Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Not snail mail, storage mail

When I went out to put something in the mailbox and bring in the mail the box was slightly open. I still hadn't received the latest shipment of books from Authorlink so I was worried. I live across the street from a middle school and have been warned by the post office that sometimes kids steal mail. That's why the mailbox should be on my porch and not all the way across the parking lot and down on the street where I can't keep an eye and both ears on things, but we must make sure that the mailman doesn't have to walk too far from his vehicle to deliver the mail. After all, he's not getting paid that much money. Right.

Worried that my review books, and thus my income, had gone astray, I called the post office this morning, asked if they would check for the package and see if the carrier remembers delivering the books. The post office left a message. The package was there and would be delivered today.

Not so long ago (in human time and not post office time), the books were sent from Ft. Worth, Texas, about a week ago. Last year it took about three days to get from Texas to Colorado. It now takes a week? When I emailed my supervisor at Authorlink to let her know the books were being delivered today I mentioned that the post office must be using real snails and the cold has made them slower and more sluggish than usual. She replied that she finally had an answer for why the postal rates are so high. They're charging for storage. I think she's right.

This morning I checked the status of an item I ordered from Amazon two weeks ago. I found out they sent it on the 25th from Coffeyville, Kansas and that it took four days to get to Denver -- where it still sits waiting to be delivered on the projected date of March 5th. Denver is now four days away from Colorado Springs evidently. I then checked the carrier. The United States Postal Service. Yep, the higher postal rates are for storage because they certainly are not for service or speed or anything approaching accuracy, except when it comes to delivering bills and junk mail.

When Lynn and I talked a couple of weeks ago she asked me if I remembered back when the mail was delivered twice a day -- morning and afternoon. Yes, I do. And the postage rate was three cents for a first class letter and it didn't take two weeks to get from one side of town to the other. Letters sent within the city were often delivered the same day they were posted if mailed in the morning and the very next morning if mailed in the afternoon. That was first class service. Now carriers will not pick up a package that weighs more than 13 ounces even if it has the proper amount of postage and you can't just drop it off in a local mailbox because there are none. You must drive or bike or walk to crawl to the local post office and mail it in person. What happened to service? What happened to the mail carrier's creed? What happened to the mail?

Being a bit cynical and unhappy with the lack of service, I'd have to say that when the post office was run by the government it was better run and the costs were lower. That was before the unionization of the postal service back in the day when service was customer oriented and no one slowed down because the highest prices weren't paid for overnight delivery. It's not a new concept. I came across mention of it in a book I recently reviewed: The Devils' Paintbox.

A young man, devastated by the death of his sister, buries himself in work at a logging camp. He knows nothing about logging, but he learns quickly and he throws himself wholeheartedly into the work, numbing his body and his mind. There are quotas to maintain in order to keep the job, but he exceeds the quotas as his body and mind adjust to the heavy labor. He wants to be too tired to think at the end of the day and the natural rhythm of the work lends itself to greater output. The other loggers, little more than indentured servants working for the company store, aren't happy with the young man's output, so they beat the hell out of him and tell him to slow down so he doesn't make the rest of the loggers look bad. Sound familiar?

The book is set in the years immediately after the Civil War, so this is not a new concept and it was before the advent of the labor unions. I've worked in businesses where some of the jobs were union and the attitude was -- and continues to be -- that anyone who is working harder and better has to be reined in so as not to get anything done too quickly. I've been on the receiving end of quota hatred because I worked in data processing where pay was based on output and minimum quotas had to be maintained. I made good money because I focused on the work and didn't spend all my time gossiping at the water cooler or going to the bathroom every 10 minutes or out for a smoke. I did not and do not smoke. I really don't care to take breaks. I want to focus on the work and get it done. Other employees didn't care for my attitude and made it plain that they were not happy with my resulting output. I've even had supervisors and bosses tell me to slow down, not because I was making mistakes or doing the jobs wrong, but because they wanted to squeeze more money out of the clients by taking more time to get the job finished. And that is the bottom line -- money.

If you get paid the same amount no matter how much work you get done, why rush? Why exert yourself? Why get the job done in half the time when you can take more time and relax while making the same money. It's not about the job. It's about the money and it stinks. It's the wrong attitude and we're paying for it. That's why the post office is jammed with lines out the door; mailmen are taking their time processing the mail because it's only going to go into storage for a few days before it's actually sent. Something's wrong with this picture and changing the frame isn't going to make it any better, but you can be sure the rates will go up again this year just like the past three years and the quality of service is going to go down, and the trend will continue until someone -- a whole bunch of someones -- stand up and say ENOUGH.

That is all. Disperse.

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