Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whatever happened to the U.S. Mail?

When I was a kid, if there was one thing you could rely on, it was the U.S. Postal Service. It was commonly understood that you could basically tape a nickel into a gum wrapper, write a mailing address on it in crayon, and it would arrive at its intended destination in a few days. There were still services such as Certified Mail and Return Receipt (although fewer of such services than there are today) but you didn't really need them, because there was simply no doubt that your letter or package would get to its destination.

Those days, sadly, seem to be long gone. It could be a California thing, since I didn't start experiencing this problem until I moved out here in the 2000s, but I remember being shocked the first time I delivered something through the Post Office that mysteriously failed to arrive at its destination. By the third time, I wasn't shocked anymore, just sad. Keep in mind that these were items that I opted to purchase delivery tracking for. Who knows how many items that I just dropped in the mailbox never made it where they were supposed to go?

What's the explanation? Is the Post Office really just less careful with items that have been marked with some kind of delivery confirmation, relying on the fact that customers will assume their packages are safer and not bother to check? After all, you don't really have any recourse once the Postal Service screws up (although you do have some. EHow has some ideas on what to do when your stuff is lost in the mail). Is it just a West Coast thing, and East Coast mail is as reliable as ever? Is it the fact that so many people use email and other forms of digital transmission that the Postal Service just figures no one is paying attention anymore? Is it that people are buying fewer stamps?

If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them. In the meantime, I have a letter to reprint and resend.

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