A Post Office Progress Report At Six Months

By Scott A. Rappe, encouraged postal customer

After decades of abysmal service, things at the Wicker Park Post Office came to a head earlier this year. At the April EVA meeting, Mr. Carlos Johnson, newly appointed Wicker Park Branch Customer Service Manager, faced an angry mob brandishing pitchforks and torches. We were told that improvements were in the works, but might not be noticeable for six months. Well, Mr. Johnson has moved on, and six months have passed, but have things improved? My guarded answer is: Yes.

I have tracked postal service accuracy since May, grading delivery on eleven different aspects, such as whether someone received my mail, or I received someone else’s, and recurring problems like multiple advertising circulars jammed into my
mailbox or left on the stairs creating a tripping hazard.

Given the weak excuses for the poor service (high carrier turnover and routes without permanently assigned carriers were the usual explanations) we endured for so long, the improvement is fairly dramatic: The mail we received for May, June and July was delivered with 93% accuracy; for August and September the level rose to 96% and during October it was 98%. This appears to indicate a consistent and sustained trend toward better service.

We get an average of 320 pieces of mail per month, so even at the highest level of performance that means we receive about a dozen incorrectly delivered letters. And curiously the post office seems to have an uncanny ability to mangle and misdirect the most important pieces of mail. Two examples: A contract mailed from a post office that took fifteen days to reach me, and the remains of an envelope containing a very large check, delivered in a plastic bag with a preprinted apology.

I’m certain the post office is monitoring these improvements as well and is probably handing out raises and promotions for a job well done. I am guardedly encouraged, but still cynical. After twenty years of crummy service, what can you expect?

Scott Rappe will be giving a short (6 minutes and forty seconds!) talk about preservation and sustainable design at Pecha Kuch Volume #3, a series of presentations each featuring 20 slides for 20 seconds. The event is next Tuesday evening at Martyrs; tickets are $10.
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