Thursday, June 02, 2005

Gimme $20 and I'll try not to break your stuff!

I went to the post office today. I was there to send a package to my parents back in England.

Now anyone who's tried to send an international package recently will know what an 'experience' that can be.

On the surface I think they do a good job. It takes seven days for a package to get from where I live now back to the UK, and it’s fairly cheap. For example, another delivery service quoted me three hundred dollars to deliver the same package on the same timescale.

In the grand scheme of things twenty dollars is cheap…I mean if someone handed me a package and said “Here’s twenty dollars, take this to England for me.” I’d tell them exactly what they could do with that package, and it would involve ‘delivering’ it to a specific part of their anatomy.

Under the surface, however, things ain’t so peachy. I handed over my package and got the usual security questions, delivered in the same bored tone of voice. Now, these questions border on the bizaare, and are completely useless. The result of the usual out-of touch executives coming up with a security measure that adds nothing to the actual security, but takes up lots of time, energy and paperwork.

Let’s face it, if I was some sort of international terrorist, exactly how likely would I be to answer the question: “Is there anything dangerous, illegal or perishable in this package?” with: “Yes, there’s a bomb, a half pound of weapons grade plutonium, and the packing peanuts are stuffed with anthrax.”

This has exactly the same effectiveness as the questionnaire I had to answer on the plane on the way over here that asks ‘Are you carrying anything illegal?’ and ‘Are you currently, or ever have been, part of a terrorist organization?’

I bet Osama’s shitting himself.

“Are you a terrorist?”

“Yes…I mean no!…shit.”

The post office should get in touch with the FBI. Forget investigations and evidence, all you have to do to solve a crime is go up to the suspect and ask: "Did you do it?" I mean, no one could possibly lie could they?

Anyway… back to the Post Office.

What really got me was when I was asked: “Do you want to buy insurance?”

Now let me get this straight. This is a service that specializes entirely in taking things from Point A to Point B. I’m already paying them for this.

Why do I have to pay extra in order to be reimbursed is they destroy, lose or damage what I’m sending? Shouldn’t they be liable anyway?

It almost sounds like a threat if you ask me. “Pay up or your stuff goes missing!”

This doesn’t happen in any other business in the world. In fact, the opposite is true.

If you go and rent a car, you have to pay extra for insurance that means you’re not liable if the car gets damaged. If we followed the same rules the post office follows, we could tell the car dealer to pay us, or at least knock a little off the rental price to insure that we don’t bring it back destroyed.

If you pay someone for a service, you shouldn’t have to pay extra to make sure they do their job. Isn’t that all covered by the fact you’re already paying them? If they screw up, shouldn’t they be responsible?

If the world was sane, you would automatically get the cost of your package reimbursed if the Post Office lost it. For that matter, you would get your postage back as well.

The world, however, is not sane. Every time you leave your home, you enter the asylum.

Imagine being in hospital, and just as the anesthetist puts the mask on your face, the surgeon leans over you and says, “Hey Buddy, slip me fifty bucks and I’ll make sure you come around.”

You’d shit yourself! You could also guarantee that that Doctor wouldn’t be practicing medicine any more.

I think we should all adopt the Post Office’s business practices. Go into work tomorrow and tell your boss you need a raise. When he asks why, tell him if he pays you an extra 2 dollars an hour, you’ll make sure you won’t accidentally ‘lose’ half the year’s budget. Also tell him that if he pays you extra, and you do screw up, it’ll give him the right to fire you. See what reaction you get.

It just doesn’t make sense.

It particularly pisses me off because last month I sent my Dad a package for his birthday…it never arrived. I followed all the rules. I answered the security questions, I filled out the customs label, I put on the correct amount of postage. Result? A Birthday Cake, birthday card, and a package of very expensive coffee lost in the Postal Service limbo, and twenty dollars postage I’ll never see again. Why? Because I didn’t double the price of the postage by sending it insured.

It doesn’t end there. I once sent some jewelry from the UK to America. That I did insure. After postage and insurance, the cost of sending it was over half what I’d paid for the jewelry in the first place.

As I handed the package over, the woman behind the counter informed me, matter of factly: “Oh, because this is an international package, it’s only insured to the value of twenty five pounds.”


The jewelry (earrings) cost 40GBP, postage was 10GBP and the insurance cost was 15GBP. If it got lost or damaged, I’d get the grand total of 25 back.

Do the math. All I was insured against was the cost of the postage…and what I’d paid for the insurance in the first place!

Of course, it was now ‘in the computer’ and I couldn’t ‘unbuy’ the insurance. Apparently, the difference between insured and uninsured is 10 measly GBP.

How does this happen? If you think about it, it’s ludicrous. I have to pay them extra just to make sure I get my money back if they lose my package…and they still don’t have to pay me for the package they lost!

Can you imagine that in any other business?

“Ok, here’s the deal. We’ll store your twenty thousand dollar car for 2 weeks. It’ll cost you two grand. However, if you pay me three ‘n’ a half, I’ll give you your money back if it gets stolen.”

“But… what about the cost of my car?”

“Don’t ask me, pal, that’s your problem.”

I don’t think so.

Here’s what I suggest you do. Rather than buy things and post them…buy them off the internet and have them directly shipped to where you want them to go. A lot of websites have free shipping, and even if you do have to pay extra for international shipping, at least if they lose it, you get another one free of charge, and don’t have to pay any extra to have the new one shipped.

Anyway, I have to go now. I have to inform my Father-in Law that he now has to pay me $20 every time I borrow his lawnmower, just to make sure I’ll fix or replace it if I break it.



serendipity said...

Wherever you turn theres a crazy story to be found.
You have a knack for picking up on them. I always thought the postal insurance thing was crazy! I sometimes send things to my friends in the US and face the saem issues. If Iw ant to make sure it arrives i have o pay extra....I agree with you. What the hell am I paying for in the first place then??? Why don't they just put up the price of postage and make sure it gets there instead of asking you to play a postal lottery every time you try to send something!!!

You're right . . . 'Bastards'!!

Paulius said...

You know, sometimes I write these things, and I re-read them and think: "Is this really that strange/stupid/wrong...or am I just a psycho?"

Nice to see someone else finds the world as weird as I do

Kato said...

I always had a suspicion that the mob secretly ran the postal service. You've just confirmed it. :)

Vicarious Living said...

I agree with you guys - I'm paying for a service, yet that doesn't mean you'll perform said service correctly. I mean really, every package should automatically have a tracking number, and the only insurance I need is that you do your job correctly. Grrr.