USPS rant

I’ve mentioned before that I have a very good friend who lives in Australia. She and I have been pen-and-paper penpals since January 1993, and when we first started corresponding, she lived outside Montreal. We’ve never met, but she’s one of my best friends–maybe one day we’ll meet, maybe not.

Our daughters were born three days apart, so it’s been fun to swap parent talk with her. (She has a son who’s three years older, so this isn’t her first time around with diapers and toilet training.) She recently told me how much she liked some of the clothes Sylvia wears (lots of earth tones and simple lines) and mentioned how difficult it was to get non-pink, non-girly stuff where she is. We chatted back and forth about this, and the upshot is I volunteered to do some end-of-season hardcore sale shopping for her kids–just a few things, whatever I could find that was ridiculously inexpensive–and send them to her.

So a few weeks ago, in about an hour I managed to score some great, high-quality, non-girly stuff for her kids–for almost nothing. Seriously. Something like five shirts and two pairs of pants came out to under twenty bucks. (Clothing is cheap in this country!) The best part is I bought summer stuff that was on clearance because summer is over…here. It hasn’t even begun where she is, so these items would arrive just in time. I wrapped it all up in the smallest possible bundle (brown paper secured with packing tape–not even a box or envelope) and took it to the post office.

I handed over the package and the customs form I had filled out at home. (Pet peeve: people who take up time at the counter filling out postal forms, and the postal employees who don’t attend to other customers while waiting for said forms.) “This can go surface mail. There’s no hurry on it.”

The man behind the counter shook his head at me. “There’s no more surface mail. Only air mail.”

“Are you kidding? When did this happen?”

“Mother’s Day. Wasn’t making any money.”

“Hmmm. Okay, then air mail it is, I guess.”

“That’ll be thirteen dollars.”


Um, hello? That’s almost the value of the contents! I took my package home, deciding to send it when I had more things to add (since the first chunk of postage is the most expensive, a slightly larger package shouldn’t cost a lot more to send).

Now, I’ve been pretty good about defending the USPS in the past. When I was in college, a friend of mine told me about the time he got a letter addressed simply to “Todd Davis, Belleville, Illinois.” That’s it. It was for him, and it arrived something like two years late, but it did arrive. And on the envelope, some postal employee had written “Are we good or what?” Wow.

In light of that–and in light of the stellar service I’ve gotten from the USPS–I’ve been a bit of a fan. Rate hikes have been mildly annoying, but I didn’t mind them that much. (Postage in the USA is still pretty cheap.)

And then the employee at the local post office hassled me when I tried to send a package without a return address. (This was for my first Secret Pal swap, SP8.) Okay, this wasn’t really the fault of the USPS. I blame this one on the Bush-Cheney war on American civil rights, er, I mean the war on terror.

The rates hikes earlier this year didn’t bug me much, until I found out that the international postcard rate was going from 70 cents to 90 cents. Whoa! What’s up with that? That’s one heck of a jump–and since then my Postcrossing has ground to a halt (a temporary one, I hope).

But completely scrapping international surface mail? USPS, you’ve really let me down now. For shame, USPS. For shame.

P.S. You can try to suck up to me by issuing a set of knitting-themed holiday stamps, USPS, but it won’t work.

3 Responses to “USPS rant”

  1. Marshaon 08 Nov 2007 at 9:22 pm

    Hey folks, I’m sorry to say that I had a corrupt database file and had to restore my blog to the automatic backup it made two days ago. It did add yesterday’s post back in, but the comments were lost. Fortunately, I get e-mail notification of all comments here, so I can put them back in (sort of). Here you go!

    Chris said:
    Yeah, I had that discovery in September, when I was shipping some stuff to friends in the UK. No more surface mail. Well, pooey!

    The first chunk’s expensive, and then things go to heck if you go over 5 lbs (as well as to a different customs form).

    Imperatrix said:
    ‘m just trying to imagine how much it cost our relatives to send us packages from Belgium during my youth! It’s sad, but true: if you pay Walmart prices, you’ll get Walmart quality. We’ve had cheap mail for years, and now it’s catching up with us. Of course, anytime something is privatized, the price goes up, and with a decline in service, too! The things George Bush’s wet dreams are made of.

    For SP, I just put in a fake address. How did the PO know which was my real one?

    Gina said:
    bought the knitting-themed stamps. They’re not bad. But I am majorly ticked at the USPS because of the rates and regulations for sending packages overseas. Remember the eyeglasses I ordered from Hong Kong? Ok well they sent me one pair in the wrong frames. And they are horribly wrong frames, if you get my drift. Think Buddy Holly and Elton John crossed. Ok?

    So they said “you can either pay $44 (half price) for another pair or send us those back and we’ll make you the right pair.” So I said I’d send them back. They replied, “We will credit you $8 for the international postage.” OH MY DOG, insanely complicated and expensive, WAY more than $8.

    The package only weighed about 10 ounces and the cheapest I could send it was $21.95. I was ready to choke this down and do it. (Still better than $44, right?) but then there is customs paperwork in QUADRUPLICATE that I had to have attached to the package. And you can’t give it to a mail carrier, and you can’t put it in a dropbox. You have to bring it in person, which I just do not have time to do.

    Sigh. I just sent them another $44 to make the other pair….

  2. Marshaon 08 Nov 2007 at 9:25 pm

    Chris: Thanks for the heads-up on the five-pound price jump!

    Imperatrix: The thought of using a fake address did occur to me, but then I got all nervous about the possibility that there would be some delivery problem and the package would be returned to the “sender.”

    Gina: Twenty-two bucks? Are you kidding? Wow. Were you trying to send the glasses via priority or express mail? There’s no way that regular surface mail should cost that much. Ouch!

  3. Frankon 12 Nov 2007 at 11:32 pm

    I feel your pain. I had to FedEx two documents to Guatemala during our adoption. The second document was one single page. Each cost $50.00 to send three hours in the air toward the south. They did arrive within 24 hours, so I guess I can understand the expense – but still!