Tuesday, February 12, 2008

hell hath no fury like a writer who knows how to construct a complaint letter

Okay, loyal readers...what do you think, should I send it?

Jack Potter
Postmaster General
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington DC 20260-0010

12 February 2008

Dear Sir,

I am writing this letter in regards to my recent experience at the post office located at 4850 N. Broadway St., Chicago Illinois, 60640-9998. I use this post office because it is the nearest location to my house and I do not own a car, but after today I am going to be taking my business elsewhere.

My goal in using USPS today was to mail a small package (5.9 ounces, by your scale) in an Express Envelope, overnight to Williamsburg, Virginia. I arrived at the post office at 8:15, unaware that this location opened at 8:30, and decided to wait. By the time 8:30 rolled around, there were at least seven other people waiting—people mostly like myself who had to mail a small parcel or letter. When the location did not open promptly at 8:30, some of the people grew upset and knocked on the door prompting an employee to come over and indicate, by pointing to his watch, that it was not yet eight-thirty. Several of the people waiting with me pulled out their watches and cellphones in response to show that yes, it was in fact past 8:30. According to my cellphone, it was 8:37, according to the bank across the street, it was 8:35 and according to the watch of the lady next to me it was 8:34 by the time your doors were finally opened.

I had intended on using the Automated Postal machine, since I was using regulation envelopes and had no dangerous items, but after I punched in the zip code, the machine helpfully informed me it was unable to help me and I should get in line. Which I did at approximately 8:45. By this point—even though I had been the first person to arrive at your location at 8:15, I was now five places back in line. Some of my fellow customers who had been waiting outside with me were growing belligerent, calling for more windows to be opened, and to be sure, I could see USPS employees moving around behind the two open windows who were apparently not assisting customers. (The second window, I should add, was opened after I got into line, which means it would have been after 8:45, a full fifteen minutes after the location officially “opened”)

My turn at the window came at 8:57. (My accurate timekeeping was helped immeasurably by the Art Noveau clock on the wall.) Unfortunately, I was not able to get the name of the clerk who assisted me, but my receipt tells me it was Clerk No. 10, my address label tells me her initials were C. V. and at nine o’clock on the morning of February 12th she was working at window number four. When I stepped up to the window, the clerk apologized for the delay, and I told her I understood, trying for patience. After all—I had put my items into an envelope that only needed to be weighed and metered, so I figured that after my half-hour wait, things would go smoothly. The clerk told me that due to a post office closing early somewhere between Chicago and Williamsburg, I would not be able to use their express service. My package would arrive on Thursday instead of Wednesday. I told her that was all right, and she took my debit card.

I had accidentally affixed a “Priority” address label to my Express Envelope, so she pushed an Express address label toward me and told me to fill it out. As she rang up my debit card I quickly filled out the address label, pausing to punch in my PIN as she directed. When the transaction had gone through, she told me to step aside and finish filling out the address label, but I was nearly done and had waited for so long that it seemed to make more sense to me to stay here until I had finished. If I had moved over, another customer would have been able to be helped, but I would have had to wait another five minutes—instead of another fifteen seconds while I wrote. I told her to “hang on a second.” She told me to move aside. I said “I’ve been here since eight-fifteen—“ she cut me off and said “Ma’am, no you haven’t, we opened our doors at eight-thirty,” and I tried to explain I’d been waiting outside. At this point she raised her voice so everyone behind me could hear and said, “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to step aside so I can help another customer!” and I said “They’ll understand—“ meaning, they’ve been waiting as long as I have. To which she replied “All they’ll understand is you’re taking up the window—“ And at this point, I pushed the completed label back towards her.

I have no doubt, if this clerk had allowed me to finish my label without arguing with me, I could have done it in half the time. As it was, I was very upset that this person—who clearly understood that I had been inconvenienced to some degree, as she had apologized when I first stepped up to her window—could not allow me the extra ten seconds to fill out an address label. Instead of listening to me, she interrupted me and insisted that I move over, causing more of a delay than if I had moved. She accepted the label, rolling her eyes at the trouble I had caused her by not moving over and stuck it on my package, handing me the receipt without a thank you, and I left as quickly as I could.

The only thing that prevented me from taking by business elsewhere today was the fact that seconds before the clerk began to get belligerent, my debit card went through. Not only did I pay the full Express Shipping rate for a package that will not get there tomorrow, but I had to suffer being inconvenienced—I was more than an hour late for work—not to mention being publicly humiliated. I respect the fact that dealing with impatient customers all day must be a demanding job, but I cannot understand how a clerk will not summon up the patience for a customer who only needs an extra fifteen seconds to fill out an address label.

I finally exited the post office at about 9:15, an hour after I had arrived. This is not the first time I have stood in line for more than twenty minutes at this location, but it is the first time I have been shouted at and abused. In the future, I will be avoiding this location all together, and I will use a private company for my shipping needs. It is my hope that this letter will illustrate the need for USPS employees who display patience and who are willing to listen to their customers, instead of treating us like we are a nuisance.


Nicole M. Lemery

CC: Jack Potter, Postmaster General
Vice-President & Consumer Advocate
Consumer Affairs
4850 N. Broadway (via fax)

1 comment:

Jack Bunny said...

Hi there,

I can tell you right now that sending your letter to the Postmaster will likely do little good, other than making you feel a little better. Most Post Offices in a region will have a PR person of some kind. It might be better if you sent your letter directly there, since that's where it will eventually go anyway.

On the other hand, if you really want your letter to stir up some feathers, send copies to local TV stations and newspapers. Local governments hate that.