Invitation Controversy or Why the Post Office is Failing…

Post office, - Google Maps

Post Office, Schaumburg, IL

Unlike many, I don't use the U.S. Post Office often –almost never actually– and I know exactly when my aversion for this bureaucratic nightmare of an institution began….

Indulge me, if you will, back to somewhere around 1998…a simpler time.  It's summer, and a young(er) version of myself needs to send a care package to a friend.  Boxed, sealed, and wrapped in the most professional and postally approved way, my small package is ready for its journey across the country. After arriving at the foreboding  post office somewhere in Roselle, IL, I humbly present my package for weighing and inspection. All goes well.  Paper work is filled out, questions are answered, and the time arrives for payment.  My heart beat quickens as the Post Master requests payment.  I gingerly pull out my American Express Gold card and present it to the official. He glances at it and begins the process of charging the $11.48 postage.  As he turns the card over to review the signature, he glances up sharply. PROBLEM! 

Post Master: "Excuse me, your card is not signed… I cannot accept it!"

Me: [humbled] "I'm sorry…"

Post Master: "Do you have a different card, I cannot accept this one…"

Me: [confused] "Excuse me… Oh, I prefer not to sign the back of my cards… I put "Please ask for identification across the signature panel.  Here is my driver's license."

Post Master: "I cannot accept that. Your card must be signed." 

Me: [more confused]: "I'm sorry what?"

Post Master: "Your card it is not signed.  I cannot accept it."

Me: [getting pointed] You are correct.  It is not signed.  This is to prevent fraud.  By labeling 'Please ask for identification' across the signature panel it now requires proof that the person presenting the card is actually me. Here is my government issued driver's license accepted by all federal and commercial agencies as valid PROOF of identification.

Post Master: "Our regulations require a credit card to have a personal signature to be accepted."

Me: [beginning to get angry] That makes absolutely no sense! Anyone can sign a stolen credit card and then the signatures would match… Requiring the person accepting the card to ask for identification provides a stronger measure of proof that the individual presenting the credit card is actually the owner of said card. Me!

Post Master: "Well if you would like to sign the card now, I could accept it."

Me: [astonished, exasperated, amazed, shocked, and many more emotions] "WHAT?!" 

Post Master: "If you sign the card now I can accept it for payment and you can ship your package…"

Me: [now angry] You do understand the absolute ridiculousness of the statement you just made. Don't you?! You won't accept a card that is REQUIRING YOU TO ASK FOR A VALID-LEGITIMATE-FORM OF IDENTIFICATION, but you will accept it if I simply sign a name on it…

Post Master: [deadpan] Yes!

Me: Give me my package, I'm going to Federal Express…

This brings us to the present day…

My son Joshua is turning 6 years old in the very near future. With his party coming up, I needed to mail the invitations to his party. Apparently, I live by the rule that once every 12 years you should go back to the post office. Actually, if I had my choice I wouldn't have, but you see I found exactly 10 "First Class Forever" postage stamps in my car… (I could not tell you when I purchased said stamps, but I believe it was from a local grocery chain.) Unfortunately, I had ELEVEN invitations… Rut roh… 

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The Offending Invitation

So, since I was driving by the Schaumburg, IL post office on my way home, I decided it would be easier to purchase ONE stamp as that was all I needed. Upon arriving at the post office, I was greeted by an automated system that would allow me to use a credit card to purchase a book of stamps… but not one… because I had arrived during postal hours, I reluctantly entered the den of the Post Master and waited my turn. Soon a middle aged Asian postal clerk glances in my direction:

Postal Clerk: "Can I help you?"

Me: "I just need a single stamp"

I slide the envelope over the counter for inspection.  She picks up the envelope, places it on the scale, and then runs her hand over the top pressing down ever so slightly…

Postal Clerk: "There is a 'stone' inside…"

Me: [confused] "Huh?" (OK, I understood the word, but the context just didn't make any sense…)

Postal Clerk: "'Stone.' There is a 'stone' inside…" [glancing at another postal clerk]

Other Postal Clerk: "$.20"

Postal Clerk: "Twenty cent additional charge… 'stone' inside…"

Me: [still not quite understanding what is actually happening] "What?! There is not a 'stone' inside it's an invitation to a 6 year olds birthday…"

Postal Clerk: [glancing at the other clerk for moral support] "See here… here and here… 'stone' twenty cent additional… [quietly] each…

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Me: [coming to grasp with the ridiculousness of what I was hearing] "Wait… what?!… But, there is no 'stone'… it's an… invitation… just need… stamp…"

Postal Clerk: "Twenty cent additional for each…" 

Me: [amazed] "But, I can just get a stamp somewhere else and drop them into a postal box… I don't think the 'mail man' is going to refuse to pick them up or return them [to me]…

The Postal Clerk simply gazes at me…

Me: [dumbfounded] "I'll just get a stamp at Jewel and drop them into a box…"

I take my invitation back and walk out the door glancing back once still amazed at what just occurred. Then I started wondering what these invitations actually weigh… So, I stopped by the handy automated postage machine. 4.1oz FOR THE ENTIRE STACK OF ELEVEN… Each one weighs a fraction of an ounce and they want an additional $.20 for each for a total of $2.20.  Is that going to break me? No, but it is a ridiculous charge for no reason…

So, on the way home, I stopped at a Jewel grocery store and purchased a book of Forever First Class stamps for $8.80, stuck one on and dropped the invitations at the Cary, IL post office. I am confident that they will be delivered without the $.20 surcharge… If they are not, I'll let you know…

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A look at the invitation… the "stones" are simply rivet guides

Right now, for the most part, almost everything I do is digital… the only thing the post office brings to me is junk mail… Oh, incase you are wondering, we texted a "save the date" announcement to every family invited two weeks prior to sending the invitations… If this silliness keeps up, I think I may move fully to digital phone based invites to future parties (and everything else…).

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