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An Open Letter To The Post Office (USPS) – Hint, It’s Not Good

It’s not often that I have to start a letter with a disclaimer, but I feel like it is necessary in this unique situation.  That is because I want to make sure you know that I am not using hyperbole.  All the events in this letter are entirely factual.  In other words, The Post Office is really this dysfunctional.

It all started back in February of 2015, when I purchased IceWraps.com from a company in Hudson, MI, then relocated it to Escondido, CA.  Before purchasing IceWraps.com, I was busy running Treadmill.com and CuttingBoard.com.  Items from Treadmill.com often weighed 250 pounds or more and shipped via LTL freight services. CuttingBoard.com packages ship mostly via UPS since those items are in the 25 pound range – right in UPS’ wheelhouse.  However, since packages from IceWraps.com are typically in the 1-5 pound range, we stated to develop a relationship with the Post Office and Priority Mail…

As with any new business, things with IceWraps.com started off pretty slow.  We were shipping 1-2 packages per day and just drove these down to our local Post Office on the way home.  As things began to grow to 3-7 packages per day, we reached out to the mailman on our route, so we could arrange a pickup each day.  He advised us that it wasn’t always the same mailman on our route, so we would need to go online to arrange pickups.   This wasn’t that big of a deal, we just hopped online and filled out several months of pickup requests at once.

The biggest issue we were facing was that our Postman would typically come by around 10am in the morning, give or take an hour.  We run an ecommerce business and customer’s have high expectations.  We simply can’t hold on to orders that are placed between 10am and 3pm and ship them the following day.  So, we were in a situation where we would give any orders that came in overnight, or early in the morning to the Postman each morning.  Then, we would drive the rest of the packages to the Post Office on our way home.

As our business continued to grow, the amount of packages we were taking to the Post Office in the afternoon grew from 2-4, then 10-15, and then closer to 30.  Suddenly what once was not that big of a deal was becoming a big inconvenience.  Having to make 2-3 trips into the Post Office each day was starting to get out of hand.

We started to ask our Postman a couple times a week if it was possible to arrange a pickup later in the day.  We were advised that this decision was made back at the local office and that there was a special pickup for businesses like us.  The Postman would offer to have someone get in touch with us, but no one ever did.  Each time I mentioned this to the Postman he was shocked.  “I asked them to contact you, I don’t know why they haven’t”, he would say.

This went on over a couple of months (yes a couple of months) until I got frustrated enough to ask for the number to the local office.  I called into the local office and asked to speak to whoever was in charge of business accounts, so I could arrange for a pickup later in the day.  I called on 7 different occasions over a period of 5 weeks.  No one ever gave me a call back.  It got to the point where I had to ask for the name of the person I was talking to each call, so I could document the incompetence.

During this time, we started overwhelm our Postman with our package load, especially on Monday’s.  Most of the Postmen that frequented our route were cool about it, but one in particular would get nasty with us.  He would say stuff like “This is ridiculous” and just bitch and complain to us the entire time he was loading his truck.  I understand the situation, as his mail truck was always packed, since Monday is the Post Office’s busiest day.  We are quite early on the route, so that wasn’t helping matters.  Still, as a customer I don’t want to be bitched at by the person picking up our packages.  Especially since we load all the packages up on a cart to roll outside and personally help the mailman load the truck each day.

After getting another rationing of crap, in what became the straw that broke the camel’s back, I called the local office for the 8th time. By this point, I knew the name of the person in charge at the office, so I asked to speak directly with him.  Of course, I was advised he was busy and would call me back.  I had to say “Nooooooo… I will wait, he never calls me back.”  Several minutes later he finally got on the phone and spoke with me.  He apologized for the trouble I had been having; he promised to have someone contact me in the next couple weeks. Of course after a week – nothing.  I had to call him back again and did everything I could to be nice, but get my point across.

In what seemed like an act from god, a couple weeks later someone finally reached out to me.  She was a very nice lady and set an appointment to come visit us the following week.  She came out as promised and spent most of the time trying to educate us on software, the Priority Mail product, flat rate boxes, and regional rate boxes.  I assured her that we are very “techie” and researched everything there was to know about boxes, services, etc.  For us it just came down to getting a pickup in the afternoon after 2pm, but before 4pm when we close.

She told me she would go back to her office and see what she could do.  It would take a couple of weeks, but she would have an answer for me then.  After a couple of weeks I had to follow up with her.  She assured me that she would have an answer by the following week.  Sure enough, she contacted me on July 28th and said, “Someone will be by to pickup your packages around 3pm starting this Thursday (July 30th)”.

To say I was excited would be the understatement of the year.  The thought of not having to goto the Post Office each day with 25-30 packages was pretty awesome.  However, sure enough, 3pm on Thursday July 30th came and went – no pickup!

I had to send our representive the following email:

I’m sorry to say that the Postman didn’t come by at 3pm today as promised.  We have 24 packages to go out today, which I now have to personally drive down to the Post Office.
I included the following images….
IMG_6108

25 packages to take to the Post Office

 

Packages In My Car

Packages In My Car

 

She called to apologize and promised the next day someone would stop by and make a pickup.  In what has to be the funniest display of incompetence yet, not only did one person come by at 3pm, but a second person came by at 3:45pm.

Over the next week or two we would basically flip a coin on if the Postman would show up or not in the afternoon.  To say it was frustrating is an understatement.  Finally, the week after, our rep got in touch with me and assured me that we were part of the regular schedule.  We see a few different Postmen through the week and each of them assured us that we were part of the permanent schedule.  Hurrrray!

I have to say, things have been going pretty good since that time.  Someone would show up very reliably between 3:40pm and 4:15pm each day.  Since we close at 4pm, and the Post Office know this, having someone show up at 4:15pm is a bit frustrating.  However, still being jaded from where we came from just a couple short months ago, it’s been a big big improvement.

Of course, just when you think things are finally on track and we solved the world’s problems with our pickup schedule – it happened.  On Tuesday September 15th no one came to pick up our packages.  I waited around until 5pm and then sent an email to our rep.  No response.  Then, in a panic I started looking for a local post office that is open past 5pm.  It was going to be a lot of work, but the thought of letting piles of packages just sit there overnight made me sick.  To my disbelief, there isn’t a Post Office I could find open after 5pm.  At 5:30pm I gave up and left the office.

Here is what I left behind.  It was so much that a single picture couldn’t get it all, so I shot a short video:

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/139665451[/vimeo]

While I was at the office fuming, I sent the following email:

I’m sorry to always be emailing you when something goes wrong, but today is one of those days.
Things have been going pretty well the past few weeks.  Someone has been here to pickup our mail between 3:30pm and 4:10pm each day.  While we close at 4pm, 4:10pm isn’t the end of the world.  It is annoying because if I’m not here then I need to pay my employee overtime to stay, but we haven’t been out of town the past few weeks.
However, today the mailman is a complete no show.  It’s a few minutes to 5 and I have lots of packages sitting here to go out.  This means these people are going to get their packages a day late. They won’t get shipped confirmations since those only go out once everything is scanned in.  We also had some customers pay for expedited shipping that we are now going to have to refund and / or get a negative review about.
First, I would like to talk about today.  If you get this in the next few minutes please give me a call at xxx-xxx-xxxx  if you can get someone out here today.  I don’t want these packages sitting here overnight.  It’s really upsetting.  It’s too late for me to personally drive them to the Post Office.  I’m willing to wait around if someone can get out here.
After that, I would like to discuss getting someone here before 4pm each day.  It’s really important to me because I will be out of town almost the entire month of October.  Again, my employee comes in at 7am and leaves at 4pm.  He has kids to pickup and such and can’t be waiting around past 4pm for the mailman.
We are shipping about 1,000 packages a month via USPS at this point.  If that matters at all to the Post Office, then this needs to be address and quickly.

Shockingly, as of the time of writing this letter (3 days later) I haven’t gotten so much as a reply!

The following day I talked to our favorite Postman and told him what happened.  He’s the one Postman on our route that has an amazing attitude and we look forward to seeing.  He was so upset, he gave me his personal cell phone number to call if this happened again.  Shockingly I had to call him just 2 days later when here wasn’t anyone at our office by 4:15pm.  He called the local office, got someone out there, and even followed up with me.  It’s a case of above and beyond and incompetence all wrapped up into one.

As I said in my email above, we are doing over 1,000 shipments per month with the Post Office.  We expect this to more than double by the end of the year.  Still, this seems meaningless to the Post Office.  UPS or FedEx would trip over themselves to earn this business, while the Post Office can’t even be bothered to reliably pick up our shipments, return our phone calls, etc.

In a perfect world, I don’t want anyone to call, write, or text me explaining how sorry they are for this situation.   It’s to a point where apologies would feel like empty words.  It would feel like nothing short of a waste of my time to stop what I’m doing to hear you out.  The best way to fix this is to get someone to reliably pick up our packages before I switch this business to UPS or FedEx.

We have been shipping packages with UPS for over two years now.  At the beginning we were only shipping maybe 3-5 packages a week.  Still, they spent whatever time was necessary to help with our needs.  Plus, you know what… they show up between 3:45pm and 4:10pm every single day.  100% reliable.

Best of luck to you USPS!

Mike and Grant

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Chris Potter
    September 21, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Honestly, this isn’t surprising at all. It seems like it is hit or miss depending on who you are dealing with at the USPS. At one point, we had no problems picking up when we wanted. Then we moved locations. It become a nightmare. I just don’t understand why they don’t have someone that’s specifically in charge of these types of accounts. And – to ensure that person is actually competent.

    • Reply
      Michael Jackness
      September 21, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      We are going to have to move offices in about 18 months when our lease is up. The thought of trying to have to arrange for a pickup at our new location gives me chills. I’m sad to hear I’m not the only one going through this. I guess it explains why the Post Office is losing money every year. It’s sad really.

  • Reply
    CaseyWhitcher
    March 22, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Unfortunately 100% typical. I utilize the post office a ton, but never count on them. I guess I’ve been lucky, you can go online and request a pickup daily you just schedule it out. However, we always had a cut off time that if they didn’t make it, we would take them to get it done. Often the carrier would show up after, and have nothing to pick up since we already took it. Also an early Christmas bonus if you have a regular guy always helps, especially for fedex and brown.
    I actually don’t like to do it near Christmas cuz they often change drivers at the start of the year!
    Also you can always find the local phone numbers online, and hours, later hours usually means its a hub or something, I usually scope those places out during working hours when I have some time, you can often go behind them or around back and find where they are loading and unloading and walk in and just drop your stuff off. Since you’re in Escondido, I can tell you I did this down the road from you in Rancho Bernardo and further south in Linda Vista, when I lived that way. A few places in Texas too.
    If you want to ever call the local post office you just have to search for it on usps.com but then click into the local offices name in blue to show it, (that has changed a few time too btw). This is a great tip to tell the Priority customers who say “i didn’t get it” if they call the 800# you know they are useless, but in the rare event they can get a hold of their local office they are helpful 50/50 for the recipient, not so much for the shipper in another state.

  • Reply
    Jon Smith
    June 2, 2016 at 9:52 am

    We have a post office contractor in our area who delivers and picks up from us; a contractor is a company hired to deliver in rural areas. Our “mailman” is an employee of this third party, not the post office. I state this as clearly as possible because it is illegal to pay your local post office employee. However, it is not illegal to pay a post office contractor, as they are not an employee of the Federal Government. We have an AM pickup and a PM pickup for $1500/year. Every now and then he can’t make a afternoon and tells us in the morning that he won’t be back – – we then plan to drive to the post office before it closes. If you’re moving to a new location soon then check where your local post office uses contractors to deliver mail and move there! Sometimes only the transportation between post offices is contracted to a third party – if you can find who moves the mail between your local post offices, you may be able to get that individual/company to pick up at your location. As a side note, we do not pay the mail contractor company; we pay the individual directly.

  • Reply
    Jon Smith
    June 2, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Also as a side note, the low prices the post office charges results in low service performance. You can’t complain if you’re not willing to fork out two to three times the cost to FedEx or UPS. Obviously, the post office has to cut their costs down somehow, and customer service is one way they do it.

  • Reply
    Brandon Eley
    June 16, 2016 at 11:20 am

    This is hilarious. We were JUST having this problem with our local PO. Our USPS business has always been pretty big, we ship a lot of socks, flip flops and water shoes in USPS boxes or bags, but it has really grown recently as UPS has hiked our rates. We now ship as much or more through the post office as we do UPS.

    A few weeks ago on a Friday our driver just never showed up to pick up packages. I had several Express Mail packages that customers paid expedited shipping for, so I personally took them to the post office Saturday morning and then later went back and demanded a refund since they didn’t deliver when they should have (and refunded the customer their shipping costs).

    Then they missed another pickup. Then another. Then another. So now we have a recurring calendar event M-F at 4:45 PM if they haven’t picked up yet we call the local post office and tell them they need to get a driver out NOW to pick up.

    Our regular driver is pretty good, but we’ve had substitute drivers complain about the number of packages too. I can’t help but laugh. The once or twice one of my employees complained about the work load (usually on a day like Cyber Monday or Black Friday) I just remind them that without those sales they wouldn’t get a paycheck, and they can see the correlation.

    • Reply
      Michael Jackness
      June 17, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      It would be funnier if we were making this up and it was all just a bad joke.

      Your life sounds very much like mine.

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