Archive for the ‘Post Office’ Category

Service of Upgrades that Are and Aren’t

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Photo: pixabay

Shiny Apple

Some upgrades are amazing. Apple gave my iPhone 6 a new lease on life with a recent upgrade that allows it to act pretty much like one of its pricey new phones. I read that this was the latest marketing strategy for the company that formerly encouraged customers to upgrade frequently.

iPhone 6. Photo: gadgets.ndtv.com

Even so, hearing the word “upgrade” these days sends shivers my way and, in my experience, for good reason.

No Service Self Service

Have you tried the new USPS self service mailing machines? They don’t work. I don’t mean they are complicated—they literally don’t function and the old ones worked like a charm.

I tried to use several at the Grand Central post office on different days and at a satellite office with no employees. The former wouldn’t respond to light or heavy finger touches by me and countless others who ended up behind me on line for a clerk; the scale didn’t work in the latter which was problematic because I had a package to mail.

Exploding Devices

Last week almost 3,000 new body cam devices were pulled from use by the NYC police department. Why? One exploded.

Out of Order Train App & Info Man

Photo: play.google.com

The Metro-North app. “TrainTime” has issues. I couldn’t link from the TrainTime app to the specifics about substitute busses for trains I usually take so I stopped in at Grand Central Station’s customer service desk. The link was dead last Friday. The attendant explained that Metro-North needs to upgrade the app. He also misinformed me about the bus situation. Fortunately, another staffer set him—and me—straight. His excuse: “I just got to the desk.”

Not My Car

Photo: gm.com

General Motors emailed to tell me that my 2016 Chevrolet has a soft tire and to bring the car in for service. I knew this had to do with the 2016 we turned in for a 2018 earlier this year because that car always had tire issues. So I informed the dealership, from which we’ve bought and leased cars for 20 years, that GM needs to update its records. When we first dealt with the dealership our salesman took care of everything and there was never a hiccup. Since then it has upgraded with specialists in various areas of the business. This is the second such glitch we’ve encountered since we leased the 2018 model so the specialists aren’t clicking our info in all the right places.

Does the word “upgrade” excite you or make you anxious? Was it always thus? Have you encountered either super or dismal results from a recent upgrade?

Photo: siteuptime.com

Service of Wacky Things People Do

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Photo: balunywa.blogspot.com

In quick succession I became aware of some screwy things people do–mild in comparison to what is happening in the photo above.

Homemade Floods

Photo: hiawathasewer.com

The note slipped under our door at the high-rise we live in warned that the water would be turned off the next day from 9 to 5 and to please make sure “when leaving the unit to turn off all the faucets.”

I asked the morning doorman, who has worked at the building for decades, about the reason for that odd faucet request. He said that when learning of a water shutdown some of the tenants turn on all their faucets before leaving for work. Then he smiled and shrugged.

We’ll Learn to Read Next Week

I was waiting for a test at a doctor’s office in a cubby-size space in which patients change to a hospital gown and wait their turn. I was pacing and couldn’t help notice the giant sign on a hamper to hold used gowns [photo, left] and a few steps away, a trash can. On closer inspection, I saw trash in the gown hamper. The garbage can was empty.

Don’t Look Now

Did the person installing the Vanderbilt Ave. detour sign [photo below, right] bother to look at the direction of the traffic? In addition, this sign is right off First Avenue, blocks and blocks away from Vanderbilt Avenue. I feel very sorry for out of towners driving in NYC.

Sticky Mail Boxes

Some unscrupulous people fish for mail.

Lindsay Gellman wrote “Sticky Fingers Fishing” in The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town.” In it she identified the “most pressing crisis” for the USPS, noting that it’s not what the president identified: He blamed Amazon for using the service as its “delivery boy.”

People are stealing credit cards, checks, cash, gift cards and money orders from mail boxes using a low tech method. They put rat glue on a small juice bottle and tie a shoelace to its neck, creating a mail fishing device. Phil Bartlett, in charge of the postal service’s New York inspection division, shared how the thieves transform checks to reissue them to someone else. He told Gellman: “There’s products out there, things like Ink Away, or sometimes nail-polish remover. Or they soak them in a solution containing brake fluid.” Or they take bank and account numbers from checks and make counterfeit ones.

The post office’s solution is to replace or retrofit the 7,000 traditional mailboxes in and around NYC with ones with thin slits [photo below]. I haven’t seen anyone fish for mail, but I imagine they do it late at night.

Have you observed or read about any wacky things that people do?

Photo: riverdalepress.com

Service of Reporting a Major Scam to the USPS: Little Help to Stamp Out Crime

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Photo: flickr.com

Reporting a scam to the proper authorities, with the goal of punishing and putting the nasty people out of business, wasn’t simple. It impacted me in time and anxiety and I have no idea if anything will come of my efforts.

I made a big mistake: I responded to an offer on Facebook that appeared to have come from a “friend,” to be a secret shopper. “What fun!” I thought, to check out businesses in my neighborhood: I do this anyway and it would be worth a post, at least.

I got a Priority mail letter this week sent from Philadelphia with a check inside from a Vacaville, Calif company, the TBWS Group, for $3,450, and a sheet of convoluted instructions [photo below right]. I was to deposit the check immediately; report my activity at an online address to confirm receipt of the check and instructions and promptly visit the nearest Walmart to buy $3,000 worth of gift cards.

If the awkward word choice in the headline—“Secret Surveyor Evaluation,” and errors in the copy didn’t catch my eye, the useless information they wanted to know about the gift card buying process blew an orchestra’s worth of whistles. In addition, the promised “stores in your neighborhood” was bunk as there are no Walmart stores in NYC—the closest being in NJ.

My colleague, David Reich, confirmed my impression as a few years ago he’d been approached with a similar con involving money and his checking out the services of Western Union. Google also helped verify that this is a scam.

I had proof—the envelope with return address, the check, an email from Sandra Wayne from a gmail account urging me to proceed with the project–so I wanted to share it with the postal authorities. These were the steps I ended up having to take:

  • I went to the Grand Central post office near my office. The policeman stationed there said he hears about these scams every few days, and to either rip up the evidence or go to window 24 if I wanted to report it. I did the latter.
  • The lady at window 24 gave me the phone number of the postal inspector. It wasn’t correct—the area code turned out to be wrong–so I had to look up the number.
  • I spoke with two people—the first thanked me for my interest in helping get the perpetrators and the second, in the criminal investigator’s department, was bored, didn’t want to hear about it and wouldn’t give me the link to the online form to fill out. Instead, she said I should find it on Google!
  • As I don’t trust such links taken from Google in today’s climate–there were several listed—I fished around the official USPS website until I found it and filled it out. My case didn’t quite fit the questions and there were no opportunities to fine tune responses.

There must be thousands of people who knock on the USPS’s door and I’m not the only one bent on reporting a potential wrong, but there should be an efficient way for people to communicate details of a scam to the postal service. To start, the woman at window 24 should have handed me a printed page with the link to the form and the correct phone number.

Would you have bothered to report this or would you have predicted it would be a waste of time? Have you been frustrated in reporting a scam to any large entity? Do you think that capturing the scofflaws is hopeless?

Service of Slow Motion

Monday, February 27th, 2017

slow motion

I went to a giant US post office in midtown Manhattan last Saturday to ship a package. Watching the postal workers behind the counters was painful. They moved at the speed of a slug on crutches, as though their bodies hurt, not embarrassed that people in the growing line could see their lack of purpose. They all looked to be well under 40.

Valentine cardI thought of this when on February 18 a friend, CG, sent an email thanking us for our Valentine card that just arrived. It was postmarked February 6. At least it arrived! She wrote: “I don’t know what’s happening to the post office. I sent two Valentines to my sister’s house in California–one for my sister and one for Mom. Although I mailed them inside my local [LI] post office about two weeks before V Day, they still haven’t arrived. I even had the postal clerk weigh them to make sure they didn’t require extra postage. So I spent about $12 on cards and postage–for nothing.” She added: “I ordered a book from an Amazon reseller on Nov 30. It never arrived. Where do all these things go???”

Wish I knew.

PackagesI sent three small packages that were promised for February 15 arrival. One reached Westchester on the 16th. By the 18th the ones to Massachusetts and New Hampshire were still in transit with no activity on the USPS tracking site since the 14th. Not fun typing in 22 digits for a few packages every few days.

On the 18th –still no activity on the tracking site–I called customer service and decided not to wait the estimated 29 to 45 minutes to speak with someone who would no doubt reiterate what I already knew: The packages are “in transit.” So I went to the post office and an obliging young woman disappeared to check online as I’d done, learned what I already knew and told me to file a claim online. More work. Joy.

Postal worker Newman on Seinfeld

Postal worker Newman on Seinfeld

I got busy, it was a holiday weekend, and I remembered to look again on February 21. One package arrived in New Hampshire that day; the other arrived at the zip code “hub” where my friend lives. She reported that it also arrived at her apartment.

How is it that LL Bean can get me a package UPS Ground from Maine two days after I order an item—[and doesn’t charge a cent for shipping]?

USPS tracking screen grabHave you noticed that the less business it gets, and the more technical tweaks it adds, the USPS, once an essential, reliable personal and commercial communications partner, increasingly disintegrates? Do you still use it? When you do, how many days/weeks do you give to get a letter or package to someone on time?

Postal worker with packages

Service of Why Don’t You Say So?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Say so

Communications is often not our strong suit. The cost? Customers pay the price in wasted time and/or mistakes.

Taxing

I ordered an item online from a high end men’s store and noticed, in checking out, that I was charged tax. For clothing that costs $110 or less, New York residents don’t pay tax. While it wasn’t much, it irritated me that tax appeared on my bill but because it was the last day of a super sale, I approved the order and wrote customer service [which was closed on the weekend].

TaxFirst thing Monday I got a response telling me that they will charge the correct total {without the tax} “when the order is ready to ship.” I was notified, but the tax was still there. So I whipped out another note–thank goodness for cut and paste and email. The correction was made.

Given that the store has a NY branch and that I assume more than one customer orders from NY, it would have been easier to note on the invoice that NY residents won’t pay tax for items under $110. Staff in billing should be similarly instructed….although I suspect that I may be the only one to care.

Check this out

I was having an annual checkup and on arrival dropped into the ladies room to wash the subway off my hands. There was a note warning patients not to urinate if they were having a sonogram. The office offers sonograms in a few parts of the body so out of curiosity I asked one of the technicians whether this directive applies to all sonograms. She said that it only applies to pelvic ones. So couldn’t that one word have been added to the warning?

Do it yourself and guess

USPS self service and binI used the do-it-yourself package mailing system at the Grand Central post office. One of the questions is “Will your package fit in the bin?” which it would. When done, I tried to open the adjacent bin and it was locked shut. So I had to wait in line anyway to find out where to put the stamped package. An exasperated postal worker, who looked at me as though I was dumb, pointed in the direction of a large canvas container on wheels placed well below the counter where nobody would see it with nobody nearby to secure it, either.

Was there a note stating what to do with a package on the bin parked next to the scale/shipping computer? No. Was there a note above the hidden container that collected packages? No. US Postal Service customers take note: Bring along your ESP next time you drop by.

Cross street please

When a business posts its NYC address on its website, if on an avenue, please note the nearest cross street.  I’ve lived in NYC most of my life and I don’t always know this information. [See 666 Fifth Ave and 546 Broadway, in photo below.]

Have you noticed that increasingly few businesses put themselves in their customer’s shoes in planning websites or procedures by anticipating questions or sharing clear instructions in the first place? Do you have other examples?

 Cross street please turned

 

Service of Comparative Value

Monday, December 12th, 2016

chocolates

Sometimes you can impact what you pay and other times you’re captive—take it or leave it.

How Sweet It Is

Waiting my turn at a well known NYC chocolatier I saw a pile of boxed chocolates—six pieces for $9—and noticed that when sold by the piece the salted dark chocolate caramels, that matched those in the box, cost $1.10 each.

I asked why six pieces bought individually cost $6.60 when the [undistinguished] box of six cost $2.40 more. The clerk looked surprised and mumbled that the $9 ones were in a box. I asked, “Wouldn’t you put my order in a box as well?” and he said he would.

I ended up buying 10 pieces, which he put in a much nicer box, [in my opinion], for little more money. The moral: Look around.

Wrap it Up

When a package is small enough to fit in the US Postal Service box Postage meter for Post about Value dec 2016container I use the do-it-yourself post office on my walk to work. There’s rarely more than one person ahead of me and most of the time it’s empty.

If you’ve never sent a package this way it’s easy. You do the work that a postal clerk would and you waste less time than waiting in a long line. Nevertheless, I object to the cost. The box [photo right] was a little over a pound. [I choose lightweight, unbreakable gifts.] I paid $6.95 to ship this small box and I saved the postal service the work of a clerk.

Juicy Value

Apple ciderAcross the street from the postal closet was the weekly farmer’s market where I bought half a gallon of fresh apple cider. Think of the number of apples that went into this sweet juice and the labor to turn the fruit into cider, pour it into the container and drive it to midtown Manhattan from the boonies and pay staff to sell it. The cider cost $4.00. I see more value in the apple juice than in postage.

Addendum

Postal clerk with packageI got weak in the knees later that day when mailing a large-ish box from a post office-with-clerk. It was so light I had no trouble walking it six blocks from home. [The box would never have fit in the package container mentioned above so do-it-yourself was out of the question.] When the clerk gave me the choice of postage it was then my legs buckled: $20.86 was the cheapest. And I had to wait in line 20+ minutes for the privilege.

Have you noticed pricing discrepancies when buying pre-packaged items versus by-the-piece? Am I out of it to think that $7 and $20 are a lot to pay for shipping lightweight boxes? When do you feel you are getting good value for your money?

More bang for your buck

Service of Coupons

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

coupons

I received a batch of coupons and promo materials from an unlikely source: The United States Postal Service. They came in an envelope marked with a warning that I should open the envelope for important follow up information after I’d notified the post office of my change of office address.

I learned that there wasn’t anything to do in follow up. The instructions were to let them know if something was wrong. I’d probably not have received the envelope at the new address if there was.

us-postal-serviceMost prominent in the envelope was a stack of informational coupons for home security, hardware, phone, bank, internet/cable, a newspaper subscription, appliances, satellite TV service, car insurance, furniture, address labels, five-gallon water plans, blinds, an alternative energy source and a gift store.

Guess the “important follow up” was for me to buy from these vendors.

I mention the coupons as a service to readers: If you haven’t moved lately, you might not know to suggest this marketing option to a client or friend.

While I am happily surprised that the post office has become this enterprising, I also wonder about the appropriateness of the vehicle. About.com notes, “According to the laws under which it now operates, the U.S. Postal Service is a semi-independent federal agency, mandated to be revenue-neutral. That is, it is supposed to break even, not make a profit.” [It’s not making a profit for a bunch of reasons so apparently the coupon business doesn’t fill in the income gap sufficiently to put the postal service at risk of breaking the law.]

Do you think the post office is taking good or bad advantage of customers by acting as a welcome wagon of sorts? Are they selling my name and address to the participating companies?

welcome-wagon

Service of Sloppy

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

sloppy-desk

I’ve noticed a rash of sloppy work lately so I had to share.

Snail Mail on Tranquilizers

postalworkerssortingEarly in December I sent 20 Hanukkah cards with the return address on the back. I got back three-all addresses were current. I brought them to the post office at Grand Central Station and a postal worker covered up the bar codes and cancelled stamp art with white tape, making the poor little envelopes look as though they’d been to the hospital.

He also wrote in huge letters, TO on the face of the envelope and FROM on top of the return address label. He then handed the envelopes to one of the workers behind the desk. The next day I got one of these back. I guess that nobody explained to the folks at the post office that the side with the stamp is the one they should refer to.

One Short

cards1In another instance, I heard a loud sigh of anguish at the office. A colleague, who had paid full price at a well known card shop that sells its own brand, came to the end of a box of holiday greetings and was one envelope short. Grump.

I buy my cards at discount stores and on occasion, one will have a print glitch. But I almost expect it. But if I pay full-retail, I expect to get what I pay for.

What Day is It?

grapefruitAn on-air radio personality, reading ad copy about a special promotion for Florida grapefruit and oranges with a deadline, finished with “order by Wednesday December 16.” He then said, “Wait a minute! In the middle of this promo I said Sunday December 16. What is it? Can’t anyone in the ad department look at a calendar?”

Have you noticed any such sloppy work lately?

sloppy-counter

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