What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Romaine. After discovering that romaine lettuce was temporarily poisonous to people, anything containing that devil’s weed was unceremoniously yanked from the shelves of grocery stores across the country. That’s fine. E. coli isn’t exactly something most people want spread around. But please, in your haste to throw out all things green, spare a thought for the poor tortoise keepers among you. Even if romaine wasn’t a staple food for my tort, it was an element of the spring mix he got on a fairly regular basis. With romaine being potentially toxic for human consumption, of course spring mix it disappeared from the shelves too… which has left George with a mix of kale, mustard greens, and collards that he is clearly not in favor of based on his attitude for the last several days. The supply is also a lot more limited with people also opting for the “whatever is green” option to meet their salad needs. We’ve reached the point where I’m 100% willing to risk a few measly human deaths to have a happy and well-fed tortoise again. 

2. People. It’s kind of adorable that anyone who knows me thinks I can be guilted into changing my position by showing me pictures of or telling me stories about people. I think my position on people as a group is pretty well known. There are, of course, exceptions and people who I dearly love and highly respect. For the most part, though, I literally can’t even with people. By contrast, though, if you harm one little hair on the head of an animal that’s not culturally accepted as livestock, though, and I’d be happy to melt your face off with a blowtorch.

3. The United States Postal Service. We’re now well into day five of watching my latest prescription refill travel the approximately 40 miles between DC and Baltimore. After two days of lingering around our nation’s capital, the precision tracking app provided by the USPS tells me that it’s once again on the move… of course it neglects to mention where it’s headed or when it may arrive other than blithely saying it will be on my doorstep my 8PM tonight. That seems unlikely since the rest of my mail arrived hours ago and, well, since this is the 2nd soon-to-be-missed delivery estimate. Yes, I can call in a “bridge” request and CVS will front me a few days of meds from a local store – with the requisite $80 co-pay of course – but that’s not the point, really. I don’t think expecting a delivery service that would arrive to me in a more timely manner than if I drove way the hell down to Tampa and picked the order up myself from the warehouse is really anything out of order.

Naw, we don’t need no logistics…

Hey, I know from experience that sometimes logistics can be hard. Getting an item from Point A to Point B in the right quantity at the right time can take a bit of work. When the chips are down and time is a factor, I’m glad I can count on the prowess of the United States Postal Service to let me down hard. 

My well-traveled package

But seriously, an item I ordered landed in Philadelphia last Saturday. In the four days since it has been transferred to Hyattsville, onward to Baltimore, from Baltimore to Washington (where it rattled around the Regional Destination Facility for 6 hours getting scanned repeatedly), back to Baltimore, and reverse coursed back to Washington where it has been sitting since 7:34 this morning. But I suppose I should be confident in the big bold promise of “Delivery by 29 November.”

I mean it’s not like the USPS has been charged with delivering mail and packages for well over 200 years now. Getting a little padded envelope from Philadelphia thirty miles down the road to Elkton is clearly one of the more logistically complex efforts every devised and executed by the mind of man. 

Thank the gods that the package in question absolutely does not contain medications that in any way are responsible for keeping me alive.

Sigh. Apparently, in mail, as in war, even the very simple things are so very hard to do.

There anyway…

I’ve seen a commercial on television for the US Postal Service over the last few days. I’m going to set aside the fact that there has been a postal service in this country since the revolution and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t at least bought a stamp or received a letter at some point in their lives and focus on what I really find odd about seeing the post office on TV.

The ad is clearly trying to drum up package handling business for the USPS; trying to remind their customers that they do more than “mail.” That’s well and good. The real issue of the thing is how they go about it. Whatever ad agency they paid millions to for this campaign didn’t focus on things like accuracy, on time delivery, or even cost. Instead they went an entirely different direction, literally having one of the people in the spot say the line “We’re going to be there anyway” while urging us to use them as our parcel deliverer of choice.

We’re going to be there anyway. It doesn’t exactly fill me with lofty visions or assurances of my package getting where it’s supposed to go. It feels like the barest step up from “Give us your stuff and hope for the best.” If they’re trying to swing my business away from UPS or FedEx, I’m afraid the post office is going to need to try something a little more confidence inspiring in their approach.

The truly disturbing part is that somewhere deep in the bowels of Post Office Headquarters, a committee of thoughtful and well compensated people thought that ad was right on point – the very best their money could buy. Maybe it was the least bad of several options, but still I think I’d have gone in a different direction. Then again, they got me to spend a whole 30 minutes thinking about the Post Office. Even if I’m not going to use them, that’s something.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Strike 3. With the USPS fighting for it’s life, one of the simple issues they could work on is get things from Point A to Point B when they say they will. The last three items I ordered online that were shipped through USPS all encountered inexplicable delays. Maybe I’m just finicky, but when I pay for second day arrival, I generally expect to get my items two days after I ordered them. It doesn’t feel like that’s an unreasonable expectation. I know it’s a trifle, but logging in to a website a day or two after the “guaranteed arrival date” and still wondering where the hell my package is is just infuriating and just one of the many reasons I don’t use USPS when I have an option. On time and to standard; that’s the way to build a happy customer based. What USPS is doing is pretty much just telling me that they’ve given up.

2. Mission: Impossible. When the assigned mission is to give a 3 minute presentation about what you’re working on, that’s what you should do. Actually, you should wrap it up in two minutes, thirty seconds to allow a moment for questions, but that’s not the point. What you shouldn’t do is ramble all over the damned world while everyone’s eyes glaze over in benign indifference. Remember, it’s called a “brief” for a reason.

3. Dropped calls. Cell phones drop calls. Since they’re magically connecting to far away towers without the benefit of wires, I’ve learned to accept that limitation. When using a land line to connect to another land line, there’s just no justification for dropping the call not once, not twice, not thrice, but four effing times in the span of 35 minutes. After attempt four failed to take hold for more than three minutes, I officially lost interest in whatever was being said. If it appeared to anyone that I had thrown my hands in the air like I just don’t care, well, there’s a good reason it looked like that.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. US Postal Service. I know they’re everyone’s favorite whipping boy. I’ve taken them to task a time or two myself, but I like to think it’s not a knee jerk reaction. When a bunch of people are talking about having a craptastic delivery experience, there’s probably at least some truth to the notion. Really, it could all be avoided if the package I ordered last Monday with an estimated delivery date of last Saturday had any sign of ever leaving its point of origin in Oklahoma. Sure, I know first class mail isn’t an overnight service, but it doesn’t seem excessive to expect the post office to, at a minimum, avoid losing track of a package that has a tracking number printed on it. At the very least, they might want to actually respond to a customer request for information from time to time. As a historic institution, I want to like the USPS, but there’s generally a reason I’m willing to pay a few dollars more to ship items through a more reliable provider.

2. McDonald’s. I’ve noticed two things about the local McDonald’s here in scenic Elkton. 1) They’ve never gotten my drive thru order 100% correct; and 2) When I go inside to complain and get the order corrected, the place looks like a damned sty. I’m not a regular, but sometimes you just want a Big Mac and super-salty fries. All I’m saying is that having had the experience of spending more years working at a McDonald’s franchise than I want to admit, the kind of service and level of cleanliness I see here definitely wouldn’t have passed muster back in the day. Im not saying I liked cleaning stainless or sweeping the lobby and more than these guys do, but I do think the standards 19-odd years ago were definitely better. Then again, that seems to be endemic, so maybe it’s just society in general that’s pissing me off and McDonald’s is just a symptom.

3. Harvey Weinstein. So Harvey has decided that he is going to make a movie taking on the NRA because he “doesn’t think we need guns in this country.” I guess violence is bad, except when it’s being used as a plot point to generate billions in revenue from such peaceful films as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Grindhouse, Rambo, and Django Unchained. I’m not sure Harvey commands the moral high ground on this one. Pot, meet kettle.

Missing in Transit…

Setting aside the fact that the US Postal Service has a legal monopoly on delivering first class mail in this country and they fact that they’ve had 236 years of practice moving things from Point A to Point B, sometimes I wonder why they have as many problems as they do. Then, of course, I get a handy reminder of why they suck and I used them as little as possible.

I ordered a prescription refill from my vendor of choice on the morning of August 11th and it shipped out later that afternoon. Then, somewhat inexplicably, on August 14th my order was scanned at a post office in Fort Lee, NJ and labeled “missent.” Which is fine, of course, except for the part where according to the USPS it has never been seen again. They’re quick to point out that theirs is a “delivery confirmation” system and not a “tracking” system like they use at such upscale shippers as FedEx and UPS. So it’s equally possible that the envelope containing my prescription has actually left the Garden State. It’s also possible that it’s still sitting there. There is apparently no way known to man to find out which of these options is the case. Let’s just say that the conversation with the USPS Customer Service Representative (and I use that term loosely) does not fill me with confidence. But hey, if it stays missing for five more Postal Business Days, we can officially proclaim it lost, so that’s a plus.

Don’t worry, I’m not letting CVS Caremark off the hook for their role in this little fiasco either. After all, they’re the ones who selected the USPS as the shipper of choice, which shows piss poor decision making skills right off the bat. They’re also the ones who won’t reship a prescription unless it’s been “missing in transit” for more than 15 days. They did, however, offer a very helpful suggestion of getting my doctor to give me a new prescription that I could fill at my local pharmacy… Which pretty much defeats the purpose of using your goddamned bloody mail order pharmacy program in the bleeding first place, doesn’t it you backwater asshats?

I’m a reasonable guy. I don’t expect miracles. All I know is that I can order tasty bits from Europe and have them in my hands three days later (including a Sunday) with UPS. I can order a book from Amazon and it’s sitting on my porch in 48 hours. But apparently delivering the drugs that keeps my blood pressure from rocketing into the “about to have a stroke” level in less than ten days is a bridge too far for United States Postal Service. Next time I’ll leave well enough alone and just walk to New Jersey to pick it up. It’d be faster.

Editorial Note: In the interests of fair and balanced reporting, two hours after I called USPS, the package in question was scanned in at my local post office and showed “out for delivery.” It arrived, crinkled and battered, ten days after I ordered it, but it arrived. Fortunately, the rant had progressed too far past its failsafe point to call back.

What Annoys Jeff this Week…

Starting the week on Tuesday threw me off this week. In case anyone is wondering, that’s why What Annoys Jeff this Week didn’t make an appearance as scheduled this week. It’s a couple of days late this time around, but you surely didn’t think I’d pass the week without anything annoying did you? It’s been a short week, so the annoyance has been limited, but here’s what made the list:

The United States Postal Service. I assure you the 1 ounce of paint I’m trying to purchase is not intended as a weapon of mass destruction. All I want to do is touch up a ding on my rear fender. Call it toxic and hazardous if you want, but there’s no reason it should take a small package anywhere between one and three weeks to travel from Oregon to Maryland.

People who don’t take non-verbal hints. As a general rule, if you’re talking in my general direction and I’m not making eye contact I’m trying to give you a subtle hint that you can stop talking at any time. Same goes when you sand behind me and sigh hoping I’ll turn around and look interested. I’m a simple man. If you have to ask yourself if I’m interested, it’s a fair bet that I’m not.

Comcast. Your DVR sucks. It has sucked since the day you brought it here, but it especially sucks lately. As much as your helpdesk likes to think that powering off and waiting is a magical resolution to every problem, I have to tell you that it isn’t. I’m going to give you one chance to make things right and then I’ll call DirecTV. Lord knows they have their own issues, but I’ve never had the service problems with them I have with you.