Monday, April 11, 2005

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor common sense...

I'm not a fan of the U.S. Postal Service.

The latest irritation came this morning, when I went to send a letter overnight (my one-ounce letter, incidentally, cost almost fourteen dollars to send. But that's besides the point). After filling out my express mail envelope, I walked up to the front to send it. The woman weighed my letter and announced the total, and I handed her my credit card. "Debit or credit?" Credit, I informed her. She turned the card over to look at the backside, which says "PLEASE SEE ID." I get asked maybe 35% of the time, but I figure better safe than sorry. She looks at me with a tired -- almost irritated -- face and says, "I can't take this card." I look puzzled. "It has to be signed," she explains. I vaguely remember this from a similarly frustrating visit to the Post Office a while back, during which visit I had, upon the clerk's request, signed the back of my credit card. You can't see it very well, however. I pointed out on the card where I had signed it before and she glared at me. "You can't make me see things I don't see," she growled. Ohh-kay. Didn't realize I was insulting her. I try again: "Well, I have my I.D. I'm happy to show you my I.D.," I offer, pulling my driver's license out of my wallet. She shakes her head. "Doesn't matter," she says. "That's not the issue." She does not, however, answer the question she's just begged: what, precisely, is the issue?

"If you want to use it like a debit card, I can take it like a debit card." I ask what she means. Rather than explaining, she repeats that I can use it like a debit card. I furrow my brow in what I hope looks like innocent confusion. I'm greeted by a condescending sigh. "If you have, like a PIN number or something, you can use it like a debit." I try to think if I can remember my PIN, but I'm not sure if I can. I don't want to use my actual debit card or the little bit of cash that I have, so I try to think of what else I can do. Finally the clerk volunteers, "I can try to find a Sharpee and you can sign it." Now I'm irritated. "I'm happy to sign it," I say as politely as I can, "but I really think this is ridiculous." She shrugs and spends the next five minutes milling about behind the counter, trying to find a marker. She's unsuccessful. Finally, she hands me her pen. "You can try this," she shrugs. It mostly does the trick, though my signature isn't really legible (of course, most people's wouldn't, being superimposed over large block letters saying "PLEASE SEE ID"). She looks at it suspiciously and runs it through the credit card machine. "I need to see your I.D." she announces. Not that my identity is, apparently, what matters here.

So apparently it's a policy of the Postal Service to require that all credit cards actually be signed. They claim that credit card companies require this (though no other retailer I've patronized has ever required that the card actually be signed, as long as I have an I.D.). In my mind, it would make much more sense to require an I.D. for all credit card transactions. Signatures rub off, and they can be forged. I.D.s are a lot harder to fake for credit card transactions. But, hey, why worry about a rule making sense when we can instead arbitrarily enforce it to make someone's day more difficult? At least we can rest easy knowing that bureaucrats live inefficient, well-paid lives. And that we're lucky to have our mail arrive in one piece, let alone on time. If they'll take our credit cards.


At April 11, 2005 at 7:00 PM, Blogger Micah said...

Sounds like a nice woman.

Your reasoning is completely on point, but I think, technically, a credit card is invalid unless it's signed. So, it pains me to say, the Post Office is right. I have my card signed and "check ID" written on it.

I have a hate-hate relationship with the USPS. I can't stand the fact that taxpayer money was used to mount an advertising campaign (with a licensed Steve Miller Band song - $$$) just to let us know that there's a Post Office. And the service blows, mostly. Last summer, I sent a padded envelope containing a couple of CDs to my brother in VA, first class. It took THREE MONTHS! There is absolutely no excuse for that.

At April 11, 2005 at 8:54 PM, Blogger Gus said...

Well, perhaps at least some humor can result from your otherwise depressing anecdote: .

And yes, USPS is a disgrace and an insult. I spent 20 minutes standing in line today to send out my taxes, because the single teller at the window thought it was a reasonable use of time (and tape) to tape two priority mail boxes together, end-to-end, for a customer. As she explained to the befuddled customer, the boxes and the tape are ``free"; so two 18"x3"x12" boxes are cheaper than one 36"x3"12" box. No, I don't know why the customer hadn't already put her things in a box.

But I do promise that things are better with the USPS in Chicago than they are in Santa Fe, NM! Back there, ``next day" meant two day, and ``two day" meant three; the prices were all the same, however.

And, of course, I'll never forget when my girlfriend (back when I had one of those) spent the summer in England. I sent her a package in late May, which got to her a week before she left (end of August). It's not entirely unfair to say that the USPS contributed mightily to the end of that relationship.

FedEx forever!

At April 11, 2005 at 8:57 PM, Blogger Gus said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At April 11, 2005 at 8:59 PM, Blogger Gus said...

Really, I promise that I know how to post comments. Blogger is just... well... blogger. That long link is to Zug's Credit Card Prank.


At April 12, 2005 at 8:02 AM, Blogger The Law Fairy said...

Micah -- true, they're probably technically "correct." But it's still a pointless hassle imho. I once had a first-class package sit at the post office for almost a week before they finally delivered it. Interestingly, the delivery came within a couple hours of my calling to air my frustration that my *first-class* package had not yet arrived.

Gus -- you don't have to complain to me about Blogger issues. Preaching to the choir. The Zug link is hilarious. It almost makes me wonder if I should be grateful for the USPS gestapo. I too am a FedEx fan.


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