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Did We Win? - Early Returns Show USPS Makes Further Breakthroughs in The Parcel Delivery Business

Mel Carriere is the creator of The Postal Tsunami, a blog about Postal Life, Politics, and other issues that affect Postal employees.

Santa loads his LLV for business.  Reindeer not pictured.  This was a light day for Xmas 2016, it got worse!

Santa loads his LLV for business. Reindeer not pictured. This was a light day for Xmas 2016, it got worse!

Holiday Greetings from The Postal Tsunami

If you work for the USPS, I am sure you will agree that, whatever your capacity, the 2016 Holiday Delivery Season was a brutal one. Perhaps your experience will mirror mine as a letter carrier on the ODL (Overtime Desired List). I consistently logged 11 hour days, and for the first time in my Postal Career I worked on Sunday, in fact two consecutive ones, delivering Amazon parcels. The Amazon is a mighty, muddy river as it flows down from the towering Andes and spreads out across the endless rain forests of Brazil, washing cardboard covered treasures and sometimes perils to those waiting downstream. Some of those packages contain piranhas, so watch your fingers as you pry them loose from the rear compartment of your LLV, stuffed to the ceiling with a precariously packed load.

Apart from the increased parcel volume, obvious to everyone, even head-in-the-sand gaudily plumed supervisors, what made holiday 2016 so brutal is that it followed right on the heels of a brutal 2016 election season. There was scarcely a break in between trays of heavy, back breaking voter guides carried along with knife-edged, finger slicing political mail, and the subsequent barrage of cardboard containers that was not so much a tsunami as an avalanche that buried everything and everyone beneath it. I don't know about you, but I'm beat down, burnt out, done in, fed up, and any infinite number appropriate phrases ending with a preposition that may really be adjectives if you are analyzing them with a grammatical eye.

Mel Carriere's Postal Tsunami has now moved from Blogspot to Hub Pages. Hub Pages shares a more generous portion of the revenue, so there is no point carrying on that exercise in futility, frugality, criminality and other ugly nominalized adjectives. I hope you enjoy the new format, and will bookmark or follow The Tsunami to the extent that your cyber skill-set allows. Non-postal personnel are always welcome, of course, and I will try my best to enlighten and entertain you as well.

From the pages of the Postal Tsunami

From the pages of the Postal Tsunami

Two Charming 2016 Postal Holiday Stories - Big Brown And Beyond

Here are two rather tear-jerking true to life accounts from Christmas 2016 that clearly demonstrate both the public misperception about the Postal Service's continued role in an ever-changing world, and the harsh reality of that role in the eyes of our competitors.

As the sun was dipping dismally below the horizon and I was still hastily sorting letters and packages into a set of CBUs, a nice lady on my route, the kind that bakes you cookies even though one more cookie or piece of candy consumed from from well meaning but obviously not health and wellness minded customers will send you into unalterable arteriosclerosis, was rather obliquely investigating why I was delivering her mail so damn late.

"I would think that with the Internet your job would be easier at Christmas, because you're getting less Christmas cards now," she said with the air of authority expected from the head of the homeowner's association. This in spite of the fact that the back of my LLV was open and the uncountable abundance of parcels still stuffed in there, representing a mere fraction of those delivered on that day, were trying to tumble out and escape from the claustrophobic captivity they were suffering, being crammed in like non free-range chickens with 150 or so of their closest friends and relatives.

How do you respond to an inquiry like this without risking your continued Christmas cookie supply? I politely explained that Christmas cards never really were the reason for the season sending me home deep into the dark hours of the night, to melt into an exhausted puddle on the floor beneath the Christmas Tree during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. I explained to her that the packages, the ones that would bury her like a mining disaster if she stepped one inch closer to the back bumper of my vehicle and accidentally nudged it are, have been, and always will be the reason why your letter carrier shows up like Krampus in the middle of the night, so that you think he's there to drag away your naughty kiddies instead of leaving holiday happiness on your doorstep.

"Huh!" she exclaimed, trying to sound sympathetic but clearly not getting it, despite the preponderance of visual evidence before her. But I didn't have time to convince anyone. The postal clock was ticking its merciless hundredths away and I had to move on.

That night, or maybe it was one of dozens of other monotonously gloomy Yuletide evenings when I clocked out and went to get a little holiday cheer to revive my dampened Christmas spirit with, I ran into a rather disgruntled looking UPS driver in line at the convenience store. He was queuing up wearing a drab UPS jacket and those ugly big brown shorts that they never replace with pants, no matter how cold it gets. During those harsh Midwestern blizzards, I wondered, do their dangerously exposed legs freeze and fall off, especially since they never close the doors on their trucks, either?

Anyhow, I was buying a $2.19 32 ounce Bud Dry, my particular version of two-buck chuck, while I couldn't help notice he was purchasing a much more pricey and certainly palate-pleasing bottle of some snooty local micro-brew.

"That's the difference between your paycheck and mine," I said to him. "I can only afford to get the rot-gut, while you buy the good stuff."

He did not appear to be amused at all, so I turned the conversation in a more empathetic direction. "How's it going for the holidays," I asked, "Pretty busy?"

"Yeah," he shrugged, rather noncommittally.

"But you guys have those big vehicles to load everything into, while we have to pack it all into our little tiny trucks," I told him.

I think I struck a nerve. The UPS driver waiting in line like me to buy beer finally revealed some personality from the brown colored depths of his soul. "Hey, you guys wanted to steal all of those parcels from us, now DEAL WITH IT!" he said.

Ouch! I thought, and went on my merry way, lugging along my cheap bottle of Christmas cheer under one arm, concealed in a brown paper bag that was the same ugly color as that surly driver's uniform. But I soon realized that his less than amicable response had been an admission of defeat on his part, a recognition that the Postal Service is kicking his company's butt and possibly threatening his future ability to take home tasty bottles of uppity micro-brew.

Does United Parcel Service really need two people to do a one-man or one-woman job?  And, do they ever take off those shorts and get some long pants, even in the middle of winter?

Does United Parcel Service really need two people to do a one-man or one-woman job? And, do they ever take off those shorts and get some long pants, even in the middle of winter?

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Anecdotal Evidence of Victory?

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against these UPS drivers, friendly or not. They are our Union brothers in arms and I wish them all the best, thinking there is probably enough for everyone to go around, at least until the drones fly in and take it all away.

But that UPS driver's rather heated acknowledgment that the Postal Service has severely impacted his place of business, corroborates my own admittedly limited set of statistics compiled on my route over the last year.

On October 15th, 2015, I started keeping an average of the scans I make on a daily basis. In case you are a geeky letter carrier like me wondering how to do this yourself, you hit Escape to get back to the main scanner menu, then hit 'D' for data. There you can see a running count of all the scans you have made. Of course there are other unaccounted for parcels that are not scanned because they do not have a bar code, and accountable items like Certified letters are also included within this tally, but it gives the letter carrier a fairly reasonable idea about how high his or her parcel volume has been.

From October 15th to December 31st, 2015, the average daily scans for my route was 96.18. From October 15th to December 31st, 2016, however, this same average was 124.29. This is a fairly impressive increase of 23.62%, if I'm doing my math correctly. Even if I'm not, it's still a pretty significant gain over the same period last year.

Of course, this is limited and anecdotal evidence, confined to one letter carrier's route, but I'm willing to bet you that when the United States Postal Service's official numbers for the 2016 holiday season are released, the tabulated gain will be pretty close to this.

So do my numbers mean that we are winning? Rather than popping the cork on some expensive vintage while perusing the holiday profits, will the UPS stockholders be joining me in twisting the top off a 32 ounce bottle of Bud Dry instead? Maybe it's too early to tell, but there's always room for one more tired drunk in my part of town.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year from Mel Carriere and the Postal Tsunami!


Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 04, 2017:

Slightly abnormal is about the best we can hope for Mills. I'm sure your balmy Midwest weather didn't make things easier for those drivers. Happy 2017, I appreciate you dropping in.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 04, 2017:

Thank you Linda, there really is no rest for the weary here but I'm trying to wind down. I appreciate you dropping in.

Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on January 04, 2017:

Happy New Year to you too, Mel. At work, I am on the receiving end of the parcel tsunami, though not the ones from the USPS. It especially gets hard at year's end, when companies send all they can in advance of the holidays and the year's end. I know things could be worse, as some letter carriers and parcel drivers around Chicago have recently learned. I have to say that it's always good to get back to abnormal,

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 04, 2017:

I'm glad you're getting some rest after your busy Christmas, Mel. I can see that I'm going to enjoy the Postal Tsunami series

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 04, 2017:

Thank you Robert, Happy New Year to you as well. We get the job done for our customers. We love our customers, and we serve them, not our managers. Therefore, we always do what is necessary to make sure their mail delivery is accurate and unimpeded. I appreciate you dropping in.

Robert Stevenson on January 04, 2017:

Happy New Year Mel. I especially liked your answer to Dreamer Meg. As you well know, most all postal employees, carriers and clerks alike, at some point will find themselves having to overcome the continual stupidity of their local management to get some or all of their job done. I have said this for years, but it still holds true-postal craft employees will always get the job done IN SPITE of managements actions/inactions.

Have a great 2017, sir...

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 03, 2017:

Thank you Larry. Some people don't understand that ebb and flow, nor the cause and effect between higher mail volume and later delivery times. I appreciate you dropping in. Happy 2017 to you.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on January 03, 2017:

Here at our household we had mail sometimes not getting to us until after dark.

Having worked in the private delivery sector as a semi driver, I know firsthand about the eb and flow of delivery.

Interesting read.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 03, 2017:

Funny you should mention that Meg, but our overtaxed scanners were our Kryptonite this year. The batteries on these brand new scanners are gradually wearing down, and mine was dying around 5:30 PM. Our managers ordered spare batteries, but neglected to order chargers for them. Once again, in spite of management mistakes and technical roadblocks, we managed to get the job done. Thanks for reading.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on January 03, 2017:

Did the tracking machines keep up with your rate of work? That seems like a huge increase in work! First one of your hubs I have read, I think. Must look out for more.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 03, 2017:

Thank you Solaras. In the past I think we had some problems with reliability but in recent years we've really stepped up our game. Thank you for your support, and thanks for dropping by and reading!

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 03, 2017:

Bill I am on vacation trying to stir up the writing worm again, who has been in hibernation. Whether the wife will let me rest, however, is another issue. I wouldn't wear those ugly shorts as undergarments. Thanks for dropping in and Happy New Year, my friend.

Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on January 03, 2017:

Even with the hike in rates last year, USPS is still kicking UPS and Fedex butts on pricing and delivery times. You guys get 95% of my packages! Thanks for doing such great work over the holiday season as well as the rest of the year. I defend you every chance I get on social media.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 03, 2017:

Great read as always. Take a deep breath and rest up, if possible. You did yeoman's work. As for UPS, do they know how silly they look in those shorts? I wonder. :)

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 02, 2017:

Eric, no matter how loud you hear me moan and groan, even if you can hear me all the way across the lake in the Sprung Valley, please keep giving us your business. If everybody does that, it will make it harder for Trump and his buddies to privatize us, in case that's part of their agenda. The Bear did have a cute daughter, didn't he, or was that his granddaughter? Anyhow, I hope you had a great New Years. I was reading your little story on Facebook and got caught in the middle of something, but I'm going back now to finish up, because it was pretty bitchin'.

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 02, 2017:

Michelle, I'm delighted I could make you laugh a couple of times. The UPS driver on my route had a trainee assistant this year who wore a little vest instead of the real uniform. It was like the driver pulled up, pushed a button, and his little flunkee sprang out and dumped a parcel at a door. Nice work if you can get it, but you know that when you and I are out on the street we're flying solo, but we still get the parcels and the mail delivered too. Thanks for dropping in, my friend, and Happy New year!

Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 02, 2017:

Thank you Mike. As a matter of fact, they were trying to higher people for the holidays on a 27 day gig, but you're not going to get the cream of the crop when you higher people on a temporary basis like that. It does seem to be getting more brutal every year, and they better give us bigger vehicles quick because the ones we have are packed to the limits. Thanks for dropping in, and Happy New Year!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 02, 2017:

You are just the right blend through Edward Abbey to H.S. Thompson to Hemingway. (hey was Margo his daughter -- whacka whacka)

I told my wife everything had to go US mail. Did I overload you or give you more business?

Michelle Mobilio on January 02, 2017:

Hey Mel! Before we started getting Amazon, I saw the UPS truck all the time NOW I see it for a very short time along my route. I would say we definitely took away there parcels BUT we got it done UNLIKE them one year! Great article and yeah you made me laugh a few times

Old Poolman on January 02, 2017:

Mel - I can only imagine how relieved all of the delivery service people are when the holiday rush is over. I doubt it is possible to hire a few thousand extra employees who know what their doing to cover the two or three weeks before Christmas.

My heart goes out to all of those who are forced to endure this burden every year.

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