I went to the local post office this morning to mail a couple things. Instead of the usual postal employee (let’s call him Mr. McFeely), I was greeted by a new person (let’s call her Ms. Bouvier). Mr. McFeely is always friendly and patient even when the line of people waiting goes all the way out the door. He answers your questions clearly and quickly. But he is also simpatico; when you tell him what you want, that’s what you get, with a cheerful smile.
Today there was no line at all. I walked up to Ms. Bouvier and after exchanging greetings, I put my two items on the counter and explained that the card needed to go overseas and the package needed to go via Media Mail. She picked up the package (literally a paperback book wrapped in brown paper) and asked if I wanted to send it 1st class. Okay, maybe she didn’t hear about the Media Mail.
“No, I think Media Mail would be fine. It’s just a book.”
“But 1st Class is only $3.10, about 50 cents more, and it would only take a few days.” Okay, she’s just trying to offer better service. But Media Mail really doesn’t take very long!
“No, Media Mail’s fine.”
“That’ll be $2.47, and it will take a week to get there. Are you sure?”
What is this, one of the computer software programs that doesn’t trust you to know when you’re ready to sign out?
“Do you want any insurance or delivery confirmation?”
Geez, how long is this simple transaction going to take? Eventually I escaped, having achieved exactly what I went in for. It really didn’t take very long. It made me think about the differences in the kinds of consumer transactions offered by different businesses. For example, at the grocery store you do your own shopping and then the checker rings up your purchases (or, as at many stores, you have the option of ringing them up yourself). Simple. Then there’s the quickie oil change places where you sit in your car while they work on it. They’re always, to lesser or greater extent, going to try and sell you other things you don’t want, like a new air filter or a more expensive kind of oil. Part of the business model is over-selling, so as the customer, you just have to steel yourself before you go in and be sure that your repellent armor doesn’t weaken.
I would hate to think that the post office is turning into the latter kind of model. I know there’s been a lot of discussion lately over whether the USPS can survive under its current business model, but I LIKE going to a place where the staff is friendly and helpful, not pushing me to buy more stuff!
And, I hope that Mr. McFeely is just on vacation this week and that he will be back with his mustachioed smile the next time I go in.