It is good to remember that individuals, while generally better than members of an enraged mob stomping off to do something atrocious, are still individuals, subject to immense variation. I was reminded of this two or three times after I wrote yesterday’s feel good piece.
The sympathetic woman who took my initial call about a brusque postal supervisor who gave me a polite “tough, fucking shit, sir” when I complained my rent check had been inexplicably returned to me, and the equally nice woman, a Ms. Linton, I was later informed, who fielded my follow-up five business days later, were two very decent individuals. The first, whose name I did not get, was not, as it turned out D. McNeil, the woman who was out to lunch when I spoke to the second kind individual at the Postal Inspector’s.
Ms. McNeil knew nothing of my complaint, her name had simply been on the automatically generated email that had been sent to me confirming that my complaint was being seriously investigated. She confirmed that it was being investigated at the local level, by the person best suited to evaluate it, the brusque postal supervisor in question, who now had my confidential complaint in his hands, with my name and address.
Ms. McNeil knew nothing of the case, put me on hold to read the case notes. Five minutes later she was back, still not sure why I had wanted a return call from her. The case had been ‘escalated’ to the individual post office level. I asked her what the sense was to have my complaint in the hands of the man who had created the problem when, instead of being helpful, gave his tour de force of super-cool tough guy customer service. She sort of agreed there was only a limited point to him investigating himself.
Unlike the others, Ms. McNeil didn’t bother to apologize on behalf of the Post Office for this Clint Eastwood-like customer relations specialist, though she did agree that it would have been better customer service to have told the customer holding the mistakenly, inexplicably returned rent check, “this should not have happened. I will put it on the truck now and your landlord will have it in two or three days.” She said it would have been better if he’d said something like that, instead of handing me a fake complaint number to call, instead of crossing out the barcode so the idiotic mistake would not be repeated. She agreed that had he said that an apology of any kind would have been unnecessary. She asked me wearily what I expected her to do at this point.
“For starters, I still want the Post Office to deliver the rent check they’ve returned to me twice,” I told her. She explained again about the bar code, how it had to be crossed out and covered with a label. Sadly, there was no guarantee it would be delivered this time either. She then mentioned the original idea I’d had– have the post office put the thing in another envelope, readdress it and send it again. Ms. McNeil liked this idea. Eventually she told me she would ‘escalate’ the complaint, sending it to the area supervisor, the person to whom all branch supervisors answer. I asked for the email address to send my photos of the twice returned envelope. She placed me on hold. While holding I was treated to an endless stream of upbeat ads about the many unbeatable services offered by the Postal Service. I listened, for as long as my patience lasted, which was about three minutes. I hung up and dialed the number I had for D. McNeil.
A pleasant recorded voice told me the person at this number had not set up their voicemail and then announced I would be transferred to a representative to assist me. There was a beep, then another recording. It said “your session cannot be continued at this time. Goodbye.”
Twenty minutes later Ms. McNeil called me back with a fax number where I could fax all the photos I wanted. I told Ms. McNeil I’d gotten rid of my fax machine years ago. I asked again for an email address. She sighed, having no idea why I was being so difficult about these simple things. She was sure they probably had an email address, would I like to hold while she searched for it again?
I thanked her and walked over to the local post office. The two Chinese American clerks there had always been very nice. But all the one I spoke to told me is that she could cover the bar code, send it out for sorting again and hope for the best. “But,” she told me in strongly accented English, “some Postal employees do not do what they’re supposed to. You can never tell.” As for putting it in another envelope, they had no such envelope, I had to go to the main post office for that service. She agreed it wasn’t fair to make me pay more postage for another envelope, the only option available. Then she looked at me with intensity and said “But if I give you envelope I have to pay, nobody pay me for the postage. You think that’s fair?” I didn’t. They had no supervisor available at their little Utopia Branch (heavenly though the place otherwise is.) The two Asian-American clerks regarded me seriously until I agreed it wasn’t fair that one of them should be forced to pay.
I had a sudden thought that none of this was fair. Our fucking world is off the fucking rails, every business we encounter here in America, with rare, beautiful exceptions, is managed from the style book for psychopaths. I bought the envelope, it cost me 63 cents. I paid in cash. I addressed the blank envelope and re-mailed the twice returned rent check to my landlord. I apologized to the wide eyed clerk, who had begun staring at me, seeming truly hurt by how I seemed to be making such unfair demands of her. When I handed her back the envelope I said “thank you, ma’am.” She smiled. I walked back into the sunshine trying to get over the feeling that I had been successfully pissed on, for more than a week.
“Greeked” for posting on this website. The envelope was addressed as neatly as circumstances yesterday allowed.
Peace be with you.