15 December 2011

Our (un)reliable and (in)efficient United States Postal Service

By now you have probably heard of the United States Postal Service's plan to increase the price you pay for a first class letter from 44 cents to 45 cents effective 22 January 2012, according to this press release from the USPS. That's right, postage is going up unless you happen to have those "forever" stamps that you use to protect yourself from having to put additional stamps on your letter when postage increases.

If you think that the United States Postal Service keeps raising postage rates while the quality of service gets poorer, it is. In fact, there is a proposal according to this Bay News 9 article that would slow down oridinary first class letter mail. That's right, ordinary mail such as letters and bills you pay where you just put a stamp on it and mail it off.

So, what does this mean for you?

First class mail has what is called a delivery goal, not to be mistaken with delivery guarantee. First class mail that is mailed in a defined local area is delivered overnight, while first class mail that is destined for outside the defined local area but within the state is delivered in two business days. First class mail destined for out of state is usually delivered in three business days.

OK. Let's take an ordinary letter, mailed in St. Petersburg at the St. Petersburg post office that is headed to Tampa.

Right now, that letter you mail from St. Petersburg to Tampa is delivered overnight. If the United States Postal Service gets its way, that same letter you mail from St. Petersburg to Tampa will be delivered not overnight, but in two business days. You got that right, two business days.

With all the customer complaints and customer issues that have plagued the United States Postal Service, I decided to make this a topic all of its own here at EdwardRingwald.com. What you'll see is based on my experiences when I have to unfortunately deal with the United States Postal Service over the years. The complaints about the USPS range from damaged mail to a letter delivered - especially constantly - to the wrong address.

The next time you go to your local post office to mail that package off to Grandma's so it will get there before Christmas Day, keep these pointers in mind:

Long lines, especially backed up to the door.
Worker's hours - 8 AM to 5 PM, whihch means that you have to take time off from work. And often times, without pay depending on your employer.
Poor service by surly, belligerent or rude window clerks.
Inadequate tracking information when you need it.
Customer service representatives at the USPS' 1-800 toll free number that don't take the time to listen to you, making you repeat it so many times to the point of being annoyed by the representative on the phone.

Speaking of the USPS' customer service representatives, I had a poor experience with them a very long time ago, this was back before the Internet and the World Wide Web as we know it today made things a lot easier. I called asking for Zip Code information for a letter and I had the unfortunate experience of speaking with a customer service representative for the USPS that had a foreign accent. The representative kept repeating back information to me wrongly even after I took the time to slowly give the representative the information I needed. Needless to say, I was so disgusted that I hung up the phone on the representative.

While we're on the same subject, does the United States Postal Service use overseas call centers in the same manner as other businesses such as Bank of America? Before I got to speak to a USPS customer service representative as I mentioned earlier, I had to do the IVR battle (or the Interactive Voice Response battle) to get through a few options before you are given the option of speaking to a representative. To me, the combination of IVR plus overseas call centers is bad business.

So, as you do your holiday shopping (and shipping) before you head out the door to endure the long lines at the USPS be sure to read my new topic on our (un)reliable and (in)efficient United States Postal Service. And by the way, if you have a USPS horror story that you would like to share please feel free to post a reply; just please make sure to keep the comments clean.

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