Laboring for Service

This is a story of people laboring at their jobs. Or not.

The Post Office
The North Puffin branch Post Office no longer has a postmaster; we lost that distinction when the Postal Service decided we don’t rate service. Or at least not full time service. Our postmaster is in massive Puffin Center where, obviously, metropolitan rules must, must, must be enforced.

Our address here has been
P.O. Box 1
North Puffin VT 05990

for about the last umpty-seven years.

The North Puffin office has no real “Box 1” but our longtime postmaster set that up for us. In fact, we “share” the vanity box number with another, even longer-time resident. “It’s easy to keep straight,” she told me then.

We have a new clerk and she was ordered not to hand any mail across the window (I believe that means she’ll have to cut any packages up and fit them in our box) and to return any mail that is misaddressed. Especially mail to a “custom” box number.

In addition to our custom PO Box, we also have some mail that comes addressed to various forms of our street address. That’s fairly common in rural areas but it is increasing in these days of FedEx, UPS, and Amazon drone dropping boxes on the porch. Or the Porsche (our UPS driver left an ultra overnight envelope on the car seat once.) I’m thinking there will be a lot of pissed off campers if their credit card or cable bills or their car registrations get returned. After all, most credit card companies, cable companies, and DMVs have historically required street addresses.

“We all used to aim high. As a country we don’t aim high any more. We are too protective.”
— Walter Issacson.

Not to mention the fact that we have 37 years of precedent. And the Tyler Place, arguably a slightly larger mailer than the mighty HarperCo, has used PO Box 1 probably for longer.

Customer service? We don’ need no steenkin’ customer service. This is the Post Office, not a labor of love.

Story #2: Calendar Listings
This year is the 25th anniversary of our Summer Sounds concert series so we’re having a Big Blowout Benefit Music Festival with continuous music on Sunday, September 20, the last Sunday of summer.

The Town of Highgate, Vermont, was the original home of Summer Sounds and we’re having this bonanza in part to say “thank you!” The festival will raise money to build a band shell in Highgate for the next 25 years of music and will support programming at Camp Ta-Kum-Ta.

I posted listings for the Festival on the Free Press and Seven Days calendars. It took almost two hours each because the sites kept rejecting the entries for technical glitches. And each time they did, I had to fill in the info again.

It was so like my (and Vermont Health Exchange) experience, I wondered if CGI designed their forms.

Story #3: Internet Mail
I transferred a customer’s dot-com domain name from my old registrar to my business account at last week.

Simple, right? Get an AUTH code, click a few buttons, and away we go. It’s the kind of job that should need no human intervention.

Well, no. Finding the EPP request on the old site was a little time consuming but I did that without human intervention. Then I spent 1:39:00 on the phone with my tech support folk at making the transfer actually happen.

First the automated transfer page told me was “not available to transfer.”

Say what?

I called. The phone number on their site was out of service.

Uh oh.

Googled for another number and got through. Started explaining the problem. Got put on hold. And the call quietly evaporated. Called again. Explained the problem to a knowledgeable tech. In the Philippines, I think.

“OK,” he said. “Just send the AUTH code to me at”

Say what?

Apparently the mail system they give tech support is very slow. They use as a workaround. I had him send me an email from that address. It came through after getting hung in Gmail’s spam filtration. So. After the rest of that first hour passed, we got the transfer started. A couple of hours later, I got the “confirm transfer” instructions from I clicked the link.

Nupe. It went to the right page. I clicked the big green CONFIRM button and it faded and quit.

I called the other number and got through. Just started ‘splaining to the tech rep when the phone went back to the autoattend. I called in again and got a very nice lady in Connecticut in what sounded like her kitchen.


She transferred me back to the Philippines. Nice fellow. First level tech support so he was slow and had to consult but he got it done. 39 minutes later.

An (automated) email from this morning announced a “Successful change of provider for the domain”

This was a tale of people laboring at their jobs. Or not.

Story #1, the Post Office, is entirely a story of people at work, working hard to make a simple task harder for their customers.

Story #2, an Internet form, is a story that needed people at work, so an online form with no help desk person to back it up failed and failed for the customers.

Story #3, an Internet service, is another story of people at work, but this time working hard to make a simple task that unfortunately failed into a success for their customers.

Happy Labor Day, everyone. Liz Arden is back home from Burning Man and will labor all day to clean alkali dust out of every crevice. SWMBO and I are off to a picnic.