked and handed them to me. Then the carriers changed, and the mail started coming later and later. Quite often it would arrive around 6 pm, and would contain a letter addressed to someone else. He frequently left my mailbox hanging wide open. I even had a member here send me an envelope addressed correctly to me that had been marked as "Return to sender, no such address" by the post office, and had been returned to them.

Fast forward to now, and our mail arrives even later. It is not uncommon for it to arrive between 8:30 and 9:00 pm. He still leaves my mailbox hanging open most of the time. If there are books or packages, he'll set them on my porch but he doesn't even knock to let us know. It's a good thing we didn't really get trick-or-treaters this year on Halloween, because he left my Kindle Fire from Amazon just sitting on my front porch table next to the door. Amazon marks the box as a Kindle Fire, so anyone could have just picked it up and walked off with it. He set it there at about 9:00 pm.

I was in mailing a few books last Saturday, and I asked one of the window clerks I know about all of this. He told me that I could talk to a supervisor about it if I wanted to, but that it probably wouldn't do any good. He said that because of the "restructuring" that just took place, their location lost 4 full time employees. He said that their mail deliveries don't even arrive anymore from the main branch in Ft. Lauderdale until about 8:30 am, and that their carriers can't even get out to start doing their delivery routes until about 10:30-11:00 am. He said that they're pulling at least 12 hour days, and that the Christmas rush hasn't even started yet. Smh.

This all just makes me really worried about how things are being handled, and about what is going to happen with our mail service.

Last Edited on: 11/30/12 8:39 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/30/2012 8:59 AM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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He said that they're pulling at least 12 hour days...

Not only how are they handling things, but how are the mail carriers holding up? I just came off of a month of massive amounts of overtime and the fatigue is killing me. (I'm not a postal worker, but I feel the pain of pulling consistent 12-hour days!) In terms of changes to the USPS, it seems reasonable to me that personal mail service could be reduced to 3 or 4 times a week, rather than 6 days a week. A change like that is probably only a drop in the bucket. Businesses, I can see, need daily service. But I can wait an extra day for my mail if it helps to not exhaust the post office staff. I don't need a daily dose of junk mail anyway.

Date Posted: 11/30/2012 9:26 AM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2010
Posts: 220
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It's hard to reduce personal service without reducing business service as well, because many businesses are run out of people's homes.  (Does the local lawn service guy actually bother to rent an office?  Do people selling items on amazon or ebay have offices?


Date Posted: 11/30/2012 8:54 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,456
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Managers aren't supposed to do bargaining unit work.  If the manager had done it, she'd most likely have had to pay a grievance to the clerks for stealing their work.

This is one of the reasons the USPS is in trouble,. For too many years the union cracked the whip there. I had friends who worked for the USPS and it seemed they were either on a holiday or on personal leave. I've been in the PO when the line was extra long and still a clerk was required to go on break by some union representative.

Having said all that, my local main branch PO couldn't have a more polite and helpful crew of clerks. Sometimes I think they are too helpful in that they basically assemble packages for people who arrive with everything unpackaged but demanding assistance.

Date Posted: 12/1/2012 11:41 AM ET
Member Since: 3/9/2009
Posts: 8,982
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I do support the mandatory breaks for the workers.  If they weren't mandatory, they wouldn't happen.  If my post office workers had to wait to have a break when it was "quiet," they would be having them after work. 

I also agree though that people should give the clerks completed packages to process.  They need to have whatever they're shipping in the box/envelope, taped shut and addressed BEFORE giving it to the clerk. 

Date Posted: 12/1/2012 5:54 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,135
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Managers aren't supposed to do bargaining unit work. If the manager had done it, she'd most likely have had to pay a grievance to the clerks for stealing their work

And this is the kind of thing that often makes me skeptical of unions.  I consider myself a liberal on most issues, but over the years I've seen the most inefficient things have to happen for union reasons.  I'm sorry, managers need to be able to help with the everyday work when needed, we've lost our common sense. 


Date Posted: 12/3/2012 12:47 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
Posts: 10,087
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This all just makes me really worried about how things are being handled, and about what is going to happen with our mail service.

You guys with door-to-door service are spoiled!

What should probbaly happen is that neighborhoods should move from door-to-door service and into "neighborhood" consolidated mail boxes.

All new communities in CA seem to be built with these now. Sure, there are some drawbacks, but the mail can be delivered to my entire community extremely quickly.

On my street, for example, we have a consolidated mail unit about every 12 houses. All the boxes lock, so there are no worries about stolen mail. But I have to walk down the street a little bit to get my mail.

I think that besides eliminating delivery days, the PO should think about cutting back on door-to-door delivery.

I know that there are areas where that woudln't work, but in many city neighborhoods and in many suburbs, it would work just fine.

Date Posted: 12/13/2012 11:14 AM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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I've been out of town for the past 2 weeks. I share a PO Box with my mom, so no worries about packages getting picked up while I'm gone.

Before I left, I placed an order with Amazon, a Kindle for my dad and some railroad tracks for my kiddo. The latter was from a third party seller, and I couldn't remember today if it was fulfilled by Amazon or not, but for some reason I was expecting them to ship separately. 

We got in last night and I picked up a massive box of books and other packages from my mom. There was only one box from Amazon, which I assumed was the Kindle. I checked Amazon this morning to see the status of the train tracks. It said that notice had been left on Saturday, Dec 1, and the item was returned to sender because of a bad address on Tuesday, Dec 4. I was completely baffled. Called the 1-800 USPS number (my PO wasn't open yet) but they couldn't give me much more info, agreed that it seemed odd. 

Finally I opened the box from Amazon... the tracks and the Kindle were both in there. I am very relieved, but I think I am going to print out the tracking info and make sure someone at the PO knows that it got scanned wrong. There's a big difference between Delivered and Returned to Sender! 

Subject: observation
Date Posted: 12/21/2012 9:06 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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 But I can wait an extra day for my mail if it helps to not exhaust the post office staff. I don't need a daily dose of junk mail anyway. 


I'm a substitute rural carrier.  The junk mail is my bread and butter mail. 

Thanks for being willing to wait an extra day but that won't help.  The mail still needs to be delivered. 

I worry about eliminating Saturday delivery.  It means that Monday deliveries are backbreaking. 

Date Posted: 1/14/2013 2:55 AM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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My bad luck with this post office continues :( I only go there so often because I'm sharing a PO Box with my mom that's there, and I am only sharing with her because we will probably be moving in the next 1-9 months, and I don't want to be constantly changing my address and worrying about forwarding. I trust my mom to forward my mail much more than I trust USPS. 

Anyway, I recently got an automated message from PBS saying a book I sent arrived postage due. I was super embarrassed. Between PBS and Bookmooch, I have sent thousands of books, not to mention the other packages I send from my business/eBay/Amazon. I have never had anything arrive postage due. My old scales are a little sketchy (I just got a digital one a few days ago!) but when in doubt I've always rounded up. 

This particular book is on the bigger size, so I guessed that maybe it was close to the 16oz mark, and that I paid the 1lb rate but it ended up being over. The receiver didn't contact me about it, I just got the automated message from PBS. 

So I sent them a note letting them know I was really sorry, and that if they send me a picture of the label showing how much postage was due, I could gift them the money through PayPal. 

They wrote back and said not to worry about it, that they already recycled the wrapper, and that it was only $3.18 due. I was like, "WHAT?! That's not being 1lb off on media mail, that's being wayyyy off on something. 

Unfortunately, they don't have the wrapper anymore, and they're a little fuzzy on the details, so I am not (at this point) feeling 100% certain that they marked the right book received? But I'm still waiting for a response from my latest PM. I wrap my packages in decorative tape, so they would probably remember if this was the one covered in sushi or not. 

Anyway, lately I've been buying most of my postage online, so I figured I would look up the label and try to figure out what went wrong. So I go through my PBS transactions and my PayPal transactions... can't find a label for this one. Then I remember that on that day, I had a book to send to an APO, so I had to go to the counter anyway. Since I had to go to the counter anyway, I mailed all of my media mail books from the counter, because I don't really care about DC, and only recently (because of my trauma here) decided it was worth it to pay the extra 19 cents to avoid the counter (I guess I could get $2.47 stamps from the APC, but that's more foresight than I usually have). 

I checked the weight in the system for this book... 0.0lbs. So when the address label printed, it would have said "First Class." I always cover that up with the decorative packing tape, but I've never bothered to write "Media Mail" on instead because the clerk at my old PO always stamped media mail on it. 

So what I am thinking happened is that the clerk forgot to do the media mail stamp on the package, I didn't think to watch him to make sure, since I am used to dealing with more competent clerks (this is the same guy who told me that you couldn't ship rigid things as first class non-machinable). The other books I sent probably had media mail on the label already, so maybe he wasn't paying attention and assumed it was on there. 

So the book probably got hit up for parcel post rate instead, which is $5.70, the difference of which is only 5 cents off the $3.18 she thinks she paid in postage due. 

DO NOT GO TO COUNTER AT THIS POST OFFICE EVER :( :( :(  And amazingly, I keep managing to avoid the clerk whose English is poor and hard to understand, she is the worst of all the clerks there. I'm having bad luck with the better clerks there :( 

Anyway, if the receiver of the book writes me back and is pretty sure it was my package that arrived postage due, I'll probably just send her a credit, even though she's not asking for anything. I would be super pissed if a PBS book arrived with that much postage due to me, I don't think I would pay it, unless it was an extremely rare book that I would have a hard time finding elsewhere. 

Next time I have to mail something from the counter, I need to remember to ship it from the one closest to where I actually live, and use this PO for picking up my mail only. 

Date Posted: 1/14/2013 2:59 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 36,445
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Becca- They do tend to charge the higher rate IF postage is due. 


Date Posted: 1/15/2013 12:35 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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What a sucky branch.  You might consider going online at USPS.com and filing complaints, maybe it's time somebody noticed that branch requires some retraining sessions?

Date Posted: 2/4/2013 7:43 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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I sent a MFRB full of books to Bosnia a week before the price change. I figured it would travel across the US at normal Priority Mail speed (2-3 days), and then take who knows how long after that. So I was a little suprised when I checked on things today, and it took 8 days for my book to get from the Seattle area to New York. What the heck? 

In other strange news, I sent out several dozen packages this past week. One recipient contacted me because hers was apparently out for delivery one state over. I printed the labels from PayPal, her address was correct and it's not like I hand wrote the label. 

So I called the PO that had the package and got a super nice clerk or whatever. They pulled up the tracking info and were also baffled as to why they had it. They correctly guessed that the carrier would not have actually put it on the truck, and sure enough, a few minutes later they had my package in hand, and said they would send it back to the sorting center and hopefully my recipient gets it tomorrow. Yay for good customer service! 

Date Posted: 3/16/2013 8:24 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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Just wanted to rant somewhere about this PO...

My mom had a box of books she was sending to a charity. She has shipped stuff media mail before and is familiar with the regulations. 

She goes to the PO to mail the books. They ask her if there is anything liquid, fragile, etc, and she says no, it is just books and they need to go media mail. 

Well the clerk kept grilling her about whether or not there was anything else in the box and kept threatening that they were going to arrive postage due at the Priority Mail rate, even if there was just a piece of paper in there (which isn't even true since you can have an invoice or such). My mom kept insisting there was nothing but books in the box. 


In other good news, my husband got a conditional job offer in the San Juans, so if that pans out (it should) our days at this awful PO are numbered. Not for my mom though, she is married to it :(