Service at the Post Office

by DanB

It’s interesting. A trip to the Post Office is always a good study in customer service and interpersonal interaction.

I was at the small local Post Office last Wednesday to mail a couple of envelopes of hair to the Locks of Love organization. My girls have been donating to this organization for many years.

As usual there was only one clerk working the line. The customer at the counter had an envelope and a stack of paper. She apparently had many to mail and wanted to know how much postage to purchase for each envelope. She set the envelope and papers on the scale and asked how much postage each envelope would need. The clerk tells the lady she needs to fold the paper before she can weigh it. The customer asked if folded paper weighs more than flat paper. Clerk answers “yes”. Customer looks at the clerk and decides not to push the case and folds the paper then buys her postage. All of us in line are just looking at each other over the clerks comment.

Next up is a man who sells on eBay. We see each other occasionally at the Post Office. He has Flat Rate Priority Mail envelopes already addressed with postage attached. He just wants the envelopes scanned into the system. Usually a five second task at best.

Our clerk picks up the first envelope and starts to weigh it. He asks what she is doing. “I’m checking to see if you have enough postage.” He points out it is a Flat Rate envelope. There is no additional postage. She says there is a weight limit. The man tells her the limit is 70 pounds. She says “I just need to check and make sure it doesn’t exceed the limit.” Apparently her picking up the envelope to put on the scale was not enough to tell her it was under 70 pounds. We all look at each other again. Then she repeats the process with the second envelope.

After mailing my envelopes I ran into the first lady in the lobby still folding and assembling her mail. I walked up to her and said “folded paper does not weigh more than flat paper.” She told me that is what she thought but did not want to start a scene and hold things up.

I recently closed my Post Office box after 15 years because the cost was too high and the service at our Post Office makes it almost impossible to pick up a package without spending 30-45 minutes in line. The next closest large Post Office is two towns over and it takes about the same amount of time to drive over there as it does to stand in line.

I shared the two stories above because I found them humorous on the surface. But underneath it is frustrating to be served by someone who is supposedly trained to help you but in reality knows less than you do about the very topic at hand.

Share your customer service silliness below.

  • Ray

    I live in a small town where the post office has only one person at a time the small front counter. However my experience has been the opposite of yours. The personnel at my post office are very knowledgeable and efficient. When lines exist, they move quickly. There are incompetents at many businesses. Government offices often. But the level you describe I have found to be rare.

  • DanB

    Ray – Thank you for the note. I agree completely. This was the first time I have seen this particular employee. Most of the others that work there have been there for many years.

    I should also say I spent a year working for the Post Office and have seen things from both sides.


    Maybe she was just pulling the customer’s leg that day. Please tell me that this is not an indication of how far our educational system in America has failed. I would rather believe you ran into a smart ass postal clerk trying to break up the boredom;).

  • Steve Feinstein

    The Post office gets a bad wrap, I’ve had bad service or worse service from FedEx and ups as well. The thing about the post office is we the people have the power to improve it it we want to. And by all accounts their track record is pretty darn stellar considering how much “stuff” they move for here to there every day without error, and often with a smile.


    Unfortunately stupid does exist. It basically come from our dumb down schools. A few years ago I bought an item in a major department store. It rang up owing me $.20. I gave the clerk no money. She gave me the $.20. I told my wife for years some clerks were so stupid this would eventually happen. I finished checking out, went back into the store and bought a picture frame for $2.00. I took the receipt home and framed it with the two dimes. It sits on my desk to this day reminding me how stupid people can be and if anyone sees it on my desk and inquires I tell them the story. What a sad society we live in today.

  • DanB

    Clerk was not pulling the customer’s leg. It was actually sad.

  • DanB

    The street I live on has 10 houses. For years one end of the street said St. and one end said Dr. Both FedEx and UPS would not deliver until I called them and confirmed which I live on. Almost always had to drive into town and pick it up from their main hub.

  • DanB

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

    You could also refer to it as your paradigm.

  • Doug Wedding

    I was behind a man who complained that the stamps were not sticking to the letters after he licked the peal and stick stamps.

    Our post office has a self serve touch screen scale – drop box… so I use it faster than the first person moving in an 8 person line.

  • DanB

    The closest self serve is two towns over and it is frequently out of service. But I agree that it is a good way to go.

    I actually use PayPal to print shipping labels most often. When I need to ship someone something I just have them PayPal me a penny. Then I can print the label.

    You can print labels from too but you can’t choose 1st Class and must use Priority Mail.

  • Penny

    A short while back I went to the Post Office to purchase a book of stamps. I did not have change ‘on me’ and the PO didn’t have enough change. The lady wanted to know if I could go to my car and get some! I never keep change in my car as I have no need to. She then had the worst time trying to figure out how to give me change and finally asked if I would accept a stamp in lieu of part of the change! I said yes because I had no idea how else this might end and it was embarrassing watching her struggle for so long. She is not a new clerk there as I have seen her for years in that same post office!

  • bluesman821

    I recently ordered an item online and received free shipping. I was sent a FedEx tracking number. Checking several days later I saw that the item had left and was scanned in at the city in which I live. I was surprised because this meant receiving the item in less than half the time. Checking again the next day to see if it was out for delivery, I saw that instead it was on route to a city hundreds of miles south of me. It was received in there and the next day on route back to the city I live in. After checking it turns out the city to the south was a hub that all packages pass through.

  • Ima Dunce

    I can’t even get my mailman to fully close my mailbox. Makes for quite a mess when it rains.

  • DanB

    I live near Fort Worth, Texas. If somebody sends me Media Mail it gets sorted in Kansas City from what I understand. Really odd.

  • Iam Patrick

    I live on a cul du sac and frequently the mail carrier dumps every ones mail (5 houses) into my mailbox and drives away. I have talked with the postmaster at the local post office and have been told about consolidated routes and the carrier having to do their own sorting and him asking me “how long would it take you to just put the mail into your neighbors boxes?” Sigh….

  • Ed H

    I agree. Other than a sometimes frustratingly long wait in line at larger Post Offices, I’m 68 and have mailed lots of personal and business items; I’ve ALWAYS had ‘good luck’ with sending/receiving letters and packages via the USPS. Maybe it’s regional? Seattle/Tacoma until recently haven’t been overpopulated and we do have a fairly well-educated populace, therefore possibly a better ‘talent pool’ from which to draw?

  • RWT

    The Post Office does get a bad rap at every turn. I am not supporting the clerk with the bad I.Q. but I believe the Post Office does a decent job amidst the restrictions placed on it by congress and pencil pushers in Washington. I live in a small town in Northern IL. Fed Ex & UPS can’t seem to get it right. My packages never seem to get to me and I have to drive either 31 miles to Fed Ex or 18 to UPS to pick up my package.

    The Post Office always delivers.

    I agree that they need to have more clerks working the front Office. However, every congress person or state politician in our area cries to stop big government and point to the inefficiency of the Post Office as the fall of our great country! The Post Office is not to blame and I hope they keep on delivering.

    The other Companies seem to be able to deliver the major metropolis but won’t spend the money to service people in small towns or rural america. I for one will continue to go to the post office and gladly give them less money to deliver my package anywhere in america.

  • bpollina

    Wow! You can’t fix stupid!

    Here’s another one. People were complaining that things took too long at the post office. The post master general heard their complaints….and promptly removed ALL clocks from public view! Check it out next time you go to the post office — see if there is a clock visible!

  • GaryD

    Here’s my “war story” involving the USPS, which had more substantial consequences than your incidents:

    Back in the ’80s, I was supporting a software company in New York City, and had to send them a floppy disk with data from a customer who had a problem. So I sent the disk by USPS Express Mail, addressed as follows:

    Somesuch Software Company
    General Delivery
    New York City, NY 10001

    “General Delivery” means “hold at the main post office; the recipient will come to get it.”

    The next day, and for several days afterward, someone from the software company went to the pick-up window in the main post office … but my envelope was not there. We gave up waiting for the USPS to locate it, and I went back to a very irate customer, made another copy of the data, and sent it by Federal Express without further incident.

    About a week afterward, the envelope was returned to my office, stamped “Addressee unknown”. Pretty sad: the main post office in New York City, or its pick-up window, was “unknown” to some fool in some post office sorting room.

  • DanB

    That is frustrating. We had several situations where a package would just disappear for months at a time then suddenly show up.

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