Sunday, June 12, 2016

Postal Watch: Why we love our Postal Service, Case History #523


Online change of address is apparently just one of the ways the modern-day USPS has improved the process.

by Ken

It's been awhile since I've had occasion to file a change of address with the U.S. Postal Service, so I'm out of touch with innovations to the process like the one I just encountered -- at second hand. I had no idea that the USPS now sends out a packet called something like "Change of Address Confirmation," in an envelope festooned with solemn warnings not to discard because action is required on your part. Action that, I assume, would constitute confirming the change of address. It seems rather impressive from a follow-through standpoint -- you know, businesslike, possibly even efficient.

I'm a little fuzzy on the details because I never saw the insides of the aforementioned packet. Which brings us back to how I know about this seeing as how I claim not to have filed a change of address recently. Sure enough, there's a little story.

The other day it happened that I didn't check my mailbox all day, and so the next day as I was leaving home, I just grabbed the couple of pieces of mail that had sure enough been inserted the day before and, because I was after all on my way somewhere, I just stuffed them in my briefcase. Later in the day I remembered them and fished them out, and there was the vaunted Change of Address Confirmation packet. I guess I was fascinated by all those printed guides-warnings not to discard the thing, that action was required on the part of the recipient.

It took my slowpoke mind awhile to focus to the point of wondering what kind of action could be required from me regarding my change of address when I haven't changed my address in a heap of years. Eventually it occurred to my slowpoke mind to look more closely at the address, only to discover that I wasn't in fact the addressee. Oh, the street address was the same as mine. I didn't recognize the name of the addressee, though. Then I noticed that the apartment number was 6G. I live in apartment 6E.

That's right, the vaunted Change of Address Confirmation packet was delivered to the wrong address. On the plus side, it got as close as the very floor where the actual addressee resides, albeit at the other end of the hall. That's fairly close, no?

When I got home that night, I slid the thing, somewhat worse for wear, under the door of apartment 6G, trusting that the actual addressee is now in residence there, and will heed those stern warnings not to discard the thing. Or, presumably, else. Goodness only knows what would have happened if the presumed new occupant of apartment 6G had never gotten the vaunted packet.


On my new Wednesday-Friday-Sunday schedule, that is.

"A series of NYC mayors have collaborated on taking the 'preservation' out of the Landmarks Preservation Commission" (6/10)
"'A great cartoonist creates a whole world' (Bob Mankoff): Celebrating New Yorker greats Wm Hamilton and Roz Chast" (6/8)



At 3:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Ken, don't go bad-mouthing the Postal Service! Back in the late '50s, my dad had to sell his store on Rogers Ave in Brooklyn. It was getting too dangerous to stay open late at night alone. We lived next door, and I loved that place. It was a corner candy store; he carried newspapers, magazines, comics, greeting cards, candy, those long pretzels, and there was a tobacco counter with cigars and cigarettes and, best of all, a marble counter fountain with sodas, ice cream, real malteds and egg creams. There were three booths in the middle of the store, a couple of old-school phone booths in the back, and a free-standing water-chilled cooler for bottled sodas. It was heaven on a scorching summer day to plunge my arm into the icy cooler water. But by '57, the neighborhood was changing for the worse. It was always diverse, Irish Catholic, black, Puerto Rican and safe and friendly. Lately however, crime had jumped and it was crime with a new sort of viciousness. A couple of close calls were enough for my folks, and they put the business up for sale. It was getting harder to make a living at it anyway, and still maintain quality.

What was my dad's experience? His college degree was decades past. He had been in the Army Air Corps and had small businesses, now all bust. Where to find work? The Post Office, that's where. I had friends and relatives whose fathers had been able to hold their lives and families together because there was work to be had in the Post Office. My dad spent months memorizing the postal "schemes" from packs of index cards. He got a job as a postal clerk at the big Church St. P.O. in Manhattan and he worked nights for the night shift differential. My mother eventually took the civil service exam for school secretary and got a job in pupil accounting at James Madison H.S. We had a fine life. We weren't rich, but we could afford what we needed and some extras like a car and an annual vacation. Rent was reasonable and I could get my degree from Brooklyn College basically tuition-free, just some nominal fees and the cost of books.

That was the world the Republicans, with neoliberal Democratic help, have destroyed. They've come close to completely destroying the Postal Service, they've destroyed even the notion of a free college education, and turned Brooklyn into a nest of rootless hipsters and Manhattan into a chew-toy for the filthy rich.

Thanks again, Ken, for the chance to stroll down Memory Lane. Your posts do inspire.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time my postal carrier delivers a package to me, she thanks be for supporting the post office and of course, her as my carrier. I always try to use the post office for mailings as I am not a fan of UPS or FedEx. I tell everyone I know to support the post office and to stop complaining if the lines are long in the P.O. Be happy you have the opportunity to have a service like the USPS. Also, I buy their specialty stamps which help support different causes, such as breast cancer and saving the tigers. What would many elderly people do if they weren't able to have their mail delivered to them when they are unable to get out? Think about it.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Happy to oblige! And certainly there's something to be said for remembering the U.S. Post Office as it once was, way back in the day. However, as Rodgers and Hammerstein's King of Siam was already lamenting so plaintively back in King and I days: "World have changed a lot."

Now, with regard to the implacable hate the Right has for the Postal Service, this is certainly a fair point, and it shouldn't be forgotten. As usual, the loons seem bound and determined to prove -- as if further proof were necessary -- that there's no problem they can't make worse. Way, way worse.

Still, once upon a time the Post Office had such a bed of popular support that it was largely beyond the reach of the nutters. So, while it's hard to argue the steady abominableness of Congress's handling of the transformation of the Post Office into the Postal Service and of its continued existence, the USPS's bungling of the challenges it's faced has a lot to do with why, as I put it, we love our Postal Service.


At 8:53 PM, Blogger joel hanes said...

That change of address confirmation packet includes information about how to re-register to vote, and other useful stuff.

The USPS has not, to my knowledge, "bungled". They have borne up bravely under the decades-long assault of the Right's government-is-the-problem-and-we'll-prove-it crusade (started with Reagan), and continue to provide an essential service although hamstrung by Congress's feckless demands and absurd pension-funding requirement, intentionally designed to destroy the USPS.

If you move to a very small town, or to a rural address, you will find that the USPS gives much much better service than UPS or Fed-Ex.

At 1:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@joel hanes: Hear, hear!

Ken, the Postal Service hasn't bungled their challenges. They've been forced to compete while having both arms and legs tied. Congress forced them to pre-fund retirement for 75 years out. That's basically forcing the postal service to put aside money for workers who aren't even born yet. Yet they are forbidden to expand their operations to add profitable services, most particularly post office banking and modern communication and office services. It would be a boon to poorer rural and inner city customers, but of course nothing can be allowed to compete with the rapacious banking industry.

The Postal Service is one of the fat federal targets for the neoliberal privatizers, the greedy tapeworms hell-bent on sucking the cash out of every service, asset and funded program run for the people by their government. Despite the constant assault, the postal service handles billions of pieces of mail and packages annually, nearly all of which get delivered at a nominal cost within a few days. What other service will deliver your letter across a continent in 2-3 days for a grand total of $0.47? What the hell else costs only 47 cents?


Post a Comment

<< Home