After my last post, I was convinced that no one could do something more stupid than what I had done with the pants. But I was wrong! The post office has taken the cake and eaten it too! Unbeknownst to anyone in town, the post office decided to close at 5pm. For as long as I can remember, they have stayed open until 12 midnight on tax day to accommodate those late filers. But this year, without any warning, they decided to make anyone mailing their taxes after 5pm use the machine that requires you to buy computer generated postage and postmark. They never advertised it, they didn't even hang a sign in the window. It wasn't on the news. They just did it without informing anyone.
So as is our custom, we traveled down to the post office around 8pm to mail our taxes. They were stamped and ready to go. Much to our surprise there was a line of around 50 people, all waiting to use the machine. After standing in line for over half and hour without moving, we decided that we would go home and eat dinner because we had worked all day and through the dinner hour and we were hungry! So we did and returned at 9:30pm to try again. This is what we found.
-At least 25 of the people that had been in line at 8:00 were still in line.
The machine had run out of stickers and there were no postal workers to replenish them.
-The machine required you to buy a book of stamps plus a $.44 stamp in order to get one postage stamp for your envelope. Thy guy in front of us had 12 envelopes. That gives new meaning to the term "forever stamp!"
-If you fooled the scale into thinking you had an over sized envelope, you could get away with paying around $1.05 for the first envelope and $.44 for any additional ones but the labels were so big, they had to be wrapped around the envelope.
-You had to go through 10 touch screens of information for each envelope before it would print your postage and it required that you type in a 9 digit destination zip code.
-the average time per person to mail 3 envelopes was 15 minutes. We figured out that we might just make it by midnight.
Then at 10:30 pm the machine's screen displayed this message. "This kiosk is performing daily maintenance functions. Please return later to complete your transaction." At this point things started to go south. One woman burst into tears. Many just said "the heck with it", and put their envelopes in the mail slot vowing that they weren't paying any late fees to anyone. One man broke into his office at work and used the Pitney Bowes machine. One man just drew his own postmark on the envelope and stuck it in the mail slot after informing us that he still owed for 2008 and they hadn't contacted him yet. He figured that they were so far behind in Washington, what difference would a day make? The volume in the room increased as people expressed their amazement, frustration and outrage! There were murmurings about destroying gov. property, telling the IRS to shove it, and what the penalties and interest were on 1 day late returns. I suggested that we all sing God Bless America, but there were no takers.
After many frustrated calls to automated "help lines", one guy just called the police...and they came! The female officer basically told us that the post office didn't care if we got our taxes mailed before the deadline and she didn't either. Around 11:00, the male officer, seeing that some were on the verge of going postal in the post office lobby contacted the postmaster. She said that she would come and take care of the machine. By now, our hopes of getting an April 15th postmark were pretty slim, but there was so much drama, we just hung around to see what would happen. She lived around 30 minutes away. At 11:59pm, the door to the post office opened and the postmaster came out bearing free stamps and promises that all envelopes would be postmarked April 15th!
Now I have to ask myself, why couldn't they just do what they always did? If it ain't broke, don't fix it! It ended up that what always happens happened anyway. Postal workers will come to work in the morning and have to postmark hundreds of letters with an April 15th postmark.
And I'm still puzzled. The post office is a gov. run business that is experiencing severe financial difficulties because as they say "so many people are using the Internet instead of the postal service". So on the one day that they stand to make a ton of money, they make it practically impossible to use their service, forcing everyone to buy stamps they don't want or need. Don't they understand their own system. Even if you filed your taxes on line, you still have to mail the voucher form with your check. This will require the US postal system!
I am still searching for the reason why the Lord decided that I needed to spend 3 hours hanging out in a poorly ventilated room packed with 50+ frustrated people just to pay my taxes. Although I don't watch reality t.v., this had potential for a very interesting show. And most of all, I have discovered that I am not the most stupid person on the planet, in fact, after what the post office pulled today, I'm thinking of running for Congress! I'll just be sure to check my outfit in the mirror before I appear on c-span to present my arguments for a TOTAL GOVERNMENTAL OVERHAUL!