I’ve done more than a half-dozen posts on this blog that were critical of USPS – the United States Postal Service.
And I’ve enjoyed doing every one of them.
This time, though – there’s no enjoyment here.
I’m angry, and I’m sad, and that’s because…
Somewhere, someone employed by USPS is enjoying a windfall.
Not a large windfall – not enough for a month’s rent or car payment, but still…
A windfall is a good thing for the recipient.
But this time, not for the person who provided it:
My younger brothers – twins – had a milestone birthday coming up, and they were celebrating by going on a five-day bro trip to a U.S. city they’d never visited.
I wanted to treat them to birthday dinner, so I decided to purchase a gift card they could use on their special day. I wouldn’t be there in person, but they’d dine with my gift and that was how we’d celebrate.
A nice plan except, as it turned out, for one circumstance: They live in Michigan and I live in California. So to get the gift card into their hands, I sent birthday cards to both brothers, and enclosed the gift card in one.
Are your alarm bells going off?
Buy gift card, insert into birthday card, insert card into envelope, seal, address, apply stamp and mail – easy!
I’d asked my brother to let me know when the card and gift card arrived, and he did.
He also let me know that the envelope flap was unsealed.
And the gift card was gone.
The envelope hadn’t been torn open or slit open – none of this:
No, someone, somewhere at USPS unsealed the flap, took the gift card, and sent the envelope and card on their way.
No need to seal the envelope back up. Nothing in it now but a birthday card.
How do I know the thief was a USPS employee?
Because I went to the post office, walked inside, and put both birthday cards in the indoor slot:
From the local USPS employees’ hands the cards went to Michigan, each to my brother’s homes and in through their front door mail slots, so – no hands on that mail between California and Michigan other than USPS employee hands:
When my brother shared the news, I experienced a rush of feelings, all bad: anger, sadness, helplessness, frustration, disappointment in my fellow man/woman, ripped off, more anger and more sadness.
This wasn’t just a theft from my brothers and me, it has a wider context:
We trust USPS to do what they promise to do: Deliver mail from us and to us. Unscathed, intact, and reasonably on time.
As a high-ranking USPS employee put it very recently,
“For over two centuries, the Postal Service has honored its fundamental commitment to protect the sanctity of the U.S. Mail.
I’ve thought a lot about this since the theft happened, and my thoughts go back and forth.
“Maybe,” I speculated, “that postal worker will use the money to buy Christmas presents for their kids.”
“Maybe that postal worker will use the money to buy drugs.”
Maybe it doesn’t matter.
The point is the theft, not what the thief did with the money.
You could ask – logically – “Why didn’t you purchase an electronic gift card? No post office, no snail mail, your brother pulls out his phone and dinner is paid for!”
Yes, I know. The internet abounds with sites like this:
But…I’m just old-fashioned enough to have wanted my brothers to enjoy the heft of the gift card in their hands, the pleasure of placing it on top of the dinner tab, and maybe the anticipation of putting the gift card back in his wallet to enjoy spending the bit of balance left somewhere else.
They’ll enjoy none of that, and I won’t get to hear about the wonderful birthday dinner I’d treated them to on their milestone birthday.
And here’s an irony.
On November 9 as I was sitting at my computer writing this post, I heard this local news story about a USPS mail carrier here in San Diego County:
“A U.S. Postal Service mail carrier from Oceanside’s Brooks Street Station pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing over $2,000 from customers, announced San Diego Attorney Randy Grossman’s office.
“Breanna Wares, 39, admitted to stealing gift cards, cash and jewelry from around 20 residents along her route, according to her plea agreement.”
This thief definitely merits the How-Low-Can-You-Go award:
“The attorney’s office said most of the addresses on her route were located on the U.S. Marine Corp Base Camp Pendleton and many of the victims were active members of the military.”
Stealing from our military. As low as you can go.
A quick online search revealed that those military members – and I – have plenty of company, because theft by USPS employees is everywhere, not just here in San Diego County.
Here’s a story from Illinois:
And USPS is very aware of internal theft:
But USPS isn’t stopping it.
The USPS Office of Inspector General has a hotline for reporting postal employee thefts, but I decided not to bother after reading this:
“Unless you are contacted directly by one of our investigators, there will be no communication from our office, outside of the confirmation that the Hotline received your complaint, and which may advise you that your matter has been referred to another entity for appropriate action, where and if applicable.”
You see that reference about referring my “matter” to “another entity”?
Here it is:
Why waste my time?
No – all I can do is let go of my feelings of anger, sadness, helplessness, frustration, disappointment in my fellow man/woman, ripped off, more anger and more sadness.
And learn from this experience.