My Post Office Nightmare

From Jonathan Thompson,

Regular readers of this blog are all too familiar with government inefficiency. In a recent post by Jason Williams, we all got to see just how the government makes regular Oregonians jump through hoop after hoop. Well, Oregon government is not unique in this respect I recently had a run in with our federal government that still has me scratching my head.

I needed to open a Business Reply Mail (BRE) Account, you know, one of those accounts that lets people send you mail and you pay the postage. Should be pretty simple, just open an account, get a number and put some money in it. Wow was I wrong about what the United States Postal Service had in store for me. Let me tell you a little about a system that would make Rube Goldberg himself proud.

When I walked into my local post office and told them I wanted to open a BRE account the man behind the counter looked at me kind of funny and then disappeared into the back. Was he going to get me the paperwork? Nope. When he returned he told me I had to go across town to the main post office. Fine. Off I went. When I arrived at the main post office I got to wait in line for about 25 minutes (for reference, last time I was at FedEx, there was no line). When I got to the counter the lady told me I was at the wrong part of the main post office. I needed to go around back, through the distribution center, around the fleet of trucks, over the river and through the woods. With my hiking backpack and sleeping bag, I was on my way to Bulk Mail Services.

My arrival there was met with absolutely no line! I was in heaven. I listened to a very nice lady explain my options and what documentation would be required. It was interesting to note to open this account I needed more documentation than what was required for an Oregon Driver License (prior to the recent reforms). But I digress. I was now headed back to my office to collect the necessary tax numbers, envelope dimensions and DNA that would be required. Once the forms were filled out, I returned to the backcountry to submit them and pay the fee. Could I pay the fee at Bulk Mail Services? No way, that would be too easy. I needed to get copies of the paperwork and go back to the front of the main post office. I paid the fee and told the gentleman I would like to put some money in the account. He told me “Sir, we can’t take money for your account here; that needs to be done at your local post office.” Yes, sports fans, we are headed back across town.

In the meantime, I waited two weeks for the approval of our account. The account that I was told would be ready in 3 to 5 business days. When I went back to my dear friends at Bulk Mail Services to see what was taking so long they pulled my file and stood around looking at it for a few minutes. I was then told it looks like we collected your information and your money but nobody actually got around to entering your information into the system. Don’t worry; we will take care of that today.

Finally, permit number in hand I am off to put money into my newly created account. Yes, we are headed back across town because remember, only certain post offices can take certain types of money. At my local post office I politely told the gentleman behind the counter what I wanted to do and again, he disappeared into the back. This time, he returned with the postmaster herself. Now we were making progress! No less than three forms, two receipts and 25 minutes later we were in business.

In summary, I spent three weeks trying to open an account, get a number and deposit money. Something a privately run bank can do for me in about 15 minutes. The next time I am in a discussion about waste in government and someone challenges me to “give them an example,” I am going to tell them to pull up a chair. We are then going to walk through the Rube Goldberg Machine that is the United States Postal Service.