A game of “20 Questions” with the Post Office clerk

Like many of my collecting cohorts, I make several trips to the post office a month. More times than not I use the APC, Automated Postal Center. I love that blue machine. It allows me to get in and get out as fast as possible. Unless of course I have to ship items outside the country. Then I have to get in line like all the other technology-fearing people who wonder what it is that I am doing at this machine.

One of the things I hate most about having to use the counter at the post office is the incessant questioning from the clerk. I’d tolerated it in years past because the questions were pretty basic: How would you like to ship this? Will that be it?

But then came Wednesday, when it occurred to me how many questions they really ask you. I had three padded envelopes to ship, two of which had to head to Canada. So after filling out the little international customs declaration forms I was called to the counter. Here is a (loose) transcript

Clerk: Hi, how can I help you today? (Question 1)

Me: Fine, thanks. I just need to ship these two to Canada regular mail, and then this one domestic.

Clerk: Anything liquid, fragile,  perishable or potentially hazardous? (Question 2)

Me: Um, no.

Clerk: How would you like to ship this? Express? Priority? (Questions 3, 4, 5)

Me: Just first class on everything.

Clerk: Insurance against loss or damage? Want to track this item? (Questions 6,7)

Me: Nope.

<<Clerk stamps two small envelopes, applies postage and then reaches for the domestic envelope>>

Clerk: And this one? Express? Priority? (Questions 8, 9, 10)

Me: Just first class will be fine.

Clerk: Anything liquid, fragile, perishable or potentially hazardous? (Question 11)

Me: Nope

Clerk: Insurance against loss or damage? Delivery confirmation? (Questions 12, 13)

Me: No.

Clerk: So just regular mail, then, huh? (Question 14)

Me: Yep.

<<Clerk applies postage to domestic envelope>>

Clerk: OK. Any book of stamps? (Question 15)

Me: No, I’m good.

Clerk: Packing material? They’re colorful … (Question 16)

<<I shake my head, chuckle>>

Me: Nah …

Clerk: OK. So that will be it? (Question 17)

Me: Yep.

<<I deeply exhale in frustration>>

Clerk: Cash, debit or credit? (Question 18)

Me: Debit is fine.

<<I attempt to hand my card to the clerk, which has been protocol for years even though the reader is on the counter.>>

Clerk: No, you swipe it, sir.

<<Clerk confirms total on computer, motions for me to swipe my card>>

Clerk: Cash back? (Question 19)

Me: No.

<<Clerk grabs receipt and hands it to me>>

Clerk: Anything else I can help you with? (Question 20)

Me: No, that’ll be it thanks. Have a good day.

<<I exit lobby>>

Twenty questions. Seriously? I mean the questions were appropriate and all, but that is a whole lot of questions for mailing three packages. Half of the queries could have been eliminated if she had listened to my initial instruction instead of acting like a robot.

9 Responses to “A game of “20 Questions” with the Post Office clerk”

  1. At least he/she didn’t ask you if you were interested in renting a P.O. Box.

    Yes, the APC machine is a Godsend.

  2. Actually she did! I totally forgot that. It was right before she asked if I wanted to buy shipping supplies. It was the first time I’d been asked that while trying to ship items.

    Clerk: Would you like to rent a postal box? They’re safer and you can access your mail earlier.
    Me: No thanks.

    A side note, I love that most of the clerks where I live are Asian women whose statements all sound like questions based on their accents.

    And no, I don’t dislike Asian women. Just an observation that actually makes the process even more amusing with the statement-question.

  3. At least she didn’t berate you for using the wrong packaging. That’s what they do best at the post office I frequent.

    • I’ve gone through that stuff before, mainly about 10-12 years ago before I became a post office expert because of my ebay dealings. Always remember that packing tape bust be clear or brown … no duct tape. And priority boxes are NOT to be used for any other type of shipping.

  4. Sadly, we have no automated thingy.

    Happily, the post office clerks where I am are nearly as inquisitive. I get 3 or 4 questions, max. And less if they’ve seen me before — which several have.

  5. Would you rather she ignored you and screwed up what she asked you to do or ask questions to get the order right.

    Also, with email and the way we communicate these days, the post office doesn’t make as much money off stamps as they used to. They need to push these kinds of things off to the public.

    She didn’t seem rude. So I think it’s a win situation for you.

  6. My PO doesn’t have a automated machine. I was told the state made a law saying they couldn’t be used. It was supposed to save jobs but really it just made the line longer cause they cut back anyway. There isn’t even a stamp machine anymore. This is why it takes me so long to get packages in the mail sometimes. I don’t want to wait 20 mins in line to ship one thing so I wait till I have 3 or 4 to ship.

    They used to ask me all those questions but not anymore because I beat them to it. I always hand them my packages and say “no to all 3, whatever is cheapest” before they can ask me anything. I’ve done it so many times that they just give me a total.

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