Tuesday, 18 February 2014

07:33 – We’re running out of room on the foyer table, with boxes stacked up awaiting shipping that have been accumulating since last Friday. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that USPS will actually show up today, so I’ll print postage labels for all those that aren’t yet labeled.

The lead article in the morning paper is about the textbook shortage in local schools. The state pays for school books, and apparently state funding has dropped over the last five years from $60/student/year to $14/student/year. The average textbook costs between $50 and $75. Some courses have no books at all, and others have only classroom sets that kids can’t take home. Books used to be replaced annually on a five-year rotation for each course, but the last time they did a replacement for any course was six years ago. Local officials are not soliciting donations because they’re afraid that if they replace books themselves the state will cut funding further. And North Carolina has adopted Common Core without providing any funding to support it. No mention in the article of the excellent (and free) CK-12.org textbooks.


10:48 – USPS seems determined to drive me to using UPS or FedEx. I ran a batch of postage labels this morning. When I attempted to pay for them, the USPS Click-and-Ship website rejected the credit card I had on file. I knew it was good, but I entered another credit card and used it to pay for the labels. So then I went to run a second batch of labels. This time, it rejected the original credit card, the new one I’d just entered, a third one I entered then, AND my PayPal account. So I called tech support, who told me that there was a problem on their end, but that he’d “submit your information” to their support group, who wouldn’t take any action on it for the next 48 hours. He said my only option was to wait, and it’d be at least 48 hours before I could print any postage labels.

I told him that wasn’t my only option, and that although I’d been a loyal USPS customer for years and shipped literally tons of packages with them, as soon as I hung up I was going to start looking into switching to UPS or FedEx. Which I did. The change isn’t going to be fast or easy, it’s going to end up costing more, and I don’t even know for sure that I’ll be able to use UPS or FedEx, but USPS’s total non-performance since last Wednesday has been intolerable.

So then I decided to call the local post office and ask it they thought they might get around to delivering our mail today. The woman I talked to was very defensive, and interested only in making excuses. I told her that I understood Thursday. I kind of expected USPS to show up, but I wasn’t surprised when they didn’t. But there was no excuse for not delivering on Friday, and not delivering on Saturday went beyond inexcusable. Her explanation for Saturday was that even though the roads were completely clear, a lot of people hadn’t shown up for work. I was going to ask if they’d all been fired, but it was pointless to waste any more time with her.

So now I need to waste more time looking at alternatives. The change, if indeed I can even make it, will take months. Among other things, I’ll need to get an e-commerce package installed and configured and tested, not to mention redesigning many of our procedures. I’ll need to look into UPS and FedEx requirements for shipping small quantities of hazardous materials, which may be a show-stopper.

But the first thing I need to do is contact my customers to let them know that their kits won’t go out as promised today. Thanks, USPS, for making me look bad to my customers.