Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Curmudgeon says nice things about the Postal Service?

The U.S. Postal Service is in the news again these days because its Board of Governors has recommended the elimination of Saturday mail service as a means to cut costs. It's not a done deal: The unions are opposed and Congress would have to approve the change -- but it may happen.

The cuts would mean that people would get bills only five days a week instead of six... and that would be nice... but that's not the "nice things" I want to talk about this morning.

Instead, I want to talk about service. Good service. I've had two occasions recently to stop in at different post offices and, both times, received prompt and courteous service.

Stop laughing! I'm serious!

I recently had occasion to send a gift of baby clothes. My wife boxed them up and I took them over to our local post office -- on a Saturday morning. The line was short. The lady at the counter was friendly. Of course, she did have to ask if I was sending anything dangerous. I said baby clothes aren't dangerous until worn by a baby. And then only if the diaper leaks. The lady laughed politely and explained my shipping options. I selected the less expensive one -- which would put the package in the hands of its recipients by the following Monday anyway, Tuesday at the latest, and was on my way in five minutes. Not bad, right?

The other instance is even better: I had occasion recently to file a Petition for Leave to Appeal (PLA) to the Illinois Supreme Court. Though that court has a satellite office in Chicago, it does not accept filings there. These must be made in Springfield, the state capital. It's a bulky package -- 20 copies of the brief must be sent (21 if you want a stamped copy, and you must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope -- SASE -- for that) and the check for the filing fee and the letter to the Clerk requesting the filing and the copies earmarked for opposing counsel... it was a lot of paper to juggle. In fact, just carrying over the load from the printer, just a couple of blocks away, was enough to put me in a sweat.

Also, filing a PLA is not a happy thing. The party that loses in the Appellate Court -- my client in this case -- has the option to make the attempt -- but the odds against the court taking the case are staggering. In a typical court term, less than 2% of all PLA's are accepted for review -- sometimes as few as 1%.

Finally, there is limited time to file a PLA. Once the client decides to make the attempt -- and the lawyer has fully disclosed that, in authorizing a PLA, the client may be just throwing good money after bad -- the appellate lawyer must try and write a compelling brief that would make this case stand out from all the many others clamoring for the Supreme Court's attention. This takes time. Whatever time is allowed for under the rules is almost certain to be used up almost to the minute in crafting the brief. Illinois follows the "mailbox rule" -- which means that a brief mailed on the deadline day will be considered received as of that day. This is just the opposite of the rule followed by every charge card issuer in the nation.

Anyway, I came huffing and puffing into the branch station at the Thompson Center, tired and with a bad attitude, and box full of briefs. I had envelopes prepared for the briefs to be sent to opposing counsel -- the rule says they only need three. The box I had was too big for 21 briefs and I was hoping to use one of those express mail boxes advertised on TV ("if it fits, it ships"). I saw a display and tried to guess what I needed.

I was soon intercepted by a postal employee.

Her job is to keep the line moving (downtown, on a weekday, there's always a line). She asked me what I wanted to do and I told her. I was not surprised, of course, when she told me I was doing it all wrong.

But then she helped me. She got me the right box. She even directed me to a particular line so I could get the right postage for my SASE. She was friendly. The lady at the window was friendly. This trip took longer than five minutes -- but not a minute longer than necessary.

I suppose these various postal employees may have seen in me a kindred (read: equally grouchy) spirit and that I may have received good service because of that.

But I don't think so.

Imagine: The Postal Service is in danger of going under just when it becomes customer-friendly. Is this a case of too little, maybe too late? Or does it mean that, deep down, people would rather be treated like dirt? Gosh, I hope not.

1 comment:

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

wow. i have never seen the likes! i have been in postal purgetory several times with mail forwarding to podunk and back to west palm beach going in a circle and never being delivered. i think they should deliver once a week. that's plenty.

smiles, bee