26 August 2008

Are postal clerks getting bonuses based on commission?

Coming off my CVS high, I head to the post office. I need to send my mother, in New Jersey, a few eyebrow pencils.* I find a few that might work for her, throw them in a small, padded envelope, address it, and head to the post office.

I wait in line. Three of the four people in front of me are on their cell phones. One has to be called twice by the clerk before he moves. At no point does he interrupt the call.

When I am next on deck, I watch the free agent walk away from the counter. She disappears for a few minutes and comes back to find that all the customers have not magically disappeared. She goes away again. This time she reappears with a bin and strong-arms a rather sizable box into the bin. She then pushes it into the back of the visible area. She comes to the counter, looks around, and then turns and looks at the bin with the box, again. More people join the line. She decides this is a good time to take the bin with the box elsewhere. She disappears again.

Minutes pass while I note that two of the four people behind me are on, or messing with, a cell phone. I take out my cell phone.** The clerk comes back. She calls me forward.

Me: Hi. I just need postage for this.

Her, putting the extremely lightweight envelope onto the scale: Overnight, priority, two-day guaranteed, three-day guaranteed, --

Me: The cheapest is fine.

Her: Registered, express mail, receipt requested,--

Me: The cheapest.

Her: Certified, signature confirmation, insurance, ...

At this point, I figure she is like the poor McDonald's clerk that must ask "Would you like an apple pie?" regardless of the fact that the customer has just said "I hate apple pie!"***

So, I let her finish without further interruption. She goes on for so long that -- now, I couldn't swear to it -- but I may have heard something about "undercoating."

When she is done, I say, for the third time: The cheapest is fine.

Her: $4.70.

Me, looking at the tiny, feather-weight package in bewilderment: To send this to New Jersey?

Her: Yes.

Me, confounded: That's the cheapest rate?

Her: You don't want the cheapest. That'll take forever! It won't get there for, maybe, seven days.

Me: That's exactly what I want. The cheapest.

Her, recalculating: $1.07.

I guess I should be glad she didn't shoot me.

* Gentlemen: An eyebrow pencil is one of the 4,327,228 things women use to get that "natural look." The "natural look" is why you tell us we look great without make-up, when, in reality, you would stab your eyes out if you ever saw us without make-up.

** I just want to fit in.

*** And what Mickey D's calls an apple pie is never an apple pie so much as an apple Hot Pocket. And that pales, literally and figuratively, in comparison to a real piece of apple pie or even a Pepperidge Farm Apple Turnover. And while we're on the subject of bogus apple pie, have you seen the infomercial where the woman puts a piece of white bread into the sandwich maker device and then puts in canned apple pie filling and hot presses it and calls it an apple pie? That is so not apple pie. Can I get a whoopwhoop?****

**** I always wanted a whoopwhoop.


Gilahi said...

It's karma. Life balances out. Plus the CVS clerk and postal employees are cousins who call each other just to mess with ya.

Jamie said...

Good grief! I wonder if, after decades of being paid $45.27 per hour for an essentially unskilled job, the common postal worker (Postalworkerus Mightgocrazius) is starting to fear for their livelihood as they are slowly being replaced by email.

Bilbo said...

You must come down to the Post Office in the Pentagon sometime. They hire only the slowest and surliest employees, all of whom are grossly overweight and must waddle slowly over great distances - often as far as five or six feet - in order to carry out the most routine task. And you forget that all Post Offices everywhere are built to have at least three counter positions more than the maximum number of employees, several of whom are always scheduled to go on breaks at the peak customer load times (such as, for instance, lunch time).

You had to get me started, didn't you...

charlotteharris said...

I suffer through that same spiel of upselling every time I go to the post office too! The Postmaster must have circulated a memo.
Perhaps the employee who sells the most registered letters gets a Starbucks gift card or something.

Herb of DC said...

Wait! They don't have eyebrow pencils in New Jersey?

LivitLuvit said...

The post office and Uhaul must be in cahoots.

SingLikeSassy said...

Sigh. A long, long, long time ago right before I graduated from college, I worked for the Postal Service and I have to tell you, it's a soul-sucking hellish place. That doesn't excuse the bad customer service, but I understand where some of them might have a hard time mustering up a smile.

rs27 said...

OH, the cheapest!

Why didn't you say so?

thats the response I get.

GreenCanary said...

HEY! That looks JUST LIKE MY HOMETOWN POST OFFICE!! Are we neighbors?! Do you live in a town that experienced a fire and ensuing destruction of an historical building? Does one man own ALL of the real estate in town? Want to meet at the local ice cream joint for a cone?!! Whoopwhoop!

Reya Mellicker said...

People go to Zen retreats, take courses in EST and do all manner of things to learn how to deal with sitting around doing nothing. They can get all the practice they need simply by standing in line at the P.O. It's a truly challenging experience, always, every time. I salute you (with my eye pencil!)

Actually I don't have an eyebrow pencil. Should I get one?

Tina said...

ask me to tell you about the on going fude i have with our locak post office sometime. you'll love it.

lacochran said...

Gilahi: I suspected as much.

Jamie: Hard to send eyebrow pencils by e-mail.

Bilbo: Seems I hit a nerve. Maybe a whole bundle of 'em.

CharlotteHarris: I hope they get something for their "efforts".

Herb of DC: Of course they do. But as I am the one who pointed out that Mother had the wrong shade on, I am the one who gets to fix it.

Livitluvit: Ooo, conspiracy theory!

Singlikesassy: Too bad they can't work it out to make it less soul-sucking for everyone.

Rs27: So you can relate.

Greencanary: The photo is stock Google imagery. I don't know where it's from. For those keeping track of locations, the event described was at the Greenbelt P.O. off of Hanover Parkway. And THANK YOU! I finally got a whoopwhoop!!

Reya: Your eyebrows look fine to me. And, somehow, I don't feel very Zen when I'm at the P.O. I feel, well, P.O.ed.

Tina: Sounds intriguing. Do dish!

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

I just went through a similar litany today at my neighborhood post office. After the sixth question, I kept expecting my postal clerk to ask me my name, rank, serial name, name of my birth father and mother, and whether I'd ever voted Republican in a national election. Next thing you know, we'll be asked to strip.

All I wanted to do was mail a picture. Why is that so friggin' difficult? I think I'm going to buy one of those Pitney Bowes postal machines and start DIY'ing my postage from home!

lacochran said...

J.M.: Thanks for stopping by. Indeed, why is that so friggin' difficult? I say this about so many things!