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Government Work

I hate the United States Postal Service. I needed to get another textbook for an Auditing class, and was smart enough to shop around for it, and so I got a good deal at half.com. The problem is, the seller insisted on sending the book by 'Media Mail', not allowing an option to use FedEx or another service. I bought the book and paid for it June 18, and since then have been waiting for my book.

Except for using the USPS, the seller made no mistake. He sent the book in a timely way, he used the correct address, all the details. What annoys me about the USPS is not just that a month later they have not delivered my package, or that they still have no idea where it is or when/if it will be delivered. It is the attitude of the people who work there. I looked up and called the Track & Confirm desk and got a recording which gave no information, then the national line for complaints and inquiries, got another recording but eventually navigated to someone who opened a ticket. That led to a phone call telling me what I already knew, that the book had not been delivered. I called again this morning, both the Houston main office and the national number. The Houston office only takes messages; you are not allowed to actually talk to an employee. The national office had a guy named Justin who got angry when I asked him to explain why the USPS would not even call the shipping location to find out why the book had not shipped, then hung up on me. I called back and learned that there is no way to complain about someone hanging up on you - customers are not allowed to use the complaint line to complain about unprofessional behavior by USPS employees. The whole place is loaded with lazy, incompetent and dishonest employees whose only motive is to get paid.

Compare that with FedEx. I am not saying the USPS is totally incapable of doing their basic job - they do a bang-up job of getting junk mail in my box every day but Sunday. And I am not saying that FedEx never screws the pooch. But in my experience, the two are worlds apart, so much so that it's sometimes hard to remember they compete for the same business. FedEx, for example, has not only never failed to deliver a package I sent or ordered within the time frame promised, their GPS positioning is so exact that sometimes I can find out within a city block where that package is. What's more, FedEx goes out of its way to be user-friendly, and to over-deliver - that is, to do a better job than they promise. A lot of 2-day deliveries get done the next day, they always answer with a live person, and in my experience they have yet to lose a package.

The difference between the US Postal Service and FedEx is huge, but it reminds me of what will happen if other things get run by the government. You want your doctor, your employer, and your bank to be controlled even more tightly by the government? If you do, stop and think about the government's track record. With the exception of the military, it is near impossible to think of one product or service where the federal government is as professional and effective as the private sector. And therefore, anyone who wants more government as a solution to the pressing needs of the country is either disingenuous, or just out of his freaking mind.


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Comments (37)

My personal experience with... (Below threshold)

My personal experience with the Postal Service has been pretty good. I sold some items in the past on Ebay, and most arrived in good condition and in a timely matter. The local Portland office is quite good, and many of the workers are friends of mine. But the Chicago area postal offices seem to have real problems with mail theft or damage to the mail that is an ongoing problem. So it seems that some offices in some areas do still have some serious problems that are yet to be fixed.

DJ, when you live in the bi... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

DJ, when you live in the big city of Houston like we do, I couldn't agree more. In small communities I am sure they do just fine. My wife and I talked about and came to the same conclusion. If you want to see how the government would handle healthcare customer service? Go to the post office. 2nd worse, but not by much, is DPS. ww

DJ,The government ... (Below threshold)

DJ,

The government isn't very good at running anything, and that's the standard of conservatives who scream about big government. Then why is it the some of the same people trust a goverment agency ICE, to deport people without kicking out US citizens or legal immigrants. These supporters don't feel people facing deportation should have the right to challenge what's being done to them. Is that because they don't believe ICE wouldn't make mistakes? Which they have Or they so callous they feel innocent people should be punished? Neither speaks very good of them, go ahead and read the comments to a post of mine written earlier this week.

Bill

So ask my brother sometime ... (Below threshold)
JoeC:

So ask my brother sometime about the St. Louis post office...where they PAY employee's to sit at a desk and do absolutely nothing. Why? Because they are so incompetent that they cannot be trusted to carry out the most basic of postal service tasks. Why can't they be fired? They are Union workers, where without union agreed circumstances (stealing, murder), they are protected. So unless they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar (fired for stealing), their only job is to show up on time and leave on time. period. They violate that they can be fired for cause.

The post office is a monument to government waste and patronage. Every podunk from Poughkeepsie to Pisgah wants a post office. So your local congressman obliges. There is a cache' to having a zip code, for what is a city (town, village) without a zip code? One postmaster general wanted to consolidate smaller rural post-offices to save money (1980's). Didn't happen. The current kluge is to have contract post offices ala petticoat junction where there is a window in the pharmacy/hardware store/grocer that provides this service...and most lose money.

OTOH, the U.S. Postal service is a wonder to behold. Try mailing a letter FROM overseas sometime back to the U.S. and see how long it takes. I still marvel that I can overnight an express mail letter to some rural outback 2/3 across the U.S. and actually have it show up the next day. But that's all first class, fourth class parcel post is a different matter. For that? FEDEX. UPS. anything but USPS!

Over the last few years, we... (Below threshold)

Over the last few years, we have shipped thousands of packages and boxes via USPS Media Mail. I'd say that well over 98% of the time, their service has been very satisfactory.

The other well under 2% of the time...well....

Grateful for Media Mail.

We have DHL overnight servi... (Below threshold)
Sharon:

We have DHL overnight service at my office which costs between $7-$11 for a delivery. Close to the end of last month, my son needed a rent check quickly. He lives in D.C. and I live in Mass. I sent him a check 2 day mail which costs around $5.00. 3 days went by - no delivery. week goes by and no delivery. Call D.C. post office and local -shrug shoulders and no action. Send DHL over night and it gets there next day. Two weeks later my 2 day mail arrives. The least they could do was give me a refund.

What's more, FedEx goes ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

What's more, FedEx goes out of its way to be user-friendly, and to over-deliver - that is, to do a better job than they promise. A lot of 2-day deliveries get done the next day, they always answer with a live person, and in my experience they have yet to lose a package.

Amen. Yesterday I received two packages that I 2-day shipped from Alaska to Ohio. They got here in 1 day. Actually, I know when they were picked up and when they were delivered; they got here in less than 24 hours.

For some things, only gov't should do it. For everything else, the free market almost always does better, by a long shot.

You are getting exactly wha... (Below threshold)
dr lava:

You are getting exactly what you paid for. You send something "media mail" you are getting what you deserve.

You sell books online you ship "media mail" because its a couple bucks and you don't care about timely delivery.

I do it all the time. You get what you pay for.

This is not USPS fault.

When I ship MM the guy at the post office asks me, "Pony Express?"

Actually, I ship fairly exp... (Below threshold)
Buddy:

Actually, I ship fairly expensive things (musical instruments & parts) all the time and I've had much better experience with USPS than any of the other shippers. Plus they are generally faster. I ordered a shipment from Montana last Saturday and had it in Western NC 11am monday morning. I think the issues are probably local. Some USPS branches suck, but the vast majority are better in service and reliability than either UPS or FedEx, and cheaper to boot.

I rarely have any problems ... (Below threshold)
Michael:

I rarely have any problems with the USPS. I get and send Media Mail all the time, no problem.

DJSometimes using ... (Below threshold)

DJ

Sometimes using FedEx can disappoint even its own:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaUeV9kiSqk&feature=related

USPS is an absolute wonder,... (Below threshold)
Matt:

USPS is an absolute wonder, I agree. Other than the armed services, I think it is the oldest U.S. Government monopoly in existence. On average, their performance is pretty good, especially for letter type mail. All Post Offices are unique to themselves, some are great, some are horrendous, most are average. Even though the costs continue to rise, the rates are still pretty reasonable for the services. My local post office will take time to discuss me my best cost options for shipping documents and small parcels etc. I would never, ever ship media mail!!

My experience with the commerical carriers has been very mixed. Sometimes great, sometimes not very satisfactory. It seems that UPS (Big Brown) isn't as customer freindly as FEDEX. I don't use DHL unless there is no other choice. Overall, I haven't found the commercial carriers to be any more or less useful than the USPS.

Ditto some other commenters... (Below threshold)
Arthur:

Ditto some other commenters. It's too bad the book seller didn't give you an option other than media mail. One reason media mail is cheaper is that all that tracking stuff you expected isn't applied to it.

The rest of your rant (rude po employees and so on) is ok. But you can't expect FedEx type tracking on freaking MEDIA MAIL.

(I've sent and received 100s of items using media mail. Always got delivered. Sometimes it was quick, usually it wasn't.)

I sent a package priority m... (Below threshold)
COgirl:

I sent a package priority mail to a place 100 miles away. Three weeks later it still hadn't shown up. Sent my son a birthday card. Three weeks later it showed up, but by then I'd stopped payment on the check I sent.

I've generally had good experiences, but when it's bad, it's really bad. A lot depends on your actual mail carrier.

A lot of stimilus checks ar... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

A lot of stimilus checks are 'in the mail' never to be seen again.
In socialist medical care that will be your kidney's lost in the mail.
You can't trust the government to do anything correct even at their price which is twice as much as public services. Medicare is a good example. In the end 'processing' services (desk jockeys) cost as much or more than the care provided.

The Republicans thought, bi... (Below threshold)
Herman:

The Republicans thought, bizarrely enough, that by reducing the amount of money the federal government takes in through taxes the federal government would wind up with more money. They also thought that their trillion-dollar war in Iraq would lack any significant financial consequences. Instead the federal government is faced with a $410 billion-dollar budget deficit that we're all paying interest on.

And people like D.J. Drummond HAVE THE UTTER GALL to remark that, "it is near impossible to think of one product or service where the federal government is as professional and effective as the private sector." GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!!! Please?

For those of us th... (Below threshold)
dr lava:

For those of us that ship and receive a lot, developing a personal relationship with your mail carrier and UPS driver alleviates problems.

USPS Priority is delivered on Saturday, big plus over UPS.

HermanThere you go... (Below threshold)

Herman

There you go again.

The Republicans thought, bizarrely enough, that by reducing the amount of money the federal government takes in through taxes the federal government would wind up with more money.

Republicans never said that. Give us a link. Or are you making it up as you go along?

Correct me if I'm wrong, bu... (Below threshold)
JimK:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in this era of lower taxes, did not real-world collected revenues increase?

And if so, does that make Herman kind of...well...at best misinformed, and at worst an intentional liar?

The problem is, and always has been, SPENDING.

developing a personal... (Below threshold)

developing a personal relationship with your mail carrier and UPS driver alleviates problems.

I agree with lava on this. My regular carrier has proved herself to be a much better problem solver than the local office employees.

Since a lot of my business mail arrives on fairly predictable dates, she recognizes problems before I do, and I appreciate that.

Republicans never said that... (Below threshold)
Herman:

Republicans never said that. -- Hugh

Okay, Hugh, how about from Mr. Rush Limbaugh himself, he of stellar (by conservative standards) economic credentials:

"History shows that tax cuts have always resulted in improved economic growth producing more tax revenue in the treasury."

"History shows that t... (Below threshold)

"History shows that tax cuts have always resulted in improved economic growth producing more tax revenue in the treasury."

Thank you, herman...I couldn't have said it better myself. But that's not what you said.

You said :

The Republicans thought, bizarrely enough, that by reducing the amount of money the federal government takes in through taxes the federal government would wind up with more money.

RIF. Reading is Fundamental, herman.

I agree with lava as well. ... (Below threshold)
Alia:

I agree with lava as well. I once had a package that sat in my local post office for 15 days before it was delivered, and only then after I complained to my carrier that I'd checked the tracking number on the web and had could tell him the exact date it had arrived in town. Now, since he knows I receive a lot of packages, he's been known to double-check before he starts his rounds to make sure I don't have anything sitting on a shelf at the post office.

"Reading is Fundamental, he... (Below threshold)
Herman:

"Reading is Fundamental, herman.' -- HughS

Right, Hugh. And more tax revenue = more money.

Put the shovel down, Herman... (Below threshold)

Put the shovel down, Herman, and back away from it.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, b... (Below threshold)
Herman:

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but in this era of lower taxes, did not real-world collected revenues increase?" -- JimK

"real-world collected revenues" (is there such a thing as unreal-world collected revenues?) are generally going to rise with the growing population (more jobs ==> more money collected through taxes). With unemployment at 5.5 percent and projected (I believe) to go up, and with the country in the midst of what is likely a recession, let's just say that the future's not hunky-dory for federal government revenues.

Now things could improve if the conservatives are willing to terminate Bush's Pet Project in Iraq. You willing to do that, JimK?

Every time the local footba... (Below threshold)
SarahConnor2:

Every time the local football team is on Monday Night Football or plays the late Sunday game, nobody on our street receives mail the next day. The first time it was funny. The twentieth or so time, it lost its charm.

hermanExplain the ... (Below threshold)

herman

Explain the data in this table with your population growth theory and marginal tax rate reductions to prove your point. Good luck.

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/08s0455.pdf

You can't read. You can't write. Is algebra a special gift we should look forward to? Move on...in more ways than one.

Herman,It's an his... (Below threshold)
merc:

Herman,

It's an historical fact that lower tax rates result in higher tax revenues. JFK understood it. Reagan understood it. Bush understands it. You, however, seem not to.

When tax rates are high, it becomes more worth the risk to seek methods of cheating - lowering revenues.

When tax rates are high, a disincentive is created to work harder because, at that next bracket one might be taxed at a rate that simply makes the wages gained not worth the time and energy expended in gaining them. This lowers revenues.

When tax rates are low, more money remains in the hands of those that produce and grow wealth - allowing them to produce more. This generates higher tax revenues.

When tax rates are low, more money remains in the hands of consumers, who either spend that money - generating higher tax revenues, save the money in financial institutions that turn around and lend it out to those who produce and grow wealth - generating higher tax revenues, or invest it in enterprises who produce and grow wealth - generating higher tax revenues.

You are simply confusing cutting tax rates with lowering taxes. Taxes can't be manipulated directly. Only tax rates can. And history has demonstrated that lower tax rates result in higher tax returns while higher tax rates result in lower tax returns.

It's not the fault of USPS,... (Below threshold)
jp2:

It's not the fault of USPS, it's yours. If you need something quick, don't use media mail. Now you know.

(I got burned by this myself before I figured out the system - now I always look for "Upgrade Shipping" before purchasing)

You are getting exactly ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

You are getting exactly what you paid for. You send something "media mail" you are getting what you deserve.

Yep, almost always true.
Although, it's a little galling in the case of the USPS.

When you use FedEx, et al, you pay 10 bucks for an envelope to get delivered and you're done with it.
When you use USPS, you pay a few bucks for one of their 'special delivieries', and then you also pay taxes for their salaries, delivery vehicles, fuel, retirement, etc..


Seriously, I wonder which method is more expensive. Does the money they make from selling stamps cover all their expenses?

For nearly forty years I wa... (Below threshold)
Walt Kisner:

For nearly forty years I was forced to deal with the U.S. Post Office as a publisher with a Second Class mailing permit. I am retired and one of the highlights is not having to put up with the insulting and degrading treatment meted out by some of the most incompetent white color jackasses who work for the USPO. Complaints are met with total disregard. Serious mistakes which are costly to their customers are responded to with threats and punitive behavior. The annual Publishers Statement is a joke. The accounting requirements don't make sense, but that doesn't matter to the folks at the USPO. So, looks like you've had a taste of what the government thinks operating like a private corporation is like.

The post office is crappy b... (Below threshold)

The post office is crappy because it is (mostly) a monopoly. The best thing that could happen is legislation permitting alternative postal carriers.

Let the competition for customers begin!

As usual, jp2, you did not ... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

As usual, jp2, you did not pay attention to the facts. From the article:

"the seller insisted on sending the book by 'Media Mail', not allowing an option to use FedEx or another service."

At half.com, the seller has control of shipping options. If he had offered a premium courier or an upgrade, say to Express Mail, I would have used it. I did not, however, have that choice.

And yes, the inability to deliver a simple book or investigate their own shipping centers certainly is the fault of USPS.

For the record and followin... (Below threshold)

For the record and following up on my #5 comment, we give our customers a choice between Media Mail and Priority Mail (both USPS services, I know, I know). Most customers choose MM because they figure it is much less costly to them.

Ah, now I know why liberals... (Below threshold)
Socratease:

Ah, now I know why liberals hate the military: It's the only part of the government that works as advertised.

I agree with you completely... (Below threshold)
Julie:

I agree with you completely about the USPS. We have had all sorts of problems with the delivery of our mail. We often have our mail delivered days later than it should be, or not delivered to us at all. We were able to reach the postmaster of our local PO, who told us that we were not having problems with our mail service (um, yes we are). The postmaster took our names, address and phone number. Then called us the next day to tell us that she had spoken to our carrier and that the carrier told her that we have lots of kids so the reason we aren't getting our mail is that our kids are taking it out of the mailbox and hiding it. So we called the complaint hotline. We did speak to a real person who opened our case and told us to call with the case number any time if we have more problems. Our postmaster was contacted by the complaint center and told to copy all of our mail before it is sent so they could keep track of what mail was leaving the post office and if we were receiving it on time. When we were still missing mail, we called the postmaster and she told us that we weren't missing the mail because they had xerox proof that it left with the carrier that morning. When we explained that the carrier WAS the problem, she again told us that our kids were stealing our mail.

We now try to avoid using the USPS as much as possible. We have any checks that need to be sent to us sent by fed-ex. We pay all our bills online. Now, we mostly receive junk mail by USPS.




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