Tag Archives: USPS

An Epic Journey of Persistence, Resilience, and Prevailing

Anyone with a year’s worth of training, a boatload of cash, and a pile of sherpas can pull off an epic journey. But the truly remarkable epic journeys are the ones we mere mortals navigate in our cashless, sherpa-less lives. For example, last year during my two-week 50th birthday celebration, when I jumped off a 15-foot cliff  into the ocean, I lost a ring in the process. The ring meant a lot to me — it was my son’s birthstone, and I bought it in a consignment shop during a solo writing weekend when my son was small. I wasn’t happy about losing it, but it somehow seemed fitting. It was like shedding the old me and making an offering to the ocean in exchange for the fantastic birthday and year I was having. And let’s be serious, it was also an opportunity to get a new ring.

I took my time and found a handmade wrapped wire style on Etsy that I liked, and the site’s owner Tammy agreed to make me a custom one with my son’s birthstone.

And that’s where the easy part ended. The first ring she made me (notice I said first) was never delivered. Correction. The USPS sent me an annoying text and email saying that it had been delivered, but I can tell you it was never in my mailbox. They claimed it was probably stolen, which is all fine and good, except for one small detail. I had only recently recovered from the four packages and various cards and important letters my local carrier had failed to deliver in the previous several months. During that time in the black hole of USPS ineptitude, my attempts to find out what was going on ended up with the USPS package center manager telling me (after I called her five times over three weeks) “We looked everywhere and can’t find it. Just order another one,” which I’m sure the folks at Amazon and Lands End love to hear. She never even apologized.

So I must be forgiven if I find the USPS explanation of theft a tad insincere. But it wasn’t Tammy’s fault that my Zip code seems to have become some sort of delivery Bermuda Triangle, so I ordered another one. Tammy was nice enough not to charge me a delivery fee, and I had it sent to my work address in Boston, hoping that would help.

It didn’t.

This time the USPS decided to mess things up on Tammy’s end. She’s in California and I’m in Boston. Did I mention the only thing possibly more annoying than the USPS’s inability to simply deliver things is their utterly useless tracking website? Whereas before you had no idea where it was or an ability to track, you could just say, “well, it got lost in the mail.” Annoying, but not nearly annoying as seeing, for example that ring number two was, according to the tracking bar, still in California a week and a half after Tammy sent it. I kept checking, but that little line from California to the East Coast hadn’t moved. I think I’d rather be blissfully ignorant.

Between us, Tammy and I made about four phone calls to our respective postal people. The Boston guys couldn’t do much except tell me exactly what the stupid tracking website said. “Uh, it’s in California.” Thanks, Einstein. And do you have any thoughts about why a package would be in the same place for more than week? Are the Californians sitting around getting high or going to the beach or doing whatever it is those weird West Coast people do? Finally whether it was the phone calls or the Californians came back from the beach, the little tracking bar started to move again. And of course no explanation or apology from the USPS was offered. So after putting in my first order on December 23, I finally received the second ring on February 26.

And it was too big. Like 2.5 sizes too big, almost like the Grinch’s heart, only I was feeling more like the Grinch with the shriveled heart. It was totally my fault. I printed out a ring sizer from the Zales website — what the hell was I thinking? So there was nothing to do but take it to jeweler number one (notice I said jeweler number one). He asked me if the ring was solid silver. Tammy’s website said silver, but didn’t specify solid. When I told him, he turned out to be one of those people who insists on doing quality work when you don’t necessarily want it. He didn’t want to take the chance if it wasn’t silver. Of course he also said, “Just have her send you the right size,” which nearly put me into a USPS-induced stress seizure right there in the store. I did not have the time to explain the full agony of what I had gone through, and the shortened version fell on deaf ears. Apparently everyone thinks everything is replaceable and people are willing to send you second and thirds for free.

I emailed Tammy about the type of silver, but frankly I think she was sick of me by this point, and I can’t say I blame her. If I were her, I would have started blocking my messages. My resolve started to flag, but my coworkers, who had been listening to this saga for two months, were encouraging. They probably were just sick of hearing about it and wanted it to end, but still I appreciated the support. One commented that the ring had become a great symbol of perseverance and another pointed out that even if the resizing messed up the band, it would be on the part of the band no one could see when I was wearing it. True enough.

So I went in search of a less scrupulous jeweler and saw there was one in the sketchier part of town. Perfect. After getting honked at by a couple of mean looking guys because I had the nerve to back into a metered space, I locked my door and walked past the shuttered and fading storefronts to the one I was looking for. The minute I walked in though it felt like home. An older couple was at the back of the store chatting with a customer they knew and cooing over her baby granddaughter. While I waited, another woman came in and they knew her too. I looked around the store — it was filled with cool, old jewelry and all kinds of knickknacks and old toys. It could have been overwhelming, but everything seemed carefully curated. When it was my turn, they listen to my story, and he said the same caveat about the silver. I said if it’s not perfect that’s OK, and the woman practically finished my sentence, saying “You just want to wear it.”

Yes. Exactly. I. Just. Want. To. Wear. It.

Five days later I picked up the solid silver ring that had been resized without a blemish, and I’m the proud wearer of a ring that inspired the most epic journey of persistence, resilience, and prevailing ever.

And so check out Tammy’s store on Etsy, Spirals and Spice, but it’s probably best if you don’t say I sent you. She may still be recovering from her own epic journey of dealing with me.

Customer Service Gone Horribly, Horribly Wrong

Despite the millions of dollars and endless energy that is put into defining, training, providing, and complaining about customer service, precious few companies get it right. I have learned over the years that I don’t really want to spend that much energy on it — either way, good or bad, so I try to take the majority of it in stride. Middling average, nothing great and nothing awful is good enough for me. But recently I have experienced two extremes on the spectrum that are equally annoying and make me wish for disengaged millennials in a call center reading from a script.

The first one is, no big surprise, the USPS. There will be an entire blog post devoted to them at some point — either when this issue gets resolved, or I just need to comment on what it’s like to stare into the dark, empty, black hole of bureaucratic nonsense. In short, my packages and half my mail is not getting delivered. I’m an online ordering whore, so this is a serious problem. For those of you who actually shop in stores, most online retailers now use something called SmartPost, which you can tell right off the bat screams the classic bureaucratic tactic of putting lipstick on a pig; the real name should be DumbPost or NoPost. When things are sent by, *ahem* “SmartPost,” a reliable carrier like UPS or FedEx delivers your package to your local post office, where most packages go to die. Your USPS carrier then “delivers” the package to you, in theory. I’ve gotten annoyingly chirpy texts and emails from UPS and even the USPS that say, “Your package has been delivered!” And since September, no, it bloody well hasn’t.

Think that USPS tracking number will help you? Bwa-ah-ah-ah (cue thunder-clap). Here’s what will happen: you will go to the post office, wielding your tracking number. They will look it up and tell you to call the post office package facility, which by the way, is at a different, undisclosed location. You will call the package facility and give them the tracking number. They will claim to type it into a computer and tell you they need to research it and call you back. They will not call you back. After two weeks of you calling them four times to reenact this scenario, they will tell you. “We looked everywhere and we can’t find it. The carrier doesn’t remember it. Have another one sent.” Hmmm, so you can lose that one too? MInd you, there was no apology or explanation of how they failed to do the one task they are responsible for executing. Nice.

And don’t bother to fill the online customer service complaint form. I’ve done it twice within a few weeks, and after it pretends to let you arduously fill all the gory details about how the USPS has screwed you over and you hit the submit button, it tells you the webpage is currently unavailable. How convenient. I’m sure they want you to call and talk to someone so there is no physical evidence. I’m working up to getting the strength for that call, so I can waste more of my time over something I shouldn’t have to be dealing with. Did I mention they have one job? Deliver shit. One. Job.

Customer service part two. On the other end of the spectrum we have creepy CVS. I use a nasal spray for seasonal allergies. I use it randomly and refill it randomly. I started getting robocalls reminding me to refill it, but I wasn’t finished with it. After the third robocall, I listened to the very end and it gave a number to call to stop the reminder messages. Great! I called the number and stopped the calls. That’s good customer service.

But then I got a call from an actual pharmacy person who said my profile wasn’t complete, and I needed to call them. I ignored it because, clearly, they have the right phone number, and I get their emails, so whatever wasn’t in my profile couldn’t be that urgent. But I was wrong. It was urgent for them because not even a week later I got another phone call from another live pharmacy person saying my profile wasn’t complete.

Christ! Look, people, I have enough to do calling the goddamn post office every other day to give them tracking a tracking number so they can pretend to click on a keyboard and lose my packages. Now I have to call CVS in the name of customer service?

So I put my big girl pants on and called. “Um, I got a call about my profile being incomplete?” I said, making it clear that I was confused by the oddity of this request.

“Oh, yes, we noticed you haven’t refilled your prescription for your nasal spray. Are you still using it?” WTF? I felt vaguely violated. Do they also call you and ask you about your embarrassing skin rash cream? Your herpes or crabs medicine? I work at a hospital, so I know this wasn’t exactly a patient privacy violation. Technically, the pharmacist people are involved in your care so they should have access to your information. But still it felt weird. Plus, then I had to justify my non-use to a stranger. I have enough trouble keeping my bad health habits from my doctor, and now I have to do it for the CVS person.

“I don’t use it all the time. Only when I need it.” I paused. There was a disapproving silence on the other end of the phone. “So I don’t need to refill it that much,” I ended lamely, feeling mad about being embarrassed and by the fact that technically, that’s not really “profile” information. When you go online and look at your account profile for, oh, pretty much anything, it’s basic contact information. How much you use their product is not a part of that. We all know they have a secret profile of us, but most places have the good sense to hide that from you. Otherwise we might feel freaked out and violated like when CVS calls you about your goddamn nasal spray usage.

“OK, thank you for calling CVS.” Don’t thank me, girlie — go make your nasal spray quota on someone else. And while you’re at it, can you look up my USPS tracking number?