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Remember the motto of the United States Post Office — to the effect that neither snow nor sleet would stop delivery of the mail? I believed it once. Not now.

The U.S. Postal Service does not live up to its name. It may be “U.S.” and it may deal with things “Postal.” It’s the “Service” part that I have a problem with.

My favorite Webster’s Dictionary says service means providing professional aid or help, meeting the needs of customers with goods and services. I think the USPS missed that class.

Oh, we can go into our nearby post office and pick up stamps, post cards, letters and envelopes and even mugs, shirts, stationery and holiday decorations! But how about the reason for the Post Office existing at all — not selling souvenirs, but the safe, reliable delivery of mail?

As I said, I once had faith in the old place but reality has hit me squarely between the eyes, and now, every time I drop a letter in the slot, I pray. Most of the time, I also either insure or certify! Needless to say, my postage expenses have risen to levels that are about unacceptable.

When I walk in, the clerks know who I am! When I complain, they expect it! Lest you think I’m just a crank, you should know that one of the clerks let me in on a dark secret the last time I complained.

She looked around to be certain no one could hear, and whispered to me “You’re my hero.” Hero? Me? She explained that she was so glad I continued to complain because things were really out of control and that someone (in this case, me) needed to be on their case.

Mind you, this was a long-time employee. And she wasn’t the only one. Several clerks have told me the same; but they also said that any complaint is like shouting down a well.

If you have no P.O. problems, consider yourself lucky. Listen to this: A certified letter returned with postage due. This is tricky, since when it’s mailed, postage is paid in full! Note, that means in advance!

When I complained, the clerk (who barely spoke English) just shrugged, though he joked with another employee that “oops, it happened again.” When I stood there, he asked me if I needed something else. I said “yes, an apology.” With a smirk, he said “Sorry.”

I saw another clerk dealing with a customer and there was a severe language problem. It was the clerk who didn’t understand English! When I mentioned it to an English-speaking clerk, I was told that the woman was just faking it. She spoke English just fine; in fact, had a college degree in Science — she just didn’t care to bother about helping customers.

How about a certified letter which just disappeared from the face of the earth? Never found it. Ever.

How about weekly magazines (of which I get many!) which arrive two and three at a time? Complaints to the publishers are routine as are my complaints to the Post Office. I have stacks of them. In fact, just this week, I got two copies of two different magazines at a time, and three copies of another.

As for my complaints? Well, they get turned in and nothing happens. Once, the Postmaster told me he had no record of my complaints. Apparently, one of the supervisors had tossed them.

If you wonder why I “mail and pray,” consider that in the last year and a half alone, I have mailed department store payments, as well as mortgage, insurance, cable service and internet service payments only to find out that they never arrived! Missed mortgage payments are expensive. Canceled cable and Internet service is a major inconvenience. Canceled insurance policies are dangerous.

Thank you, Post Office. When I complain, I fill out the form and it goes into a black hole. Nothing.

When I awaited an “overnight delivery” from a town 15 miles away, I needed it for work on a Friday; Saturday at the latest. It was mailed on a Wednesday. There should have been plenty of time. I got it six days later. The supervisor had misfiled the notice. Oops. No apology.

Several of the clerks said they were happy I complained because they were building a file on the supervisor’s incompetencies. A lot of good that did; she still works there.

It gives me a warm feeling to know that postage rates were raised this year and plans are made to hike them again. On a budget of $67 billion (yes, billion) a year, they just can’t make it. Considering that when I mail a letter to a neighbor, they ship the mail 15 miles away to another county and then back here to my neighbor’s house — maybe, just maybe there are some inefficiencies.

Oh, by the way, the whole operation went into the hole again to the tune of nearly $200 million. But they had enough money to pay 80-thousand managers bonuses totaling $280 million for, of all things, meeting performance goals!

No wonder e-mail is popular, and hail FedEx and UPS! At least they know if their service is lousy the customer has recourse. With the USPS, lousy service means only one thing. Higher postal rates. There’s something wrong with this picture — we’re getting the snow job.

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