The United States Postal Service has announced that first-class letter postage will increase to 60 cents this summer to keep up with inflation. He also said he lost money again in 2021, for the 14th consecutive year. President Biden signed into law the U.S. Postal Service Reform Bill last week, which will revamp its finances.
It is easy to accept the premise that modernizing its equipment and systems will cure the ills of the Post. I fear that the systems most in need of reform are not technological but social. Machines are easier to update than people.
I was at my local post office in mid-January to pick up a package that had supposedly been delivered. I got the tracking number and an email notification from the seller. It took them a while, but they figured out that the tracking number was for a different package that was delivered to a different address. It wasn’t my package. It wasn’t even my tracking number.
I stood at the service counter for half an hour while three or four people tried to clear up the confusion. At some point, the shift manager and the office manager got involved. I waited for long periods of time with no reading material available. I couldn’t help but scan the bulletin board adjacent to the window.
At eyeball height was this flyer, printed in all caps: “USPS EN EUGENE CURRENTLY HIRING / PLEASE GO TO OUR WEBSITE AT WWW.USPS.COM/EMPLOYMENT / THEN SEARCH AND APPLY FOR JOBS / DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY!
I immediately noticed that “job” had been misspelled in the web address. Since I had time to kill between attempts to track the package, I used my phone to confirm that the web address on the flyer was not working, but the correct spelling was.
I shared this information with the shift manager. “If you’re looking for proofreaders and copy editors, this flyer is awesome,” I teased. “If not, that misspelling could be the reason you’re not getting much of a response, despite a starting salary of $22 an hour.”
The supervisor shook his head, tilted slightly downward. “I’m not surprised,” he muttered. And then he promised to fix it.
Let’s break down his answer. Before he uttered a word, his downward gaze told the story. Its expectations of its flyer producers are very low. While he wasn’t surprised by the error, was it the best thing to share with a customer first? It didn’t look like anyone would be held accountable for the misstep, including him.
Liability is a tricky business. Managers should always be willing to ask themselves questions first. Did they assign this task to the wrong person? Has anyone been improperly trained? Does this failure fit a larger pattern? Does the system require built-in security? Are employees overworked or careless? Is morale down, producing this flag? Only then can liability be applied to the issue at hand.
Maybe they filled all the vacancies and the flyer is irrelevant. But it’s not silent. The flyer is still in place, three months later. Has the spelling mistake been corrected? (Shake your head with me.) We’re not surprised.