Surprised Not Surprised

I planned a vacation, leaving January 14 and returning January 21. I
went on-line two weeks early, January 6, to request the Post Office hold
my mail. Had to create an on-line account to submit the request. Had
to verify my identity to create the on-line account using multi-factor
authentication. But not by email – not available – nor by text message – their system doesn’t work with my phone. By mail.

The authentication code to establish the on-line account so they could
accept the on-line request to hold my snail mail arrived in my mailbox
on Saturday, January 23, two days after my scheduled return.

You want to know why people despise the Post Office? It’s not the
workers – they’re standard issue government employees following the
rules laid down by management because the workers have no authority to
deviate from the rules and independent thought is punishable by
dismissal. It’s the bureaucracy: the stunning idiocy of the
regulations, the stubborn adherence to 19th Century service and delivery
guidelines, the utter failure to recognize what needs to be done to make
the Post Office relevant and competitive in 2021.

It’s sad, because the Post Office is one of the few activities the
federal government is constitutionally authorized to do. It’s a shame
they do it so poorly.

Joe Doakes

Nothing to add…

31 thoughts on “Surprised Not Surprised

  1. Back in 2003 I wrote to the Postmaster General expressing the thought that the Post Office should get into the Email business, with the goal being to become a/the reliable medium, with all the legal security and protections of the current system, for all legal notifications and documents(government and private) as well as a secure private channel of communication for US citizens.
    The reply I received asserted that the Post Office doesn’t engage with speculative technologies.
    So instead we have google, yahoo, microsoft, et al, reading and monetizing our mail.

  2. The business model of the USPS is to cram your mailbox with junk mail, and use the profits to pay postal workers’ pensions.

  3. There is nothing wrong with the Post Office, except for the fact that it’s run by the Government.

  4. AllenS,

    Yet, USPS management will tell you all day long that they are a totally independent federal agency.

  5. FWIW: You could’ve filled out a hard copy “vacation hold card” (available at post office) and left it in your box for your letter carrier or dropped it off in the mail. My carrier leaves me a handful so I’m able to utilize them whenever I want my mail held. Easy peasy — but then you wouldn’t have subject matter for another whiney column.

  6. If you’re talking about Informed Delivery, I could not disagree with you more.  I think it’s generally a marvel of functionality and reliability.  I’d say it takes a certain already cynical headspace to understand it otherwise.  I’m in IT, there’s lots of consumer facing IT to be cynical about (… lets start with Facebook…).  As I say, I think Informed Delivery is pretty impressive.  What were you unable to do, make it work with a flip phone?  

  7. I have not had any issues with USPS. Signing up online was painless (it was years ago, maybe something had changed). I regularly use Informed Delivery feature to follow packages and to direct where I want them dropped off and/or picked up. It is actually much more used friendly than either FedEx or UPS or Amazon.

    Yes, sometimes mail gets “lost” (twice in the last five years), but I contacted customer service and incidents were always resolved to my satisfaction, in a courteous and professional manner. I cannot say the same for FedEx, UPS and Amazon.

    There is something to be said that Amazon, UPS and FedEx ALL use USPS. The problem is, it is a good service staffed mostly by competent people, but is burdened by the Government bureaucracy as you noted. And government NEVER does anything right. Ok, ok, the ONLY thing it does right is when it STAYS THE HELL OUT OF other people’s business!

    Tangential – think of all the hoops you had to go through to hold your mail. As of Oct 1, 2021 you will not be able to fly unless you have a star on your license. But by golly, it is NOT humane to ask for an ID when you walk up to a polling station! The ONLY big word libturds know how to spell is hypocrisy.

  8. Management: This customer complains that our website works poorly.

    IT: He’s just a whiner. There is no need to fix anything. The customer is wrong.

  9. I asked a serious question about the basis of your experience, and established the basis of mine. You’re doing some wimpy deflecting there Joe.

  10. Early in life I learned a good lesson regarding customer service: The customer is ‘always’ right — even when they’re wrong.

  11. No, John, I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 running Android 8.0.0. I tried to sign up for the on-line system but the multi-factor authentication code they supposedly sent by text did not come through, even after several attempts.

    I checked for an alternative means of obtaining the authentication code such as an email address or a telephone call, like my bank uses. Nope. The only other authentication method offered is a letter in the snail mail. Which was requested on the 6th and arrived on the 22nd, the day after my return.

    Now I concede it’s possible there’s something wrong with my phone or with T-Mobile, but my complaint is the Post Office system does not admit the possibility of telephone problems and therefore does not provide an alternative means of electronic multi-factor authentication. Most other MFA users do, for precisely this situation.

    As for the suggestion that in order to use the electronic system, I should drive to Rice Street Station to fill out a paper form, that’s precisely the kind of buggy-whip thinking that makes working with the Post Office such a nightmare.

    As for whether on-line Informed Delivery works as delightfully as you suggest, I couldn’t say because . . . I couldn’t sign up because . . . my authentication code letter just arrived in the saddlebag, two full weeks after I requested it. The mailman is watering his horse before he heads back. Because that’s their system and if I don’t like it, I can lump it.

    And they wonder why they lose customers.

  12. Joe, I am not going to be abusive.  As a reader of SiTD I have been and am provoked to respond to crap reasoning / ax grinding from the proud of their common sense wisdom conservative crowd that gathers here.  That’s you, and Mitch, and a few others.  I’ll try to do it with decent manners such that I think I can be contrarian here.

    I think your post’s point, (which I’ll allow could be true in other ways), is not grounded in the reality you present.  I’d like you to rebut me in earnest and try to persuade me.

    You said you went online January 6 to arrange suspended service for a vacation that was to start in 2 weeks… on January 14th.  And, you were diverted off the main “user story” (that’s a software term) there and to mail because of your phone.  So you had to send away for an auth code, and it wasn’t a timely experience.

    OK to start, that’s actually 6 business days that you expect a by mail transaction to have been accomplished.  Not two weeks.  That’s not enough for any organization, nevermind the post office, and almost never has been.  Them getting your auth code to you by the 23rd doesn’t actually strike me as a terrible delay.  It was attended to the day it was got, and the reply was generated and spent a typical time in the mail on the way back to you.

    What’s the deal with your phone actually?  Cuz I’ll tell ya, If you have clung to a flip phone and their workflow won’t accommodate that, it’s on you.  Not them.  That’s not them doing their job poorly, that’s not their bureaucracy mucking things up.

  13. That’s so weird.

    I could understand the moderation algorithm blocking me, since I’m a known Trump supporter and election doubter. Obviously, my Social Credit Score is abysmal and I deserve to be deplatformed to protect other people from my Bad Think ideas.

    But why is it blocking John K? Weird.

  14. My day job is User Experience Design and UX Architecture.

    As such, I observe and work around the myriad perceptions of a given process that different people bring to the job at hand.

    Five people can look at a task in a piece of software – say, the USPS “hold my mail” application – and get five or more different responses, informed by their experiences with software, how their visual acuity reacts with design elements, whether the task is laid out in an order that intrinsically makes sense to each of them, and countless more.

    Government tends to do a lousy job with this sort of thing, because they tend to skimp on UX. (The Feds are better than most, albeit not all, states).

    At any rate, I try not to draw personal conclusions from one person’s reaction to a piece of software.


  15. Alright, your phone is a smart phone less than 5 years old – probably should work.

    I can tell you, they wrote their system to be android functional, and it probably is pretty darn reliable on android in combination with all the cell services that can be utilized.

    What I have to say with some expertise in the subject, and having followed it specifically over a period of several years, is that Informed Delivery is a great success.  If you want call it a unique success among a history of mediocrity from the post office… ya know, that’s arguable… but Informed Delivery is understood as a success.   Your disappointed experience with Informed Delivery is either an aberration or a result of unrealistic expectations, and is not persuasive to a larger argument about the post office.  You’ve framed something here for the purposes of ax grinding that is not reality. 

  16. JD, I feel sorry for you… Not because you are not able to navigate the byzantine USPS bureaucracy and glitches (I do not remember what I had to do to sign up, but again, it was a long time ago), but because you have to endure lectures from the incessant, insouciant and insufferable know-it-all, holier than thou trollbots.

  17. I’m not a bot JPA. Aspire to a command of the language where you can use words right, will ya.

  18. Thanks for the thoughful reply, John.

    The Informed Delivery on-line program could provide the most wonderful on-line user experience of the entire on-line internet but if I cannot access it on-line because the Multi-Factor Authentication component relies on 18th century technology, then I think I have a legitimate user complaint.

    As an IT guy, you probably have a low opinion of users because most of us are dumb as rocks, can’t read directions, click the wrong buttons at the wrong time and aren’t patient enough to wait for software to load. But when your super-sophisticated software takes a dump, you wouldn’t be satisified if the vendor said, “No problem, we’ll have Charlie load up his backpack and start hiking your way. Should be there in ten days, two weeks, tops.” Neither am I.

  19. Fapliar bleated: “I’m not a bot…”

    Right. Bots don’t run off like weepy little bitches when people expose them for fucking liars. Bots just run a program. Lying is either in a bots program, or its not and they don’t care either way.

    Humans have the gift of free will; behave like trash, or not.

    You’re not a bot, Fapliar; you’re trash.

  20. When rats are cornered, they beat their teeth and screech.

    When they are dispatched, maggots show up.

    That’s the Fapliar and Reek show, in a nutshell.

  21. I’ll second JD’s experience with USPS account creation. Intending to sign up for Informed Delivery last summer, I created a USPS login but could not get the website to send me a txt message for MFA. I tried 8-10 times. I gave up and forgot about it.

    I then received a code via snail mail. Mine took more than a month to arrive. I was able to log in and use Informed Delivery to monitor mail and packages. One day in December, I tried to check a package shipment. It asked me to log in. It would not take my password. I tried “I forgot my password” a few times. It did not know my email address (the same one used to create the account), nor my login ID. I submitted a support request and received an email a few minutes later (to the email address it just told me a few minutes prior that it did not know). The email said I should hear back from them in 1-2 days. I still have not heard back about my support request. Last month, I figured I’d try again. This time, I was able to log in and see the tracking status of my USPS package without issue.

    And no, I didn’t fat-finger my password. I use a password storage utility that autofills website logins and password. UX on that was negative, to say the least.

  22. Pingback: The Design Of Everyday Things | Shot in the Dark

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