Saturday, March 06, 2010


provides many unique opportunities to practice self-control and equanimity -

especially when it continues to return mail to the sender rather than forwarding it to one's new address.

especially when the returned mail includes 1099 forms and bank statements and correspondence from one's union

especially when mail sent to the new address takes two months to get there.

One can aside an afternoon and wait on hold for eons before finally speaking to a supervisor at the post office where one used to live, which is not forwarding the mail. The supervisor tells the caller she probably filled out the forwarding info wrong, and to call the supervisor at the post office in the new zip code - because that's where the problem is. The caller can argue that she has proof that the forwarding was done correctly three months ago, and be told yet again to call Post Office B.

One can go through the motions again - dig up the phone number, call and call til the line isn't busy, wait on hold, finally get the right supervisor, explain in detail what has happened... and be told the same thing; that one has not correctly completed the paperwork (even though she has proof that it was indeed done correctly) and that the problem is at the first post office.

One can complain that mail sent to the correct address takes as long as two months to arrive, and one will be told that the problem is the fault of the old post office. "But it was sent to the correct address!" the caller protests. The supervisor assures her she'll talk to the carrier.

One can act very nice but refuse to get off the phone until the supervisor confirms that all is well in the computer after all. Still being kind, one can also stay on the phone long enough to learn that someone at the old zip code is probably not putting the mail into something called "The CSS," where they put the mail that is to be forwarded.

One can call Post Office A the next day at 7:30am, when the mail carrier is there, and be stuck with the supervisor, who refuses to put the caller through to the carrier and says again that it is all the caller's fault for not filling out the paperwork correctly. One can tell the supervisor in a testy tone of voice that it was done correctly and is in the computer correctly - the problem is that someone is not putting the mail in "The CSS." Pause. There is no problem here, the problem is downtown, the caller is told. The caller can ask yet again to speak to the mail carrier for Route #30, and again, and again, and never actually speak to him. One can go around in circles for 10-plus minutes before finally speaking to the person in charge of forwarding, who says he is doing everything correctly; the problem is downtown. The caller is kind to the forwarder (after all, she has red Charles Bukowski's novel Post Office), who admits he started on the job just over a month ago - which, interestingly, is exactly when the problem began - and says again that the problem is downtown. The caller is returned to the supervisor, who says even she doesn't have a number for downtown; they don't want her bothering them. "So I have no way to get to the bottom of this?" the caller asks. No. The supervisor says she has other work to do and must get off the phone. "Like I don't?" the caller asks. Click.

Later one calls the post office's official 800 number, and waits on hold for eons before telling the story, again, with full details, and starting a case - which is meant to be followed up in 72 hours.

Three days pass, then four. Then five. No one calls.

So one calls the 800 number again to check up on the case; there is no record of it, ma'am. So the caller starts a new case, which takes another 25 minutes.

Two days later a Mr. L--- calls from the first post office; everything is fine in "the system." He has spoken to the mail carrier and the problem has been corrected.

After several attempts over two days, one finally gets ahold of Mr. L---, and asks exactly how the problem was corrected. Mr. L--- can't say anything other than that the information is correct in the system and that everything is fine. "How can I follow up if more mail is returned?" the caller asks. The problem is solved, there is no need, and if there is a problem you can call the supervisor at this post office, says Mr. L--- - who becomes perturbed when the caller laughs at his answer. "Don't laugh," he says.

And it becomes quite clear that the caller will have many more opportunities to practice - and perhaps succeed, next time around - at the yoga of self control in the very near future.

Om shanti indeed.


The YouTube video was made by another critic of the post office in question, who writes, "Take a look at what could be Chicago's crappiest post office - the Northtown Station - where they do not shovel their sidewalks, have poor parking, where customers have to climb over mounds of snow and ice to get to the sidewalk, and the lines are more vicious than Disney World."


  1. Callisto-It is hard to imagine what is the "right" thing to do in this situation.

    I keep hearing William Burroughs saying, "Get it in writing", but I don't know why.

  2. That sounds WAY more challenging than the time I spent 45m on the phone with Verizon, getting a $50 calling card fee from some guy to someone in Africa taken off my bill.

    I mean by the time I got to the fourth guy on the phone & was running through the story a 4th time I was swearing like a truck driver. He snapped me out of it by shouting over me, "Mam!!? MAM!!! If you do NOT stop swearing I will HANG UP ON YOU."

    It'd taken me so long to get to him that snapped me right out of my profanity ridden outrage.

    This would've been but a half chapter in your saga.

  3. I can't believe you read thru to the end. Thank you.

    I realize that when I was curt and irritable with the person on the other end of the line, I got the worst verbal results. When I tried to be nice, I got better verbal results. I'll have to remember that the next time I have to make such a call.

    Sadly though I think that the actual results will be rather disappointing.

  4. C.K.

    This is good enough to send to the "what's your problem" guy in the Chicago Tribune. At least you could get ALL of Chicago behind you!!

  5. Anonymous1:08 PM

    Sadly, sadly, these problems are not restricted to Chicago but also afflict those of us in the burbs . . .

    Read review by Sue S., Oak Park IL, about the PO escapades in Forest Park . . .

  6. Yes but I bet they at least shovel the walk in the 'burbs.