>> Friday, January 28, 2011
My new local post office did not extend a welcoming hand when I went to mail the quilt this week. I am well aware that the USPS faces severe deficits, and I really try to support the postal service. I think, on the whole, it does pretty well. But let me suggest that persnickety enforcement of "rules" does not help increase business. I packed the quilt in a flat-rate envelope. I fully admit that stuffing a quilt into said envelope makes it thick. But I could close the envelope on its own and didn't even add tape as I often do. The postal worker deemed it "manipulated" and thus unfit for the flat-rate because it was thicker than 1/2".
Yet the postal service website says, "When sealing a Flat Rate Box or Flat Rate Envelope, the container flaps must be able to close within the normal folds. Tape may be applied to the flaps and seams to reinforce the container; provided the design of the container is not enlarged by opening the sides and the container is not reconstructed in any way." I should have taken a picture, but this envelope was "closed with the normal folds," not "enlarged by opening the side." and was not reconstructed in any way. Moreover, I've sent many a package like this before with no trouble whatsoever. And had I paid for the mailing online or at a self-service kiosk, it wouldn't have been an issue.
What bothers me most about this situation is not that the worker made an assessment or cited a rule, but that the assessment and citation didn't actually flow from the most-available posting of the policy. If there is a new rule in place that says FREs can only be 1/2" thick -- which would be a terrible rule, in my opinion -- then that rule ought to be on the website for all to see. But it's not.
To wit, I'm well aware I am not the only person who has faced this problem. I've heard that some small fabric businesses are facing this as well -- a good fabric shop can fit 7-8 yards in a flat-rate envelope and still close it. It's thick, but it's closed. But some post offices are refusing these packages and applying an arbitrary-in-that-it's-not-posted-publicly policy of 1/2" (or so) thickness only. And I'll spare you my consternation with the obnoxious enforcement of the post office's "all credit cards must be signed" (that is, no "check ID" allowed) policy.
I didn't mean to use this post to vent, but I did. I will end with this point: blaming my packages for the postal service deficit is not exactly going to endear me to the USPS, though I will continue to use the postal service because I believe in the importance of a postal system that is accessible to all, no matter where one lives. But perhaps the Postmaster General would like to clarify the FRE thickness issue -- and I suggest adhering to the "if it can be closed, it counts" method.