The United States Postal Service has announced that it will be closing or consolidating up to 223 mail processing centers around the country in the hopes it can eliminate up to $3 billion in costs.  The USPS expects to have a $14 billion debt this year.  Sweet.  Add this list of closures to the reduced delivery schedules and office hours and you got yourself one heck of a strategic business model.  Government planning at it’s best right there.

The USPS says it’s lost nearly thirty percent of its first class mail volume in the last ten years alone.  They cite the Internet and the economy for the loss.  No mention of ineptitude or extremely poor service as possible factors contributing to their problems, although going to the post office window these days is just as loathsome as a visit to the DMV.  I might not like the picture on my license but at least I always manage to leave with it.

We mailed a small box on February 14 this year.  Nothing huge, just some gifts for the family.  Meticulous as ever, my wife cradled the two smaller packages in bubble wrap and sealed them up in a larger box with packing tape and headed down to the local post office to get them sent out.  $10.41 parcel post.  The gentleman behind the counter asked twice if we wanted to insure the package and we declined, certain that the added cost is no more effective than those service plans you’re hounded to get at Best Buy when you purchase the clock radio.  Besides, it was packaged well and only going from New Hampshire to Florida.   He stamped the box “Fragile” and “parcel postage paid” and placed it on the conveyor belt behind him to be sorted somewhere in secret behind the wall.

They couldn't even figure out the tape gun...

Is it really that hard to handle a package?

Well, our little package came back on February 25, 11 days later and from the looks of it, it went to Florida for spring break.  The original address label we placed under the packing tape was gone.  The tape itself was ripped, twisted and was re-enforced with a newer different type of tape, sans label.  Our little box was no longer square, having been crushed or ripped open.  Our mail carrier, a real decent guy, brought it to our door.  Return to sender.

How hard can it be to send a freaking box that weighs less than 3 pounds to Florida?  A box that was clearly labeled, was properly packed and sealed, and obviously met the expectations of the eagle-eyed postal worker who took our ten dollars and forty-one cents after stamping it paid and fragile?

We’ll see how this plays out.  My wife has not yet opened it up to determine the condition of the contents.  She plans to do that at the same office where it started it’s aborted journey and she wants them to explain why it was ripped open, had the shipping label torn off and then returned to us.  She’s going to insist they re-send it, this time at their expense second day or better.  If they can’t make good, we’ll take our ten dollars and forty-one cents back and stop off at the local Fed-ex office.

Maybe they’ll make it right after all.  If they do, do you think they’ll be able to make the connection between having to handle a package twice and the fact that they can’t keep their costs down?  If they don’t make it right, do you think they’ll make the connection between providing a service worth crap and the fact that they’re losing business to the Internet?

I’ll let you know how it turns out.