August 28, 2013 | 1:00 am
Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
I make it a policy not to write about my work, and I try not to use my blog as a bully pulpit, but I’m frustrated and I just need to get this off my chest.
One of the least favorite things about my job is dealing with the United States Postal Service. No doubt about it, they do a great job delivering regular mail quickly and cheaply. But once you start to use their other services, you’re likely to run into confusion and frustration. Many of the things they do seem to be inconsistent and arbitrary. I could give lots of examples, but below is my current situation.
Earlier this year, we were doing a mailing for a client. Included in the mailing was a Business Reply Mail envelope for the people receiving the mail to respond without having to pay for the postage. The company I work for does this sort of thing several times a year. It’s nothing new to us. We know how it’s supposed to be done.
We could do a mailing and pay the regular Business Reply Mail rate on each piece of mail that is returned, but with a little extra work, we can pay less than half that rate, using the Qualified Business Reply Mail Rate (QBRM). We filled out the requisite form, submitted the requisite samples, and received the approval for the QBRM rate at the end of January.
We sent the mail out on April 15, and the responses started coming back shortly thereafter. Although we had received approval for the QBRM rate more than two months in advance, I discovered the San Mateo USPS office where the mail was being delivered was charging our account the higher unqualified rate.
I tried calling the San Mateo USPS multiple times over several days. Each time I got one of three results: Either I got a fast busy signal, the phone rang without anyone picking it up until it eventually disconnected me, or I got a recorded message that played and then disconnected me.
Frustrated, I wrote a letter to the San Mateo post office, explaining the situation. I mailed it using the USPS. I waited a week or so, but got no response, so I started trying to call the San Mateo post office again, with similar results, until, one day in May, I finally got through to someone.
I spoke with Person A (all people in this story shall remain anonymous), who processed the Business Reply Mail. He denied ever receiving my letter, so I explained the situation to him. He asked me for proof that we had received approval for the QBRM rate. I faxed him the proof that day.
Five days later, they started charging us the correct rate. Unfortunately, by that time we had been charged the incorrect higher rate for a month, and most of the return mail from that project had already been processed at that higher rate. Naturally, I asked for a refund, and Person A agreed to give us the refund. He said it would post on our account on Monday, May 20.
The refund did not appear on our account on Monday. In fact, by Thursday, the refund still had not posted to the account, so I called and spoke with Person B, who said he was the supervisor for Person A. Person B said he would make sure the refund posted to our account and that he would call me by the following Tuesday, May 28 at 10 am to confirm it was done.
I did not receive a follow up call from Person B, nor did the credit appear on our account. I tried calling again several times throughout June, but I had the same trouble as before: either the phone rang with no answer, I got a fast bust signal, or I got a recording that played and then disconnected me. When I did get finally through, I was told Person A was on vacation for a month and would handle it when he got back. Still, we received no refund.
Finally, in July, I sent another letter to the San Mateo Post Office, detailing the situation, including a spreadsheet which calculated the amount of the refund due. Since they had claimed that my previous letter had not been received, I sent this one via USPS, with a return receipt requested.
Eleven days later, although I had received the signed return receipt showing my letter had been delivered, I had not received a response, so I filed a complaint through the online USPS complaint form. A nice lady called and told me that she couldn’t help me through the online system. For this kind of complaint, she said, I had to deal with the local post office directly. I told her my trouble contacting them, and she said she would call them to ask them to get in touch with me. Within two days of my filing out the online complaint, it was closed as “Resolved” even though my complaint was not resolved.
A few days later, I finally received a call from Person B, who had been contacted by the online service folks. He said that because I had not sent him the copy of the form approving the QBRM rate until May, they could not refund the entire amount. I explained that I should not have had to send it to them; every other time I have done this for the past six years, the correct amount has been charged without me having to send the USPS proof that the USPS had approved the QBRM rate. I also reminded him that I would have sent in the proof sooner if I had been able to get through on the phone, or if they had responded to my first letter.
Person B said he would speak to his supervisor. Later that day he called back and said, sorry, they couldn’t give the full refund. So I asked to speak to his supervisor, person C. He gave me her phone number. I left her a message, and a week later she got back to me. Person C said it wasn’t up to her; it was up to Person D, and that he wouldn’t be in until the next day, July 31.
I tried calling Person D multiple times. I left a message on July 31, wasn’t able to get through for several days, and left another message on August 6. On August 7 Person D called back. He did not allow me to explain the situation to him, but said he would look into it and call me back. He said the only thing that he wanted to confirm was whether the appropriate person had, indeed, approved the QBRM rate and when it was approved.
On August 20 I still had not heard back from person D, so I called and left him a message. On August 22, and August 27, I called and left him additional messages. I’m still waiting for his response, for a refund we were promised over three months ago.
This is why I hate dealing with the USPS. I have my doubts whether I will be able to make peace with them properly before Rosh Hashanah.
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