It took me quite a while to write this. The article itself wasn’t the difficulty; getting calm enough to write something for publication in polite society was the issue. Like many others, I have become disenfranchised with the Post Office. That startles me because I have always thought of it in the same vein as Mom, Apple Pie, and the American Flag.
Do you have a PO Box that comes up for renewal this year? Are you a long-term box holder? Have you learned the renewal rates for 2012? Though the Post Office website indicates box increases would be held to 2.1%, when my PO Box renewal notice was delivered in early February and due at month’s end, I learned Monrovia PO Box renewals would go up a whopping 86% from $28 to $52 per year! I thought, at the very least, I was going to need oxygen when I looked at the bill. I considered taking a bank loan.
There are many at the front counter of the Ivy Street Post Office I adore, not the least of which are Brenda, Robin, and Monica. Having a box since 2002, I am a semi-regular customer, and these ladies have always been terrific. That said, service has deteriorated through time.
A decision was made to get rid of the numbers and benches in the Post Office, compelling all to stand. That may work for most, except for those of us with mobility impairments. I sought and eventually received an interim accommodation to collect packages. With the retirement of the box clerk last year, that went away, and no replacement has been achieved, a clear violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
Last July, I ordered a package and, to avoid standing in line, elected home delivery. Unbeknownst to me, the vendor had arranged for its packages to be delivered to the Post Office. This put me right back in the same situation of having to go there and potentially stand in long lines to get my merchandise when standing is painful.
But this was a specific, once-in-a-lifetime package. I needed it because, the very next day, I was to be at an event in support of Veteran hiring and, in attendance, were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his bride Kate. This was the outfit I had purchased to wear and wanted to look my best for our Vets and the future King and Queen of England.
I went to the Post Office very early when the mail carriers arrived. I had the card identifying the package to be picked up, photo ID, and proof of address. I was able to get the clerks to identify that it was, in fact, at the Post Office. I asked if, in light of these very special circumstances, they could please give me the package I identified. They told me no, I had to wait til the Post Office opened.
I went back when it opened. I was then told that they had not finished sorting the mail, and I would have to go home and wait until the postman could get to my home. Though I had many errands yet to do, I was scared to leave because I was afraid, if not there, the package wouldn’t be available til the day after the event. I was mightily annoyed and very surprised at the total lack of customer service. It certainly put a damper on my special day.
Finally, when I learned of the increase in box fees in February, I called the Monrovia Post Office and did not self-identify. I made a polite inquiry, thinking perhaps an error had been made. The attitude I received on the other end of the phone from the supervisor in charge was anything but customer friendly.
I was referred then to the local postal hub. I called and got a very limp fish response that told me to call Washington. My first call to Washington was hellacious. I explained my situation, but it was obviously close to quitting time because, after I explained in detail my story, the customer service agent (I use the term loosely) suddenly claimed he couldn’t hear me. I hung up and called back.
The next person with whom I spoke was wonderful! He was very customer friendly and focused. He took my report in detail and gave me a ticket number. I thanked him profusely. It was shortly after that I found the website info about the 2.1% increase on postal boxes. I went into their site and filed a second ticket, referring to the first number, and including the website info.
For days, I religiously stalked my inbox, checking the spam filter regularly to ensure I didn’t miss a response. At long last, about two weeks later, I got something from the Post Office. It was a survey asking how they did. I NEVER GOT AN ANSWER TO MY QUERY!
When next I went into the Monrovia PO, I noticed the pricing had been republished on the PO walls. Mine is a 3x5 box I’ve held for 10 years. It went from $24 a year to $28 by 2011 to $52 for 2012. I paid my 86% increase and am now considering my options. Finding out with less than 30 days notice that you are being extorted for your mail doesn’t give you sufficient time to make other arrangements for mail rerouting.
I know the mail service is struggling to sustain itself and its jobs. In that respect, I have empathy. But, to be honest, this lack of customer service does not convince me they should be sustained. I pay veritably all my bills online and receive as much as I can electronically. It is convenient and environmentally friendly. I’ve even opted to get my electoral ballot electronically.
That said, there are just some things you must receive via snail mail. Because I live in a multi-complex setting, I’ve never felt having mail at home was as safe as receiving it in a safe and secure box at the Post Office. I’m having to rethink safety versus economy, and I find that disconcerting.
I’ve never known such a very small piece of real estate to suddenly become so valuable, and I believe that, if this were an attempt to save jobs, in the aggregate, it will have the opposite effect. In an economy where gas is nearly $5 a gallon, where all other goods are going up dynamically, to ask for less service (meaning I don’t really want home delivery, and they have to take no further steps than inside their own offices) should not cost nearly two times as much as it did the year before!
I’d rather offer here things that are positive and helpful. But this is just too egregious not to bring up. A good entrepreneur would get a pony and a satchel and could make a great deal of profit at this rate! How long before the Post Office goes by the wayside like some of the treasures of yore?!?