Have you ever been caught in a little white lie? It’s been eons since I was, but I remember the feelings of embarrassment, and then the rebuilding of trust that probably took me longer to feel confident about than the other person. Today I caught someone in one, and I feel bad for her, but not bad enough to let her off the hook.
I realize the US Postal Service, like most service businesses, are pressured to meet deadlines and quotas and deal with a somewhat unpredictable flow of customer needs, not to mention the cost of doing business. I know it’s a behemoth agency and even harder to manage than a small business where the red tape and layers of bureaucracy don’t exist. Still, it would seem that when you have a reputation that already is tarnished and being attacked by virtual alternatives, service is where you differentiate yourself.
What happened to me is that I was expecting a package that someone else paid extra money to have sent by overnight mail. I’m sure my own eagerness to get this package which was already delayed by a week by the sender has influenced the level of my frustration. Anyway, the package was supposed to arrive today, and the USPS Tracking showed it was on time and out for delivery today. I was watching and waiting. Then I got a notice that at 4:35 delivery was attempted but my receptacle was blocked, so no package for me. The thing is, no delivery was attempted.
My regular mail came at around 2:30. Sometimes it comes before noon, sometimes very late afternoon, and sometimes not at all. I work from home, and my office window faces the street and my mailbox, so I’m pretty sure about this. I saw the woman carrier at 2:35. I can tell you what she was wearing. She did not attempt to put a package in my mailbox, not did she try and bring it to my front door. She did leave a small pile of other mail that probably should have been delivered Saturday, when I got no mail at all. In fact, I suspect I got Saturday’s mail today, and tomorrow will bring me today’s mail until she is caught up. This is not the first time this has happened; in fact, it’s the third time in a month that I have had to go retrieve packages or certified mail at the post office because I either wasn’t home (ha!) or my mailbox was “blocked” (ha ha!).
What makes today’s episode more egregious is that someone paid extra fees for overnight delivery. Now it looks like the Post Office/letter carrier make a good faith attempt, and failure is blamed on my mailbox. They get the fee; I get frustrated. Reminds me a bit of airline delays; why can’t they just be honest and tell you if a flight is on time, rather than keep you a captive audience for no apparent reason at all? I digress.
I’m guessing their standard procedure is for them to complete the Tracking status updates when they return to the station from their routes, which is a flaw in their system, because now I know for a fact that no delivery was attempted at 4:35. If their system required the carriers to update on the spot, that might slow them down. But, gee whiz, all private carriers like UPS and FedEx have POS systems. That’s what the extra fee is suppose to be for, right? Better, faster, expedited, GUARANTEED service delivery? If I knew delivery would be tomorrow, I could live with that. This isn’t life and death; it’s an online purchase I made. But I was told up until the last minute that it was on time, and then they blew it with the “attempted” delivery that wasn’t. It’s the breach of trust that really ticks me off. Trust doesn’t cost any money, but they took money to provide this service.
If I now choose to wait for the package to be redelivered tomorrow, it’s anybody’s guess as to what time it will really be delivered. So I will trek downtown about 6 miles and stand in line to retrieve it myself in the morning. I’ve already filed a customer service complaint online. More importantly, I’ll remember that my own business will be polished or tarnished by how I treat my customers, how quickly and politely, how much value they get for the price they pay, and how much they can trust what I say. Even imperfect systems don’t get a free pass on trust with me.