December 20, 2012

On the Woes (and the Woeful) USPS.

Each day at work, as the woman at the front desk, I receive the mail from our mail carrier. It always comes wrapped in two huge rubber bands, even when it’s just a couple pieces of mail. I chuckle at it, chuck them in my top drawer, and proceed with sorting the mail.

Yesterday I had some extra time on my hands, so I was organizing that top drawer. I put all the paper clips in their place, arranged the binder clips, made sure I had enough replacement staples on hand, checked my tape stock. Then, I got to my mound of industrial-size rubber bands.

I’ll make them into a rubber band ball, I thought.

(This is not my personal rubber band ball.)

I’ve always wanted to try one. Well, as I was creating this every growing ball-o-rubber, it occured to me that this was yet another mark of how the USPS is woefully inefficient.

Nevermind that I’ve been fruitlessly on hold with them more times than I can count for various shipping and (non)receiving reasons. Nevermind that each person I talk to–from our carrier, to the local post office, to the corporate post office–has a different “rule” on how I’m supposed to do package pickup, and what qualifies for a pickup. Nevermind that my residential mail carrier has often not dropped off a package because “no one was at home”…even though I’m in an apartment building that makes a point to always keep someone at the front desk who receives packages.

Nope–it was the rubber bands that did it.

I looked it up, and the average carrier makes 500 stops, so let’s go with that number. If we assume my office’s mail carrier has two rubber bands on each batch of mail to each stop on his route, that’s 1000 rubber bands that are being distributed by the USPS per day for this one route alone. Over the span of a month, that’s 30,000 rubber bands.

On (the cheapest place I can always think of), rubber bands like those are $2.78 for a pack of 185. (I’m not a math person, so bear with me now.) If we assume a wholesale price of $1.00 per 185 (and I’m being generous here), that means that, per month, the USPS is spending $162 on rubber bands for our one mail carrier’s route alone. That’s $1945 per year, just for this ONE route, devoted to rubber bands.

The funny part? The rubber bands don’t really help–we often get the wrong mail thrown in there.

What if they only used one rubber band instead of two? What if our mail carrier took them off before handing the mail to me, and just threw them back into his bag to be reused?

Just saying 🙂

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