The U.S. Postal Service Delivers Frustration
There it was - an envelope from my insurance company. It seemed like I had just paid my semi-annual automobile insurance bill last month. I opened it up only to find a letter demanding immediate payment of my insurance bill that was due at the end of last month or my insurance would be cancelled! Had I forgotten to pay it? If so, it would have been the first I'd ever forgotten to pay a bill. In fact, I always pay my bills well ahead of the due date, usually one to two weeks earlier. After looking at my duplicate checks, I was somewhat relieved to discover that this time was no exception. I had written a check for that bill on September 12 and mailed it the following day, well ahead of the September 28 due date. But why hadn't they received payment?
I quickly called my agent, who checked the status of the payment on her internet connection with the home office. Sure enough, no payment had been received yet. Within a few minutes, I arrived at my agent's office to deliver the overdue payment. The U.S. Postal Service had failed me again.
This miscue was just the most recent in a series in which the U.S. Postal Service has stung me. This past April, they delivered my mortgage payment about two months after I had mailed it! That led to my having a drawn-out battle with my mortgage company, during which I got the Comptroller of the Currency involved! That's a long and I won't get into that in this writing.
In February of 2003, my elderly mother mailed a money order to the company that provides her home health care service. Three weeks later, they called and demanded payment because the money order had never arrived. When she reported the lost money order to the party that issued it (the U.S. Postal Service!), she was told that she had to wait 60 days to be reimbursed for the lost money order. Meanwhile, the home health care company wanted their money and was unwilling to wait 60 days to receive it. Since my mother is on a fixed income, I had to take money from own pocket to pay them and then wait for my reimbursement.
In December of 2000, I mailed my nephew a birthday card containing a check, only to have it disappear into thin air. I gave him a replacement check the next time my brother and sister-in-law came by the house, but it was still frustrating for the original card to not arrive and have him think I forgot his birthday.
By the way, I simply refuse to do stop payment orders. It's too much hassle. I keep enough in my checking account to insure that I won't overdraw. Like I said, the mortgage company received my check two months later, so they credited my account for a future month's payment. If my insurance company eventually receives the payment that hasn't arrived yet, they'll credit me for a future installment. Even if someone has stolen the check, they'd have a hard time cashing it without getting caught.
What's so unfair is that the U.S. Postal Service is not held liable for mistakes it makes with first class mail. Instead, its customers are the ones who are held accountable. When my mortgage payment did not arrive on time and my insurance payment failed to arrive, did my mortgage company and insurance company contact the post office for their payments? Of course not, they contacted me. Did they contact the post office after I explained the situations to them? No, the ball of responsibility for making those payments was still in my court. I cannot think of any other institution whose customers are blamed for its mistakes.
When one uses the U.S. Postal Service to deliver first class mail, that person has everything to lose and nothing to gain. It's a sucker bet, a "heads we win, tails you lose" proposition. You might as well roll the dice in Las Vegas. Heck, in Vegas, at least you have a chance to win; a small chance, mind you, but still a chance to come out ahead. With the U.S. Postal Service, the best you can do is break even, and that's happening less and less often.
I have made up my mind to avoid the U.S. Postal Service for as many bills and payments as I possibly can. I cannot "fire" the postal service, but I can stop using them except in situations for which I have no other choice. Now, the first question I will always ask is: Can this payment be made electronically or by just hand-carrying it? If the answer to that question is "yes", then I will exercise that option. Someday, we might have alternatives to the U.S. Postal Service for every kind of mail. We can only hope.
About the Author: Terry Mitchell is a software engineer, freelance writer, and trivia buff from Hopewell, VA. He also serves as a political columnist for American Daily and operates his own website - http://www.commenterry.com - on which he posts commentaries on various subjects such as politics, technology, religion, health and well-being, personal finance, and sports. His commentaries offer a unique point of view that is not often found in mainstream media.