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Monday, February 18, 2008


Postage for a first-class letter stamp is going up, from 41 cents to 42 cents. They are saying that it's due to rising costs. This may be true, but it doesn't have to be.

Mention "D.P.S." to any mailman, and he will wince, if not outwardly, inwardly. I've been a mailman for twenty years, before D.P.S. and during D.P.S., and I don't even know what the letters stand for! We kid about it, saying it stands for "Damn Poor Service." It could also stand for "Downfall of the Postal Service." Anyway, D.P.S. refers to automated mail we carriers receive, that has been sorted by machine.

Most of the mail we get to deliver has been sorted by machine, and it's loaded with errors. Have you ever received mail addressed not only to someone else, but to another state? If not, you have a skilled and caring mailman. If so, that's a gift from D.P.S. Machines sort even many magazines now, and each day I set aside a stack of magazines supposedly for my route but addressed to other towns!

Now really D.P.S. is a wonderful thing. These sorting machines are truly amazing, and most of the mail is sorted correctly. The letters are brought to us in trays (I get from two to six trays daily--usually three--and each tray holds two feet of letters), and ideally this mail should be intersorted with the other mail we spend time each morning sorting ourselves. Since D.P.S. is in order, this can be done very quickly, in a safe and comfortable office atmosphere. Meanwhile we can catch the mistakes, make accurate deliveries, and send the missorted mail along its merry way that very day.

But the higher-ups in postal service management are very stubborn. The original idea of D.P.S. is that machines would sort the mail, and we carriers would grab the trays early in the morning and leave for our routes. And for us to combine this mail with the non-automated mail, and spend time checking for errors in the office, is, in the eyes of postal service management, sacrilege.

So here's what we must do: We spend two or three hours each morning sorting mail and getting it ready for loading into the truck. We grab the untouched D.P.S. mail trays on our way out, and all through our routes have to finger through this automated mail, in traffic, with our truck engines running, pulling out the errors and combining the rest with the mail we had sorted in the office. In other words, we have to do on the street, in whatever weather, with traffic all around us, with gas burning, what we should have done in the office. This is why gas prices affect us even more than they otherwise would. This is why your postage is going up.

At the end of each day, I bring back an average of a foot of letters that couldn't be delivered--D.P.S. errors--and they sit overnight before continuing on their way to the correct destination. Before D.P.S., this was called "delaying the mail," and we would get in trouble for it. Now we are required to delay mail. So when you pay that added cost for postage, know that it goes to pay for the gas we burn while doing the twist in a truck seat, holding you up in traffic while we misdeliver and/or delay your mail.

By the way, on those fortunate days when, by absence of management or some such luck, we are able to sort the D.P.S. in with the other mail before leaving for our routes, we finish the day in less time. So you're also paying for our extra work hours.

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