Dear Postmaster – Please Stop This

The United States Post Office is not having its greatest year.

The venerable organization is struggling in the face of alternative delivery mechanisms like email, instant messenger, and a general decline in letter-writing.

They need some innovation to bring in more sales. They’re trying harder. I get that. And I applaud it. But…

Lately I’ve been faced with an unpleasant scenario at my local post office. It goes like this: I approach the understaffed counter and say, “I’d like to send this book at the book rate, please.”. Then the employee behind the counter, with a glassy look in her eyes, begins to recite all the rate options, beginning with Express Mail and working her way down the price scale.

I listen, and when she’s done I say again, “Book rate, please.”

She runs my postage, and then takes my second book package. I say, “It’s the same.”

“I have to tell you all the options,” she says.

I protest that I already know what I want, but she insists. Meanwhile, the line behind me is building.

Then the Postal worker proceeds to try and sell me a bunch more stuff. Again, I applaud the effort. But the execution is very, very poor.

My apathetic Postal employee insisted it’s a policy and she has no choice.

Is this really a rule for all Postal workers? Does anyone realize it’s a Sales Prevention Mechanism – and not a sales making mechanism? What happens when your customers get tired of being insulted and decide they’d rather ship UPS?

I actually love the USPS and its services – but this policy of forcing me to listen to the litany of options, if it is indeed a policy, is asinine.

Dear Postmaster: I advise you to reconsider. Fast.

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  • Sarah

    You're kidding! I haven't experienced this yet. But surely, even if it is a policy, the employee misunderstands, and they should only have to recite the litany once in a visit. And what a hassle for the employees — new impetus to “go postal”, for everyone involved.

  • Valerie

    Nice article on the stupidity of having postal employees act like robots and what it really does to customer service. The folks at my office haven't done the run-through on different services in a year or two, but it could just be the folks at the counter (small office, small town).

    BTW, the only reason the post office is in the red is because Congress mandated that they fully fund (after years of under-funding) their retirement accounts ALL AT ONCE. Their annual sales easily exceed their expenses; it will take a few years to make up the 7+ billion dollar shortfall.

  • brightwings

    Yes I agree with this wholeheartedly. I've gotten to know my postal clerks fairly well and preface my request as I approach the counter with exactly what I want in terms of services, answering their questions before they can ask them. That actually works and gets me a smile most times.

    However I take great pity on them being forced to repeat these phrases like robotic morons. What a demeaning use of human talent!

    It also speaks volumes about the lack of leadership within the management structures of that organization. Can you imagine, for example, an air traffic controller or an EMS dispatcher being forced to recite a similar litany to her pilots or to his waiting emergency callers? (Wait. Maybe we don't want to go there. But still. . .idiotic and ineffective )

    Oh and we haven't even begun to discuss the long term implications of annoying your customers to this degree 🙂 Just wait until an alternative service shows up. And it well may!

  • Back when I worked at McDonald's I worked with a person who basically did the same thing (and she used to be my friend). She would ask if they wanted the meal, then if they wanted it supersized, then if they wanted something from the $1.39 menu, then if they wanted some apple pies, etc even if they came in knowing exactly what they wanted.

    I only gave people more options when they seemed unsure of what they wanted. If they knew what they wanted, I just gave it to them.

    I ended up becoming a manager after a year of working there (at the age of 16) and had customers actually tell my managers to promote me because I quick, cheerful & efficient. My managers loved me and I didn't follow the “policy” of always trying to upsell them.

    Some people just know what they want and it's stupid to try to talk them into buying something else. Easy way to talk yourself out of a sale – policy or no policy.


  • I could only laugh at this! You are right on the money Ray!

    I recently opened a PO box. They ask for everything but my blood type and then they offered to sell me stamps. Once I declined, saying I was stocked up, I was given all my payment options – even though I had cash in my hand, waiting for a break in the spiel to pay! I was even told I could have cash back if I used my debit card!

  • Drcottle

    Having worked at the USPS for over 25 years I understand how ridiculous this sounds. I've spoken with window clerks and they tell me that they have to do this in case a “mystery” shopper shows up and writes them up if they don't hear the entire litany of options. If this happens then they can be reprimanded.

    Trust me, they know how annoying it sounds and they'd prefer not to have to do it.