business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, in "FaceTime," I spoke about a local mailman who, when he had to walk three steps to my mailbox because of how a workman's truck was parked, left notes in the mailbox and on the windshield asking us not to block the box. I commented:

Now, I don't mean to be petty here … but the mailbox wasn't blocked. It was easy to get to, albeit on foot. Three steps!

At some level, maybe this is a civil service mentality. But I also think there is a broader business lesson here. How many employees in any business would resent it if made to go just a little bit out of the way for a customer? How many employees in failing businesses would feel that way … and to what extent could one actually attribute a business's problems to employees with that kind of attitude problem?

My feeling is, that guy should've walked the three steps and thanked his lucky stars that the Post Office hasn't yet gone to five, four or even three day a week delivery. Or sold its assets to FedEx or Amazon.

The thing is, it is entirely possible that postal workers are being evaluated based on speed, not customer service. And not just postal workers. There are a lot of organizations in which people are ranked on efficiency, not effectiveness. When you think about it, such cultures may actually be getting in the way of their own success.

In the current economy, nobody - not at the highest levels, and not on the front lines - can afford to mail it in. Because we live in a world where the only way to get ahead is to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities to delivery exceptional service … not whiny little notes.

MNB reader Bob Thomas disagreed with my commentary:

I am not with you on this one.  If you have a house with mobile delivered service then you should not block the mailbox.  Respect the rules.  Are you trying to stop a disabled worker from completing his/her duties?  I am not sure about the current stats but it used to be that 95% of all first class mail was delivered within 3 days.  Any private companies willing to compete with that at the prices charged?

And another:

Think for  a moment how much later the mail would be if half the mailboxes on each street had a car parked in front . . .   Think how you would feel if the contractor had parked halfway across your driveway and you had to spend an extra two minutes trying to get out.  One person’s negligent blocking of a mailbox isn’t much, but multiplied, it could delay everyone’s mail considerably.  A polite note to avoid blocking a mailbox or a driveway is not really anything to rail against, is it?

And from another:

Kevin, you are way off the mark in my opinion.  Back up a step and consider the worker who parked so close to your box that the driver could not pull up to it.  Where’s the “outrage” for his inconsideration?  The postal carrier made his delivery and asked you not to do it again – what’s wrong with that?  You’re whining like he keyed your car!

The carrier made more of an effort in this affair than either you or the truck driver.  Why don’t you wait out by the box tomorrow with a cookie and a thank-you?

For balance, read the story in Wednesday’s Fort Worth Star Telegram about carriers being attacked by dogs.  Now, they also have to watch out for grumpy homeowners!

But, another reader wrote:

Your observation on your local mailman mimics what I've seen over the years.

I work at home and have seen our local mailman go through all kinds of elaborate contortions to avoid getting out of the truck; Driving over the lawn, pushing garbage cans around, etc.

One year he got stuck in a snow drift (I live in NY).  I went to get my mail and actually helped push him out.  He never moved of course.  He did thank me though.

He actually skipped me once because he couldn't get to the box.

Not a bad guy, but holy cow, try and get out of the seat once in a while.

From another reader:

This has been going on for quite some time now. If you have daughters with friends stopping in it's even worse. One short 5 minute stop for a pickup and if it happens to be in front of the mailbox just at the wrong time of day it's no mail for that day.

I also work in a position where we send information out to our customers monthly. About a year ago some of the mail started to be returned with a note that read "no mailbox at curb". The stores have an address on the door and the mail was always brought in. That way the mail carrier could also pick up any out going mail.

Not so any more. They were told their mail would no longer be delivered until a box was installed at the curb.

Now that's customer service. Not!

MNB user Jason Priest wrote:

I had two recent experiences with the Post Office that made me wonder (even more so than normal) how they are still in business.  I was in a local Post Office twice over the last two weeks to send two packages.  For whatever reason, I had brought both packages to the Post Office without being taped up.  The boxes were normal sized.  The first package I shipped, I asked for tape at the counter and was told that if I added tracking and signature confirmation, he could find some tape for me.  I was ok with that, and the employee proceeded to tape my package with tape he had at his register station.  One week later, I had a different person helping me... this time it was a woman.  I again asked if I could use some tape for my package.  The first question I was asked was "how was I planning to ship my package - ground or priority?".  I wanted the cheapest option - I responded ground.  I was then told that she did not have tape, but there was tape for sale for $3.95 a roll.  I was quite furious over this "bartering" situation and gave her a piece of my mind.  I ended up taking my package to UPS, where they had plenty of tape for me to use with no bartering involved.

MNB reader William Holleran wrote:

Deliberate use of the phrase “mail it in”?  You have to think of how the Post Office must feel that their entire business can be summed up in a phrase that means inefficient and slow?

Thanks for the chuckle.

And, on another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

KC…thought you would like to know…The ‘Frozen’  YouTube video you had on the MNB the other day was hilarious. My wife is a preschool teacher and can’t get the kids to stop singing the song…ad nauseam everyday. She laughed out loud and couldn’t wait to share it with her fellow teachers. You never know what you’re going to find on the MNB…

Music to my ears…
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