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 The U.S. Postal Disservice

by Rose Madeline Mula

It gets worse every day. It's bad enough that I have to dial eleven digits to phone my neighbor across the hall, but at least I can still get through to her personally. Not so any more with my local post office, three miles away.

It was 4:30 PM. I had a package to mail. I didn't know if my post office closed at 4:30 or 5:00. I dialed its number and was referred to an 800 number that, in turn, connected me to someone in Denver, Colorado—2,000 miles from my home. Correction: the 800 number actually did not connect me to "someone" in Denver—not until I listened to eleven (there's that number again) menu options.

You know the drill: Starting with the usual "for English press one, for Spanish press two" and proceeding through six other choices, depending on whether I wanted information on mailing a letter or package (Press 1) , rates (2), zip codes (3), reporting an address change or placing mail on vacation hold (4), delivery of mail to my business or residence (5), or other postal information (6).

That last one sounded encouraging. I pressed 6 and was rewarded with still more choices: "If you are calling about retail products or services, press 1; if you are calling about postal services provided by your delivery unit, press 2; if you wish to speak to a customer service representative, press 3."

I did—press 3, that is—and finally heard a live, human voice! I told her I simply wanted to know what time my post office closed. She was very pleasant. She said she'd be happy to help. She asked for my zip code and put me on hold. I held until my question became moot. It was too late to go to the post office by now, even if it closed at 5:00.

A few months ago, I went away on a vacation. I had requested my post office to hold my mail. After a couple of days, my neighbor called me to let me know my mail was still being delivered. I phoned my post office and spoke to the Postmaster who apologized and assured me he would remind my delivery person to hold my mail. Problem solved. If the same thing happens the next time I go away, I doubt if that nice woman in Denver could helpshe probably wouldn't be able to get through to my local post office either.

And now postage is going up—againall of which supports my long-held theory that postal rates increase in direct proportion to the decrease in service.

If the Post Office Department is adamant about maintaining this new disservice, I suggest they add one more option to the menu:

"If this system is driving you crazy and you'd like a referral to a psychiatrist, press eleventeen."

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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