Dear United States Postal Service:

You may or may not know this, but I generally try not to be “that” customer. You know the one. The one who calls screaming if something is a day later than promised, demanding remuneration. The one who writes furious letters about how you ruined Christmas because you should deliver through blinding snowstorms. That sort of thing. No, no, I worked in a call center in high school, I took phone calls from “that” customer, and I don’t want to be her.

Mostly I’ve succeeded. Actually, I can count on the fingers of — one finger how many times I have lost my shit on the phone with someone. It was Capital One, after literally 12 months of trying to cancel a credit card with them, and I won’t go into details about it because after about 7 years I’m still furious and will never get another card from them ever again. Slime. But I digress. I try to be nice and rational and always remember that the person on the other end of the line is getting paid about six bucks to fix what some other yammerhead in another state fucked up. I try to remember that the yammerhead probably didn’t mean for bad things to happen; they were just following instructions. I try to remember that shit happens, and sometimes not everything goes according to plan, and I deal with it.

This is apparently the wrong strategy to take with you.

So I finally gave in to my bitchier instincts (as compared with my slacker, que sera, sera instincts) and called 1-800-ASK-USPS today to lodge a complaint against my local post office eating my packages.

Last year, I got a call from my auto insurance agent in about June, telling me he’d just gotten all my renewal paperwork returned to him in the mail, stamped ADDRESS NONEXISTENT. This was two months after my renewal date, months after I moved. I verified the mailing address he had: it was correct. He tried again, and eventually it arrived. Which was nice.

In January, I got a fat envelope from USENIX, which surprised me. A few months ago I’d written them to say that I had never received a bunch of the short topics booklets, and someone had just posted to the sage-members list about a new one coming out, and were they no longer free to members? A customer service agent wrote back, apologized and said yes, they still were free to members, and sent me the entire back catalogue. Of course, since she used the mail it took a while. The last envelope arrived over three months after the date on the postmark. It was mailed from Berkeley, not the Horsehead Nebula.

On about 28 December, I ordered two DVDs from an Amazon partner (i.e., when you go the “New and used…” route on an Amazon item page, and it’s fulfilled by someone who isn’t actually Amazon). The shipping estimate on that was up to 21 days, which was OK since I wasn’t in a real rush. The shipper gave me a delivery confirmation number. He shipped it the next day, then there was New Year’s, and then on the 2nd the package was scanned in Forest Park, IL — presumably where they sort things fresh off airplanes at ORD. The package then fell off the face of the earth, and was never scanned again. In early February, I filed for a refund from the seller, and got a partial refund (don’t ask).

Also during this time, I was participating in the SP9 knitting secret pal gift exchange, a worldwide secret-santa style present exchange. My spoiler, the person who was kind enough to send me personalized gifts, lives in Germany. Imagine her sentiment when a surprise box — not cheap to send airmail from Europe! — simply never arrived. I got other packages in the mean time, and dutifully went to the post office to pick them up, but hers never has. So that one screwed not one but two of us, which is I suppose at least very efficient.

And then my friend Dan called me up and said, “Hey, did you get that package from me?” It turns out that out of the blue, he had decided to surprise me with something as well. A few days after it should have been delivered per the delivery estimates, he was worrying when I hadn’t said anything. I of course hadn’t received anything. He checked the tracking number: last scanned in Forest Park, IL. Of course.

So, disgusted and getting a little bitter about this — I mean, there’s been other stuff, don’t get me wrong: I routinely don’t get bills in a timely manner so I wind up having to write $200 checks to People’s Gas or whatever, but bills suck so I don’t actually mind that part that much — I finally decided to figure out what has to be done to get someone at the USPS care that they are operating a black hole on Division Street in 60622. A mystery which remains unanswered: I called, struggled my way through their phone tree (which at least had the nicety of voice-recognition which actually worked; I didn’t have to repeat myself once), got to an agent who took down my complaint and contact information, gave me a confirmation number, and then said that if I complained three times, it would be escalated to Consumer Affairs. She didn’t say what would happen in the mean time.

Without losing my cool but not possessing limitless tolerance for incompetence, I mentioned that my neighbors in the same zip code seem to have similar experiences. I added that a friend of mine had said it was a joke to expect anything to be delivered in 60622. Her reception got a little chillier after that. Oh well.

(Perhaps my complaint will be stuffed in an envelope and mailed off to Forest Park.)

I see my mistake now. I should have been trying to be “that” customer. I should have called after every single incident. I should have been on the phone, all “WTF” right in your face after my insurance agent called me. I should have read someone the riot act about the USENIX bulletins. I should have been riding someone’s ass about the DVD package before January was out, I should have been stalking someone about my gift box from Germany, and I should have gone from Dan asking if it had arrived to calling the USPS without even closing the clamshell phone. If I had been “that” customer all along, maybe someone in customer service would have a reason to care. Now, I have to wait for even more packages to be lost — oh, I’ll insure them this time, but that won’t help exhaust the mandatory timeout period while you wait in vain for your package to be delivered, nor will it recompense me for my time in ordering things that will never come — before I can expect someone to care about what happens in our post office. I’ve already decided not to participate in SP10, because I don’t want to be a sucky participant: I don’t want my spoiler to have to sit and wait, and wait, and wait, for her surprises to be received and appreciated, only to be disappointed in the end when my post office eats them. (I also don’t want to force my spoiler to use UPS, because UPS can a pain in the ass to ship via, and that would limit my scope of participation to only domestic pals, when I really wanted to have an international pal.) So now I’ve had to change my routines and withdraw from hobbies in order to accomodate the 60622 black hole. Way to go. Come rain, come snow, just for the love of god don’t come when we don’t feel like delivering.

No love,

p.s. I WANT MY $#%^&%$#% MAIL, YOU JERKS!