May 23, 2009

Brown Paper Packages Can't Be Shipped All Tied Up With String

You know what drives me crazy? Yes, but that's not what I'm thinking of. Oh, yeah, definitely, but that's not what I'm thinking of either. Er, no---I mean, it's true that drives me crazy, but I'm thinking of something else. Okay, FINE, so there are a LOT of things that drive me crazy. I'll just tell you which one it is this time: Official Rules that MAKE NO SENSE.

Today I went to the post office to mail a package. It was a blog package, so in the return address field I'd written only "Swistle." The clerk told me I needed to write my whole address. I preferred not to, and explained why. She said that the package COULD NOT BE MAILED without a return addresses. I suggested that this might not be the case, since I have mailed almost all my blog packages without return addresses.

She went to check with a superior. The superior said it was okay. Then a moment later the superior said, "But WE need to know your address: we need to Know Our Customers." So I told her my full name and my full address, and I showed her my driver's license, and she asked if I'd lived here long, and I said YES, and that my parents were Ruth and Robert Whistle and told her their address, and I told her my mail carrier's name, and she was finally satisfied.

BUT THEN she had to give me a long, sober explanation about "Ever since 9-11" and "This has to go on a PLANE" and "What if it had Something Dangerous in it?" And THIS is the part where it is revealed that that rule is STUPID, because I could have written in a totally fake name and address and that would have gone through just fine. They wouldn't have asked for ID to prove that it was my name/address, nor would they have asked me how long I'd lived in the area.

The only way their policy makes sense is if they ID every single customer to make sure the return address matches that customer's driver's license information. Since this is not done, the rule that packages can't be mailed without a full return address is a Dumb and Pointless Rule and they should not be using that sober, serious tone of voice to explain it to me, as if I am not showing sufficient respect for the safety of our country.


Janet said...

Right on, Swistle. But bureaucracies do not run on common sense. It takes a lot of stupidity to make as little money as USPS does.

And while we're discussing stupidity, could we also cover the 'liquids in carry-on bags on airplanes' rules? [steam coming out of ears]

Di said...

Oh, in my opinion very little the USPS does makes any sense at all.

We have a PO box in the neighborhood where we used to live. Since I don't ACTUALLY live there anymore, I had gotten out of the habit of checking it regularly. It was really just a stopgap measure while we changed addresses on all our mail after our move...anyhow, on one occasion I had a postcard in my box to come to the counter because there was too much mail. Fine, and I dragged the cranky toddler to the line, and waited and waited and waited. Finally, I presented the postcard, and the postal worker begrudgingly went to get the mail, and told me that I was "REQUIRED" to pick it up at regular intervals. I had to go "AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK."

Um, no. Actually, I don't.
Thus I hate the postoffice.

jess said...

That's total BS! Which is why I always use the automated postal machine (plus- bonus!!- You get to push buttons and don't have to talk to a human being at all!! Plus it's open 24 hours and if you go on off hours there's no line.

Jewels said...

Oh man that is ridiculous.
I tried to mail a package a couple months ago and I had written my return address but the post office worker refused to take it because I hadn't put my NAME, even after I explained that I'm the only person who lives in my apartment.

Nowheymama said...

Let's make up a fake blog address for you!


Swistle Thistle
123 Blogger Lane
Bedford Falls, NY 12345
[Bedford Falls, NY because "It's a Wonderful Life" is my favorite movie.]

Chraycee said...

Erg. I had an unpleasant USPS experience yesterday as well. I called a parent at work (had already tried the home number, and I don't like to leave unpleasant or mysterious messages from school on machines) - tuns out work is the USPS. I asked the person who answered(while laughing and talking so someone else) if I could speak to that person - and she got a very rude tone and sneered back, "Not here."

I have no idea if she meant, "not while she's here working"....or "she doesn't work here anymore", or "she gets too many calls so is restricted". I didn't even get a chance to tell her who I was...just shut down.

BTW word verification = menteed.
As in I menteed to call and tell you that your kid hasn't turne in a major assignment, but couldn't get past the rude person who answered the phone.

Christina said...

The USPS is the king of stupid rules. I've received many a package and envelope with no return address - specifically spam and junk mailings. I guess if you spend enough money with them, they don't bug you about a return address? Just a few weeks ago I got a package from my Aunt Carrie - whom we all refer to as "AC" and that was all that was written in the return field.

I like NoWheyMama's fake address for you - too cute!

Dr. Maureen said...

This reminds me of when I went to get a new driver's license after changing my name after getting married. The problem was that I changed my name AND I moved to NJ, so it was complicated because my old license was out of state and had the wrong name. This was post 9-11 also, and NJ had imposed incredibly complex rules about how many "ID points" you needed to have to get a license. You needed a total of 8 or something, and a birth certificate and a passport were both worth 4 each, the highest number of points a single item could be worth. And you had to have at least one 4-point ID with you.

So I went with my passport and enough other points and the DMV guy said, "Oh, you have to have your birth certificate because you are changing your name."

"But this is my passport," I said.

"I know," he said, with an apologetic smile, "but you have to have your birth certificate."

"But this is my PASSPORT," I said. "I needed my birth certificate to get my passport."

"I know. I'm sorry," he said. His eyes told me that he, too, though it was incredibly stupid.


Lindsay said...

Stupid rules suck. The one that gets me is how airport workers are obsessive about luggage and you have to verify it was packed by you and never out of your sight and everything is all safety safety safety (see stupid baggies of toothpaste), but at every major holiday the airport people lose everyone's luggage and there are just piles of it laying in the open, accessible to anyone, all over every major airport in the country, nowhere near the sight of the owner who is off "celebrating" Christmas with no freaking luggage or idea of what city it's even in. Since so many of these stupid rules don't really ensure safety, WHY BOTHER???

Kathy said...

That is probably the stupidest rule I've never heard. OMG.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Nowheymama. You could make up a really fun address!

Howcanthis B. Lamer
Needafaketon, DO

ccr in MA said...

You are SO right. I wish I could have seen her face.

Jess said...

Snort!! Truer words have never been spoken. Postal workers are a special kind of special. I remember when I was NINE months pregnant in the VA summer heat and had to use the bathroom something fierce. I ran into a post office and frantically asked the worker at the desk if they had a restroom. I got a postal worker "look" and was told to go to the back of the long ass line before and wait like the rest of her "customers." For real?! Did she want me to pee on her floor? I gave her the same look that everyone else in the line gave her and wattled and clenched to the back of the line. When it was finally my turn she looked at me and simply said, "No. Next...." I hate me some post office.

Stacie said...

Jess - Oh. My. God.

Tara said...

I completely agree! I live overseas and I HATE having to write out on customs forms exactly what is in the box. Finally after the first Christmas and half a year's birthdays were ruined by tell-all customs forms a worker told me to write the materials that made up what was inside (i.e. instead of "children's toys" write "plastic, textiles and metal"). I'm not a terrorist, I'm just trying to send my nephew something great! :)

Michelle said...


And don't forget to never mail a square envelope because you get charged extra postage when it isn't rectangular.

Heather said...

Australian customs forms for international parcels/boxes have a barcode and we have to provide an address on the form with matching ID (drivers licence) to post a parcel. Letters and domestic mail they dont care.

Kristi said...

Excellent summation - you may now rest your case! And, I totally agree!!

Leslie said...

Jess, that has nothing to do with the post office and everything to do with a really nasty human being.

I'm foreseeing the problem with fake addresses being they won't want to have the origin city and postmark be different.

I'm assuming you don't want your address on the packages because of Internet stalkery reasons? If that's the case, I suggest using just your nine-digit zip code, which is non-identifying to the receiver, yet should actually get the package back to you if it's for some reason undeliverable. So a simple


should do it (although I'd use, you know, your *actual* zip). The post office really can't complain since you're working within its own system.

Clare said...

This reminds me of when I worked at a bookshop at our local airport and we would always get people coming in to post stuff to themselves that they couldn't get through security (apparently you can't take knives through security, who knew!). Anyway one day after we got a particularly disgruntled customer and it wasn't until later when I was putting his package in the post box out the back that I saw that in the sender field he had written 'Welly bloody airport'. Made my day!

bluedaisy said...

This is why I use the automated machine that some of the local post offices have- it eliminates confusing questions from the clerk & the computer screen only questions me once or twice about what is in the package...although, I do usually list my return address- I wonder what would happen if I didn't? Hmmm...

Misty said...

Additionally, I ship packages for work alllll the time. And guess what? My driver's license address does NOT match my office address. So that wouldn't work either.

What dumbassery.

The Workman Family said...

haha! That's crap! I mail stuff with no return address all the time!
~ d e v a n

Ashley said...

My guess is they don't really have a National Security concern but rather a really bad case of "powertrip-itis". Most commonly found among those in positions of very little authority (eg. parking meter guys, grumpy postal clerks and of course city officials, not that I have had run ins with the aformentioned or anything...). The only cure for this condition is quick wit, a very exaggerated eye roll and a good sense of humour.

Good for you for making your case...and for not drifting them one

Farrell said...

I am totally with you on this and these things make me a helluva lot angrier than they probably should; i really can't stand illogical thinking/rules.

Astarte said...

Hahahahaha!!!! Well, since you're OBVIOUSLY a terrorist (what with how many little kids in tow??) I can see you getting lectured. I'm surprised they didn't give you a total pat-down. They were probably pissed because you said 'online', which I believe makes them have a seizure, since online everything is putting them out of business (and rightfully so, for heaven's sake!). If they would scan packages like they should, it wouldn't be an issue. ALSO, so what if they know your 'real name', since it would blow up either way!

Emily R said...

ha - speaking of obv. terrorists - my sister, we'll call her Sharon Brown, had her baby checked down to the diaper at the airport for ?? bombs? dunno, but my brother in law with a Very Persian name bought me a plane ticket for the next day and I had no troubles at all.
Oh, security.

t2ed said...

This is exactly why I always use the kiosk in the post office instead of waiting in line and talking to the drones who toil there.

JAM said...

I love it when people tell me some stupid rule is so because of The Law. Because then I get to say, actually, no, it's not. Because you are talking to someone whose job is to know what The Law is, and that is Not It.