Thursday, January 22, 2009

Benefit of the Doubt: FAIL

You all know I spend a fair bit of time at the post office. I've come to know first names of clerks at several different stations in the area, and I enjoy most of them.

There is one clerk, at one station, however, that I dread working with. She is strict! All I's must be dotted, and T's crossed. She gives advice that conflicts with every other postmaster, and serves to confuse me. She corrects, demands, and sends me to the back of the line. She is reminiscent of Jerry Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi."


I recently witnessed a woman sending a box of baby clothes across the world. On the customs form she'd written "toddler's clothes." CrazyClerk handed the box back to her and said " `Toddler's clothes' isn't good enough—is it socks or pants or shirts?" Seriously, in the event that the box was opened, who would think "No toddler's clothes here; only socks and pants and shirts for a 2-year old child."

What toddler's clothes?
I don't see any stinkin' Toddler's clothes.

Lesson learned for me, though: I would never go to her station after one of our big events! 50 volunteers seal up 150 boxes and I list what is "probably" in them. Most likely some socks and t-shirts, and maybe a toothbrush but maybe not.

I always leave her window, thoughtful: The hoops she makes people jump through seemingly satisfy her own compulsions. And yet I wonder, if she isn't, in the eyes of the USPS, one of their best employees. Every package taped perfectly, every label and stamp affixed with painstaking precision.
Is she crazy or is she extremely competent?

I had the "pleasure" of running into her again this week. There were 11 people in front of me, and 2 clerks: NiceClerk, and CrazyClerk. I stood in line praying that I'd get NiceClerk, and listening to CrazyClerk give odd advice to her customer—if his passport has expired, he should also update those of his children—while she weighed his manilla envelope. Really? Why?

As NiceClerk worked her way through customer after customer, CrazyClerk took forever to get through one transaction. After minutes, it finally rang through, receipts were printed, and she exclaimed "Oh, darn, I messed it up!"

As the rest of the line plodded along, CrazyClerk once again "messed up" the transaction, stating loudly, "Third times a charm, let's try this again!"

I had entered the line at 4:15 in the afternoon.

At 4:45, I was standing at NiceClerk's window, smiling sympathetically to the poor guy at CrazyClerk's station—the one poor guy that had been there since I arrived, mind you—when she triumphantly announced,

"THERE we go, I finally got it right! That will be 36 cents."

I don't know how he didn't throttle her.

As for my question to myself, I'm going with "not extremely competent," and I'm going to choose a different post office for my future transactions.

Do you have a recent or memorable experience with crazy clerks or customers? Share it!


  1. I went to deliver a package a few days ago and it was supposed to be a surprise for someone and I didn't want them to know who sent it. The lady at the register handed me a marker and said I had to put a return address on it in case they couldn't deliver the package.

    I told her the story and she said; Just make up an address then. I wanted to ask; So what was the purpose of putting a return address on it again?

  2. Oh wow. Those types make me SO frustrated. Ugh. I'd totally have a hard time keeping my mouth shut and, once I spoke my mind, then I'd probably be thrown out and barred from ever returning.
    I've found that people like the one you described are generally so miserable with themselves and their lives that I really find myself feeling sorry for them. As if making other people miserable is actually going to make them feel more powerful, smarter, and better about themselves...
    Go figure...

  3. Greg C: Ha! Reminds me of the grocery store clerks punching in any old year of birth when you buy a bottle of wine.

    Farmgirl: A lot of people don't seem to consider the consequences of their tactics in relating to other people.

  4. Anonymous1:16 PM

    It must be the Mattis location? Go to Savoy. All nice and accomodating except one man....who used to be?

  5. Nope, sorry, not at the Mattis location. Mattis is actually my favorite, have come to know all the clerks there!

  6. I'm partial to the Savoy PO. I ship books there all the time.

  7. I always enjoy the Mattis location. I know most of the postal people there and they are always friendly. Another good one is Danville (no where near you, but hey). They allowed me to write "surprise Christmas gift" on an international customs form!

  8. CVS has any number of policies designed to send me screaming down the street to Walgreens, where I usually shop now. One morning my CVS card was not scanned, so I paid almost five bucks for a toothbrush on sale for $2.99 I went in after work and waited in the line(ever see the line at 5pm?) and was asked "do you have all the items with you?" Uh, NO. In fact, I'd eaten some of them and the rest were in the car. "Well, go around and pick up the exact items on your receipt so we can void each item and re-ring the transaction". You can't just void the ticket? "No, each item". OK. (not) I went back around and picked up the six or seven items on my receipt, including the toothbrush, waited in line AGAIN.... "I'm sorry, this is the wrong toothbrush. You purchased a medium, this one is soft. It doesn't match. You need to find a medium.". WHHAAAAATTTT I. lost. it. Are you freakin' kidding me? (I may not have said freakin'). I fled the counter, got the toothbrush and accosted a managerial looking guy and told him "YOU are going to take care of this NOW. Just give me my two bucks!!! Blah, blah, BLAH....". I was not nice. I was not happy. He was nice to me. (I did appreciate that).

    That's not my only CVS story but I'll spare you....

    Oh, how I miss Osco

  9. I love the grocery store lines where you can do self service. Once, though, the machine short changed me 80 cents. I told the manager sitting a few feet away, and he asked a cashier to take the money out of her own pocket.

    Of course, I said, "I just wanted you to be aware of the problem. I don't need the exact change."

    Now I want them to replace managers with machines that don't put the bite on employees.

  10. I'm glad you got the nice clerk. I so hate going to the post office, I magaed this last Christmas to avoid it altogether. december is the worst. I like perplexing the hotel maid when I travel. I always have a trashcan filled with beer and ice, I move the bathroom kleenex to my nightstand and use one of the water glasses as a toothbrush holder. Then I make side bets on whether the stuff is moved back or left as is. It helps that I always leave $5 on the pillow.

  11. I think she's not getting any and is taking out her frustration on y'all.


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