How we force you to lose hope

Government, increasingly the mechanism by which wealthy corporations, and individuals, make sure their profits are robust and their schemes unhindered by things like regulation,  accountability or prosecution, has learned tremendous customer relations lessons from their canny corporate cousins.   We have come to expect as little protection from our government as from the makers of very expensive toxically produced shit.  Right wing extremists have exploited, and whenever in power exacerbated, this disaffection with our own democratic government, now seen by so many as the enemy instead of the protector of our liberties.  Such forces find it easy to crush problem consumers/citizens.

Check out this example of the fiendishly simple means by which hope for correction of even the simplest error by an institution is snuffed out, routinely, for people without power who appeal to the institutions available for relief from mistreatment.

I got snotty treatment from a Post Office supervisor.  All he had to say is “whoa, that’s a mistake, that letter should have gone to the office it’s addressed to, not to the return address it was sent from.  We’ll fix it, it will be where you sent it in two or three days.”   Not even a ‘sorry’ needed.  “Sorry” is a word that our winner society has made the exclusive domain of weak losers who have no choice but to apologize.

Instead of a reasonable response to a postal error you get, giving him the benefit of the doubt, dismissal from a tired, testy civil servant who doesn’t like the tone of the disgruntled customer.  It’s not his fault that the customer waited on line to be jerked around for an excruciating five minutes by an extremely dull, monosyllabic postal clerk before being passed on to him.   It’s not his fault the letter was returned to the customer without explanation, instead of going to the clearly printed address on the properly stamped business mailer.   None of this is his fault, yet he is taking the full heat for a postal system that sometimes simply just fucks up.   Doesn’t like the way this dick of a customer is making demands, relentless, unsatisfied with the explanation of machine error and his noncommittal shrugs.    Fine.  “No guarantee it will get there this time either, SIR, (the s-word) we’ll just have to hope for the best.”

The customer goes home angry, and finds a federal agency to complain to.   The person he speaks to there seems to be very concerned with the story of the poor treatment the customer has received.    He should not have been handed a complaint number that does not allow a complaint to be made, particularly after the brusque treatment of a customer who had every right to complain.   Especially since there was no explanation given for the illogical return of the letter, except machine error, “shit happens,” and no guarantee given that it won’t be returned to him again.  Not to mention the sly “fuck you” of the fake complaint number.

She promises the customer an investigation, gives him the case number and tells him a report will be emailed to him in 2-4 business days at which time he’ll be able to follow up, if necessary, including emailing photos of the canceled, improperly returned envelope.

Sure enough, two business days later, this email arrives:

Updated information regarding your recent inquiry (Case ID:137194142) (KMM50585860V79654L0KM)

Dear Elliott Widaen,  [got the tricky last name right, but misspelled the first name, one L, one T]

This message is to let you know that we have received your inquiry at the Post Office. 

After we review and investigate the information you have provided, we will contact you and work with you until the case is resolved. 

Thank you for letting us know about this issue.  We look forward to serving you. 


Your United States Postal Service

D. McNeil
Consumer Affairs
(212) 330-3667

PS: Please do not reply to this message as this email address is not monitored for responses.  Your privacy is important to us.  If you would like additional information on our privacy policy, please visit

Ten minutes later, a US Postal Service bot sends this update:

In order to better serve you, your recently submitted inquiry was forwarded to an office that is better suited to address your needs. It is being investigated and you can expect a reply within 2 to 4 business days.

Which office?   Where is this office?   Who?  What?  Why?   Mysteries to be answered within 2 to 4 business days, if all goes well.  

The following day the original envelope with the rent check to the landlord, being sent a twenty minute truck ride from the post office it was returned to, arrives back in the customer’s mail box.  The issue very much not resolved.

You figure, for fifty cents I can put this small business envelope into a standard sized envelope, address it by hand, put a stamp on it and mail it from another part of town. Maybe the postal workers there will not have all been lobotomized, or addled on opioids, or drunk, or willfully assholic, or whatever the problem is when such a simple, routine task is not done properly.  A fifty cent stamp and done.

But for somebody like me, raised by an angry asshole, sensitized to that asshole reflex to testily shift blame to the person mistreated — hard to bite the bullet and do the easy thing.   On to another post office, in another borough (have to go there for something else tomorrow anyway), where everyone has been very nice so far, and humbly make what should be a relatively easy to make case that I have not received the service I paid for.    I’d like them to put it in another envelope, with explicit instructions to deliver it to the address it is addressed to and not, mischievously or imbecilically, to the return address.

This reflex to get some kind of just result is also part of how they break you like a fucking twig.    I don’t know exactly what to do about this reflex, but some part of me believes that once it is neutralized, in enough of us, the Klan will be marching down the main street of every town again, making America great again, like they did when my father was born, in 1924, at the height of their national power, 4.5 million proud members strong.

2 comments on “How we force you to lose hope

  1. The pleasure of the hyperbole in the last paragraph notwithstanding, do you really feel that the experienced “reflex” here is under the umbrella of the theoretical “reflexes” that keep the world just? I think the kind of reflex you experienced *does* break you, but you mentioned it also breaks the person on the receiving end. (you can ignore this if it was a joke, I wasn’t sure)

  2. oinsketta says:

    The reflex to get a fair result in a situation where that appears to be impossible is what I was referring to. Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough. I think once this reflex is rooted out, once enough people accept they will just be screwed and there is no sense to protest, the door is open for every sort of evil process to flourish — and I think as a society America is very close to that point. The Klan was just a flashy example of something bad that can easily metastasize if everyone just shrugs. Not sure I understand your question, will have to reread the post, I suppose.

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