Dear USPS: Stop empowering your staff to make customers feel stupid

06Oct09

Here’s a story about the US Postal Service (USPS) that, sadly, will come as no surprise to anyone who has dealt with them. A few weeks ago, a man needed to mail a 20-page document. So he bought a padded envelope that had a letter-size inside area, affixed the right number of stamps, and went to put the papers inside. However, the document didn’t fit, since apparently the envelope could only hold something like five pages at once. So, he needed to buy a bigger envelope.

The new envelope easily fit the papers, but he couldn’t get the stamps off the old one. Feeling industrious, he cut off the part of the old envelope with the stamps, and taped it onto the new one. He double-checked that the number of stamps was still correct for the larger envelope size, and his wife took it over to the post office for mailing.

What happened after she got there was appalling. The USPS employee looked at the envelope, and said that they couldn’t accept it. Apparently, taping over an unused stamp voids it, since someone could just wipe off the postmark and use it again. Well, the employee could have just told the customer about this, offered to replace the stamps, and leave it at that. But no, she had to use her tiny amount of power to be a real jerk.

The woman from the USPS proclaimed that the customer had “defaced government property”, as if taping over a stamp was on par with vandalizing the White House with spray paint. Then she told the customer that she would have to buy brand new stamps, even though the customer obviously knew nothing about the underground world of stamp re-users. And there wasn’t a hint of compassion or understanding about this obscure and frankly ridiculous rule. The employee was a brilliant scholar of postal code and the customer was an idiot, and that was that.

This behavior is unacceptable in any business, least of all an organization that’s funded by taxpayer dollars. Imagine a for-profit business treating its customers and shareholders that way. I’m really disappointed that the USPS has created a culture where treating customers like idiots is acceptable, and probably even encouraged. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the USPS keeps losing money and crying to taxpayers that they need more funding to stay afloat. Maybe if they extended even the most basic common courtesy to paying customers, then they wouldn’t have so many problems making ends meet.



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