December 23, 2014 at 3:45 PM by Dr. Drang
It’s a cliche to make fun of the US Postal Service. The jokes follow a predictable pattern: the service is slow, the workers behind the counter are rude, and the whole enterprise is woefully behind the times. Some people go off on a political rant about government workers. Everyone has a story about some mistake the post office has made that caused them great suffering.
I do, too. I also have stories about FedEx and UPS ruining packages and screwing up deliveries. I don’t jump on Twitter to tell them because shit happens. The more you use a service, the more likely you are to have had problems with it. We all have post office stories because that is by far the service we use the most.
I happen to have a really good USPS story. For the past few months, I’ve been in charge of my mother’s medicine. She lives on her own in a neighboring state and does pretty well with the help of friends and local relatives, but her mental faculties have slowed and number of pills she has to keep track of has increased. So in the late summer, I took over the job of organizing her medication. I pick up the prescriptions, I dole out a week’s worth in one of those plastic pill organizers, and I send it to her. By mail.
The steps are simple:
- I pack the organizer in a small Priority Mail box. I have a supply of them at home from the last time I went to the post office.
- I go to usps.com, log in to my account, and create a shipping label. Like FedEx or Apple or Amazon, the USPS has a credit card on file for me and knows the address I typically ship things to. I click the checkbox to have updates emailed to me, and I print the label and receipt. The site is nicely laid out, and I’m done in under a minute.
- I tape the label to the box and drop it in a mailbox on my way to work Monday morning—Tuesday morning if Monday is a holiday. Priority Mail says it’s a 3-day service, but the package is usually at my mom’s house by Wednesday. I get 5-6 email updates as the package moves through a couple of sorting centers, then to her local post office, and finally to her house.
This costs $5.25. FedEx would cost over $20 for two-day delivery. UPS is $12 for three-day delivery. More important than the cost is the comfort factor. Mom is used to getting mail; she’s not used to having a delivery man knock on her door.
I confess I was concerned when I started this. Not because of delivery reliability, but because I assumed the USPS website would be horrible. But a friend who makes regular shipments this way assured me it was very easy, and he was right. The whole process has been remarkably smooth—almost 20 deliveries without a hitch. In fact, as I was typing this, I got an email saying this week’s package arrived at the sorting facility in Mom’s state. She’ll have it tomorrow, as usual.