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What About This? By Wayne William Cipriano

By Wayne William Cipriano

When I read “The Champion News” column by Wilda Moses in the 13 August 2020 edition of the Herald, I was quite surprised. After all, who really needs to be reminded what an important service the Post Office provides? But then, I thought about how a lot of people feel about the Post Office.

We here in Douglas County, and for that matter in most small towns, do not have the same perception of the Post Office as do many who live in larger cities. We have a Post Office that is able to serve us pretty much whenever we need that service. And we usually don’t have to wait very long for it. The persons who work there are, for the most part, competent and friendly. And why shouldn’t they be? They are well-trained, and we know them from church, from school, bump into them at Wal-Mart and have for a long time. But that is seldom the case in large cities.

Who knows why that may be? Are there fewer employees at large Post Offices as a proportion of the population they serve? Are they less trained? Less friendly by nature? Is it simply that large numbers of employees make it easier, that the few bad ones that show up, by comparison, get lost in the crowd, and when they do suffer reporting, are protected from repercussions by a very strong labor union? Something or something else?

There is another agency that is frequently disparaged far more than the Post Office, and that would be the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In Missouri, at least in the counties I am aware of, we have License Bureaus. And, once again, we, here in Douglas County, just like our Post Office, have a License Bureau that serves us, for the most part, competently and efficiently.

To be right up front, we have to acknowledge a couple of differences between the Post Office and the DMV, the most glaring of which is required paperwork. When we use the Post Office, very few operations there require a collection of properly issued and filled out documents and so on. Pretty much all we need to secure services at the Post Office is a form of payment (cash, check, credit card…) and occasionally some form of identification. The DMV (and our License Bureau) requires much more. 

Just about every DMV service requires documentation deluxe, and properly filled out and often certified documentation at that. And there is no room for discretion on the part of the clerk. And even when we show up with most of the stuff, or even all of it except one tiny form, or note, or signature, or something else, the process is halted. The fees are generally not an issue at all, it’s the documents. 

And when we stood in line for fifteen minutes (you wish!) or an hour (much more likely), and then we’re told that we have everything needed except Form XP5-26, we tend to respond with verve.

And when the DMV clerks face that semi-controlled wrath over and over, day after day, from customers who, in all fairness, had a list of the required stuff and ignored it, or hoped we could argue our way past that one tiny requirement, how can we not understand the occasional surliness of those clerks?

Sure, not all DMV clerks get that way. Some are Gems that meet each new customer with the same friendliness and competent personal attention each of us deserve- we shouldn’t be treated like a demented boob just because the guy in line ahead of us acted like one, should we?

We saw one of these Gems in action when we went to the Ozark License Bureau that time when the Ava License Bureau was closed due to ownership transition. One lady behind the counter was smiling and sweet and understanding to customer after customer, even the occasional boob! And the place was super busy and very crowded that day, every chair in the 40’ x 30’ waiting area was filled, and people like us were standing up against the wall.

I didn’t bring a book like Rosalie and Renee’ did, so I spent my waiting time people watching. I noticed an interesting thing. The clerks on either side of the Gem were much more accommodating, much more patient, just plain nicer than the two on the far ends (there were five clerks, the Gem was in the middle). Luck? Coincidence? Contagious courtesy, perhaps? Who knows? But for sure everyone watching wanted to be served by the Gem!

To return to the beginning of this piece, we do not understand the ire that many postal customers share based on some of the more distasteful interactions they have had at larger and more impersonal Post Offices than ours in Ava, because we do not experience that level of poor service here. And so, we think it ridiculous that anyone would support or even acquiesce to any reduction in postal services.

I am not going to even discuss the self-fulfilling prophesy that, reducing required overtime during peak periods at any Post Office, removing mailboxes from traditional locations, reducing the number and optimal operation of mail-sorting machines, enlarging mail delivery routes, reducing the number of necessary postal employees on duty, and so on, will result in poorer mail service. Everyone can understand how that works.

I will say that I am in favor of reforming the Post Office to run more efficiently and with greater amounts of customer service. And I am sure I share that desire with everyone at the Post Office: customer and employee alike. And since such goals have existed since the creation of the Post Office, I find it a bit suspicious that all these “cost cutting” and “efficiency building” changes at the Post Office, that are guaranteed to result in slower, poorer, and more frustrating mail movement, occur at the time when the new Postmaster General, a huge campaign donor to the Trump Presidential Election Fund, has undertaken these “necessary and timely reforms” just before a Presidential election that many feel will go against President Trump if mail-in ballots become a large multi-state reality.

But, maybe that’s just my perception. What do you think?