Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reasonable expectations. . .

So, I innocently appear at our local, neighborhood Post Office a couple of weeks ago.  My mission, super simple:  I needed to purchase Christmas stamps for cards we planned to mail--you know, the kind that shamelessly picture and brag about your grandchildren! 

After waiting my turn in line, I approach the postal clerk and declare my need for 100 stamps. 

"Sorry sir, we don't have any stamps today," the woman behind the counter declared with a touch of sadness in her voice. I get that part!

"Did I hear you correctly?  You are a post office and you have no postage stamps?"  I asked incredulously. 

"Yes sir, I'm afraid so," she replied.  "We hope to have some by Tuesday." 

"Hope" to have stamps at a post office? 

Hmmm.  Something about "I'll gladly repay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" drifts into my mind out of my cartoon-shaped mind/soul. 

So, being a lifelong supporter of the U. S. Postal Service and of the tireless men and women who deliver my mail on a daily basis, I accept the disappointing news and retreat to my car, vowing to return on Tuesday.

I don't make it back until Thursday. 

Again, I present myself with my simple request when my turn comes:  "Yes, I need 100 Christmas stamps," I declare with the confidence of a man eager to show off his grandchildren to a few dozen friends. 

"Sir, I'm sorry, but we have no stamps today.  We expect a delivery by Friday," the postal clerk wearily explained. 

I bet she was tired! 

Can you image the thought of a Post Office without stamps!

By now I am beside myself. 

I didn't take out my frustration on the depressed clerk, but I did call the local Postmaster's office.  I got connected, after a rather long wait, to a gentleman who doubtless had received calls from frustrated patrons such as me possibly all day long! 

"You know, sir, the stamps have to come from Kansas City," he explained. 

Is this really my problem? 

I started to explain what UPS could do for the USPS, but thought cynicism might send the gent over the edge, so I resisted the temptation.

"I think I have discovered the basic problem with the USPS," I told the rather short-tempered man on the other end of the line.  "You can't even address the basics of your core business--selling stamps!"

"Selling stamps is not our 'core business' any longer," he explained.  "What with on-line payments, etc., we just aren't in the same business as before." 

Still, a P. O. with no stamps?  This isn't sounding good for my Christmas cards, and the photos of my 4 adorable grandchildren are so great this year! 

This entire experience has set me thinking again about life in poorer neighborhoods that marginalized folks call "home." 

Frankly, just about everything is like a P. O. with no stamps!

No grocery stores, and the corner convenience stores don't have what a person needs and what is there is overpriced and unhealthy. 

Little code enforcement, especially on slum landlords. Try to bring a legal case against an unscrupulous landlord and see how far you get.

Inadequate housing.

Streets surely in cahoots with front-end shops given the number and the depth of the potholes.

Schools in disrepair both physically and academically.

Safety and crime prevention statistics downright depressing. 

Post offices without stamps?

What do you think? 

I think its time we expected more and better. 

I know one thing, I never wanted for postage when I lived in Richardson!


Ken said...

Not sure about your inference that the suburbs don't have such shortages. USPS enjoys limited competition and no danger of losing a jobs or other penalties due to the kind of service failure you describe. You left the PO frustrated and the postal workers probably left feeling pretty OK with their day's work.

The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) reports the average annual salary of all postal workers is $52,000. (

Here is the summary of benefits taken from the USPS website:



In addition to highly competitive basic pay rates, most Postal Service employees also receive regular salary increases, overtime pay, night shift differential, and Sunday premium pay. Overtime is paid at one and one-half times the applicable hourly rate for work in excess of 8 hours per day, or 40 hours within a workweek. Night shift differential is paid at a specified dollar rate for all hours worked between 6pm and 6am. Sunday premium is paid at 25 percent for work scheduled on Sunday.

Health Insurance
The Postal Service participates in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, which provides excellent coverage and flexibility with most of the cost paid by the Postal Service. There are many plans available, including both traditional insurance coverage and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). Employee premium contributions are not subject to most taxes, making health insurance even more affordable

The Postal Service participates in the federal retirement program, which provides a defined benefit annuity at normal retirement age as well as disability coverage.

Thrift Savings Plan
After a waiting period, career postal employees may contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is similar to 401(k) retirement savings plans offered by private sector employers. Employees contribute to TSP on a tax-deferred basis, and may receive automatic and matching contributions (up to 5 percent of pay) from the Postal Service.

Social Security and Medicare
Newly hired postal employees are covered under Social Security and Medicare.

Life Insurance
The Postal Service offers coverage through the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program. The cost of basic coverage is fully paid by the Postal Service, with the option to purchase additional coverage through payroll deduction.

Flexible Spending Accounts
Career employees may participate in the Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) Program after one year of service. Tax-free FSA contributions can be used to cover most out-of-pocket health care and dependent care (day care) expenses.

The Postal Service offers a leave program to career employees that includes annual (vacation) leave and sick leave. For the first 3 years of service, full-time employees earn 13 days of annual leave per year, increasing to 20 days per year after 3 years of service, and to 26 days per year after 15 years of service. In addition, full- time employees earn 13 days of sick leave per year as insurance against loss of income due to illness or accident.

Jason said...

Just buy a ton of these...

A great investment that takes advantage of government inefficiency, and ensures postage as long as the USPS is open.