Vital Signs

Delivering the Goods

My local post office in suburban Seattle seems to be rigged to discourage customers these days.  When you ask for the slightest bit of “consumer assistance”—as their cheerful mission statement on the wall promises they’re only too happy to provide—they seem to get ferociously cross.  I was once read the riot act by a young postal clerk because I asked if perhaps I could be allowed an inch or two of Scotch tape from one of the dozen or so open rolls of the stuff I could see on the shelf behind her.  She lectured me, at some length, on the policy of her “facility” not providing such “resources” free of charge, although, to be fair, she did go on to offer to sell me a 12-yard roll of the stuff for only $3.69, and also to draw my attention to the value pack of 16 rolls, with dispenser, retailing for the bargain price of $39.99.

Another time, I made the mistake of asking a different clerk at the same location if I could post a small package by express airmail to London.  Actually, that’s not exactly how this particular “great consumer experience”—to quote once again the writing on the wall—began.  It began by the bearded young man on duty remarking that, when I finally approached his counter, I looked just a little bit upset.  When I politely asked what the appropriate facial expression might be in his opinion, he didn’t...

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