Dear United States Post Office:

Conversation I had today in the post office:

Me: Hi, I’d like to send out these two packages as media mail (the cheap rate for books) and get some stamps.

USPS employee: Sure, that’ll be $2.07 for the first package and $1.59 for the second package. What kind of stamps do you want?

Me: I’d like two sheets of the new first-class letter rate (The rate is going up to $0.41, for those who didn’t know.) Also, I send out a lot of books. What do you have that’s close to the new 1-pound media mail rate?

USPS employee: Oh, there’s no way to know that.

Me: (Huh? I can understand not knowing the new media mail rate off the top of your head, but you WORK at the POST OFFICE - can’t you look it up?)The new 1-pound rate is $2.13, what do you have that’s close to that?

USPS employee: No, there’s no way to know what the rate is. It depends on how much the package weighs and stuff and the rates are going up soon.

Me: Yes. The rates are increasing on Monday. (Soon? Don’t you know when?) The new rate for media mail for one pound is $2.13.

USPS employee: There’s no way to know what the rate will be. You put it on the scale here and the computer tells you. You can’t know other than that.

Me: (increasingly impatient) The new rates are posted online. I’m telling you that the new rate for media mail is $2.13. Do you have any stamps that are close to that?

USPS employee: But the scale is here. Without that, you can’t know the rate.

Me: <sigh> I have a scale. (Did you think that the post office is the only owners of scales?) I looked up the rate. (Can’t you?) Fine. Do you have any stamps around one or two dollars?

USPS employee: I have one-dollar stamps, but you can’t know the rate, 'cause the computer tells you the rate. And they’re changing soon.

Me: <double sigh> I’ll take a sheet of the one-dollars and two sheets of the 3-cent stamps.


You know, your rates are going up on Monday. That’s one whole work day from now, seeing as you’re not open on Sundays. You might consider giving your employees some kind of information about this.

You might also consider teaching them about actual rate schedules, rather than just having them blindly take whatever the computer gives them. I know you have clear and concise rate schedules, because you put them online.



I’m not sure that would help in this case. Sounds like you were dealing with someone who is mildly retarded.

While I realize that it’s not always obvious, this woman struck me more as a product of poor training than as someone with a mental deficit. She had just spent some time explaining to someone else (who really wasn’t very bright) the difference between the display samples of packaging for sale (which were damaged) and the actual packaging that the Post Office sells (which wasn’t damaged) and how the person in question wasn’t entitled to a discount for the damage on the packaging, because the packaging that they would give her was NOT the damaged display sample. She was articulate and patient, even with this idiot who wouldn’t give up on the idea of getting a discount.

She was also very friendly with me, she just didn’t seem to realize that anyone had information on postal rates. I think she had been told they were magic.


I worked at the postoffice, and the only test they gave me was if I could distinguish various similar names and various similar addresses. The test was about two dozen quesions about that. I could have passed if I were illiterate and someone asked me the questions, because none of the answers required reading or writing or spelling or addition to answer. Yet I was shocked that I got them all right and many in the test group could not get one third right. They must have thought Jones and Johnson were the same.
So that is the level we’re dealing with here.

I often have some very complicated packages and shipments I have to do, and there’s one post office near my home I’m forced to use if I need to take care of this on the weekend. Given that the tiniest little variation of what I’m doing confuses the living daylights out of them, I’ve gotten used to simply asking for what I want, without explaining the hows or whys, and then taking care of it in front of them. Explaining would be hopeless, counterproductive, and time-consuming. I wouldn’t say they’re dumb, just that they don’t know (or seem to have put any thought into) anything that isn’t broken down for them in the simplest black-&-white terms.

I’m sorry sir, but I’ll have to charge you extra for the black terms.

I was annoyed when they couldn’t tell me what the new rate for the stamps I was trying to pick up for my mother (so she could send stuff back to the old country.)

I did give up quicker than you though.

Then, I couldn’t find it on line either. I hate the monopoly that is the USPS.

? It wasn’t on the rates and fees page?

See linkies under “International Services Rates”.

As a postal worker, all I can say is, “Gee. Thanks.”

Most applicants for positions with Australia Post are knocked out at the test stage, without getting to a final interview. The examinations are quite difficult, and the person behind the counter at a Post Office will generally be at the better end of the spectrum of people working in other customer service roles such as banking, retail, etc. I struggled in the tests because mathematics is my weak point. I can assure you that it was a few notches above being able to tell the difference between Jones and Johnson. The first thing I had to do upon getting the job was to memorise about four thousand towns and their correct disposal. THAT was fun.

My brother is a postal worker and he took a civil service exam. Scored in the upper 90’s on it. I have never actually dealt with a postal worker who was anything but nice and helpful. I’ve conversed with several of them for various reasons while dealing with packages and I’ve never found them to be stupid or deliberately unhelpful. My letters and packages generally take 2 days to get where they are going. And my mailman walks my mail up to my car if he sees me in the driveway, puts packages in my porch for me, and is overall a nice guy.

OTOH, UPS almost always damages my shit in delivery. My boyfriend had a very expensive amp delivered by UPS but left out in the rain when a perfectly good porch with a roof over it was availabe. My computer arrived smashed, as did a ceramic gift sent by my SIL. They make it pretty difficult for you to get any money for this.

Thumbs up from me to the USPS, contrary to prevailing opinion here and elsewhere. Also, check out these cool new Star Wars stamps they have coming out. I think I’m going to put some of those on my wedding invitations (only to people who would appreciate it).

I was at the post office yesterday to turn in a passport application, and though the line was freakin’ ridiculous, the woman who waited on me was extremely pleasant and helpful.

On the other hand, I can’t blame the woman behind me who was having a nervous breakdown because she had purchased 500 Love stamps on Wednesday to use on her wedding invitations and, more pertinently, her RSVP cards, and saw on the news AFTER she’d sealed most of them that stamps are going up on Monday. It really does seem as though when you’re buying **500 ** Love stamps, perhaps the postal employee who’s selling them to you should mention that the price is going up in less than a week.

I’m curious how much that actually matters? In Canada the post office doesn’t actually care as long as you’re within 3 cents of correct postage, so unless it’s a hell of a postal increase, she would be able to just use the stamps she already has.

Have you seen Mike Judge’s film Idiocracy?

Sounds like an outtake.

… it has electrolytes! :stuck_out_tongue:

I just wanted to point out you can buy Forever stamps now, at 39 cents, and they are good, well, forever. You didn’t have to buy new, more expensive stamps.

The USPS cares about correct postage. I once had several envelopes returned because the rate had gone up to 39 cents from 37 cents. The most annoying part is that they stamped “insufficient postage” on the envelopes AND cancelled the stamps, so I had to start over with a fresh envelope and fresh stamps. Grrr.

You must have been hired on some sort of casual appointment.

I worked at the Post office, long ago. I had to pass a civil service exam to get on the list, then wait for several months.

After hiring, learning which carrier routes delivered to about 500 different streets wasn’t a piece of cake either. It’s not rocket science, but I’d call it much more demanding, mentally, than many other jobs.

The OP sounds like there was just a lack of communication. I’ll bet the postal employee thought you were saying “Media mail will be $2.13” implying a flat rate for all things media rather than per pound. They do have some flat rate shipping options, so that’s probably what she was thinking. You’re saying “My mail will cost $2.13 to send” and she’s thinking “No, there is no set rate, you’ll have to bring it in and weigh it.” I think something just got lost in translation is all.

Now I hate to be stupid, but what’s up with the Forever stamps? Will they only be sold for a limited time? It seems worth it to me to buy up a few books and just set them aside for future rate increases.

I believe the US “Forever” stamps are 41 cents, not 39, at least this year. If they are reissued (as a different design), they will probably be priced higher, based on some other forthcoming new rate.

That’s exactly what they are made for. You’re investing NOW as a hedge against future increases.

Well, crap. I thought I was getting a deal, buying 40 now instead of Monday.