Tuesday, October 18, 2005


The U.S. Postal Service long-ago introduced self-service kiosks that, at least in Porter Square, still require constant attendance by a postal worker. This seems to defeat the purpose, but, nonetheless, one of two workers hovered over the machine this afternoon, instructing the rare customer in its use while the line languished — growing five deep, then six, then seven.

“Anybody want to use the machine?” the worker asked. “It’ll save you a long wait in line.” Sometimes he amplified his sales pitch by noting that using the machine would save customers a “20- or 30-minute wait.”

When asked why he waited by the machine when there was such a long line of customers, the worker explained that employees on site have “no control” over how they spend their day; a manager for the city, who works elsewhere, decides how employees are used. When asked whether he could get behind the counter and help the lone worker there, doubling the effective staffing of the station, if no one wanted to use the machine … well, no. Even when the worker at the counter had to leave to use the restroom, he was prevented from budging from beside that ridiculous, job-destroying machine.

And when asked if this was frustrating, he replied, “You got that right.”

The worker ran back to her spot behind the counter. The line advanced one space.

From behind, the other worker could be heard making his pitch. When a customer responded, he could be heard assuring the man there was nothing to fear from using the machine.

“It’s pretty self-explanatory,” he said.


Anonymous said...

I actually used the machine last time I was in the Porter Square post office. There were about 10 people in line ahead of me and it was moving really slowly. I made A. hold my place in line in case the machine didn't work, but it did, although I had to try 2 forms of payments before it would accept one. And the mail got there!

Scape7 said...

And apparently you can use it without some soon-to-be-redundant employee hanging over your shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Now that part is weird. The overhanging postal worker is definitely a disincentive.

Brian Wanamaker said...

It's weird, isn't it? I could easily see myself being unwilling to stand around and experiment with an unknown machine because I didn't want to look stupid in front of the mailman... even though that's why he's standing there.

Scape7 said...

I hadn't thought about that, but of course you're entirely correct: Few people would want to mess with a machine while being watched by an official of any sort. And if you don't need the help at all, the official would just be an irritant.

Good thinking, U.S. Postal Service managers!

Anonymous said...

Not a big deal really...but isn't the USPS the only government entity that made money the last few years? I don't think it gets any tax payer support, even.


Scape7 said...

Probably true. And it doesn't matter, any more than it does if you're in your local profitable Applebees and, instead of coming to your table and taking an order, half the servers are over at the salad bar explaining to customers how to get their hands under the sneeze guard.

Anonymous said...

So I'd eat at Applebees' because...?

Seriously...it makes money. So sue them. I think it's actually a fairly well-managed ship overall.

And, *PHEW* someone like you is worried about managing that sneeze guard.