P.O.'d at the P.O!

kms4meAugust 12, 2011

I had trades returned to me recently (I mailed them from my box) by my local PO stating that they have to go package rate. Though inconvenient, I took them to another city and mailed them for 88 cents each at the large envelope rate and none were returned.

I recently offered three SASBEs privately. All of the envelopes arrived with 88 cents METERED postage, indicating that the POs they were mailed from knew their own rules and regulations and did it correctly. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that they were all stamped POSTAGE DUE, and there was a PO envelope filled out saying I need to pay an additional 43 cents on each one to my local PO!

NOW, assuming that they DID need to go at the package rate (which isn't the case--they only contained stamps and a return label), but assuming for the sake of argument it was true, it is not my fault that the other POs did not do things right (even though they did). As I mentioned, the envelopes were weighed and measured or however postage is determined, and the senders PAID what they were told was the correct price to send them, so why should my PO tell me that I have to pay for the mistakes (even though they aren't) of their fellow POs in other states?

Though inconvenient, I can continue to mail my trades out from other cities and avoid my local PO in sending, but now that they are assessing me extra postage for RECEIVING trades and SASBEs, there is no way around it.

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with the local postmaster, a nice woman who nevertheless told me it has been the policy for 5 years to assess any padded mailer the package rate (which I know is not true as I have mailed many trades for large envelope rates there until recently as well as receiving trades with no extra postage assessed). When I explained the situation of receiving METERED envelopes, she promised to look into it and get back to me. She did admit that there seems to be a lot of confusion but that she was told by the regional office that all padded mailers were considered packages. Three days later and I still haven't heard back. Even if/when I do, I am not confident she will have the right answer.

I am so PO'd at my PO!


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First of all, in my annoyance when I posted this, I had an error.

"...stamped POSTAGE DUE, and there was a PO envelope filled out saying I need to pay an additional 43 cents on each one..." THIS SHOULD HAVE READ "ADDITIONAL 83 CENTS", not 43 cents.

(In the meantime, I was contacted by a trader who told me her end of the trade had been returned to her for additional postage three days after she mailed it. She was sending me three small packets of seeds and the note on the returned trade indicates she must pay $1.71 for a small padded mailer that weighed slightly more than a half ounce, despite the fact that when she took it to her PO they told her 88 cents was enough.)

Postmaster Cheryl did get back to me. After contacting several other POs in the area, she agreed that there is no concensus on their own rules, with about a 50-50 split; in other words, half the POs charge at the large envelope rate and half charge package rate. Of course, as I noted with my local PO, there is no consistency in that either with the standards being left up to individual interpretation.

She asked me to send her one of the metered envelopes I received with postage due as well as a mock-up of a typical seed trade as an example of what is being returned to me for postage due. She will send that off to something she termed "Mail Requirements" and hopefully get an answer based on their assessment. They will send me an official letter with their findings.

So.. according to her, when I get that letter if indeed it is deemed that the seed trades can be mailed at the large envelope rate, I can present it when mailing trades or when I receive an envelope postage due.

What is wrong with this picture?

1. I cannot mail trades from my box but have to take them to the PO. I will probably continue to bypass my local PO as it will be just as convenient and less hassle for me to take them when I shop or run errands to Forest Lake, MN or St. Croix Falls, WI for mailing at the large envelope rate, which is what I've been doing recently anyway.

2. If I receive an envelope incorrectly assessing postage due, I am supposed to drive to the local PO and present the letter proving I should not be charged, with the cost of the gas, not to mention my time, pretty much offsetting the overcharge.

3. The burden is still on me to inform local PO workers what their own rules and regulations regarding postage are.

4. This does nothing for other local customers who will continue to be overcharged without knowing it.

5. And of course, on a national level there will continue to be no concensus. People who send seed trades or any kind of padded mailer can have them returned at any stage of their journey, or have the recipient socked with additional postage due.

5A. Because there is no national concensus, I have no idea what to tell newbies or people I offer SASBEs regarding how much postage they should use or send me.

I appreciate the effort on the part of postmistress Cheryl to at least seriously consider this issue and the work she has done in contacting other local POs about it, especially since she told me I was the first one in all these years to bring it to her attention. From what I have gleaned in reading postings on other threads about postal issues, many of you have hit a brick wall when trying to straighten this out.

I don't know how long the determination from "Mail Requirements" will take, but I will do my best to post a copy of the official letter when I get it. In the meantime, I will most likely stop trading and offering SASBEs.

Off to comb any hair I haven't ripped out of my head...


    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 1:04PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

Kate, Your post from last Fri left me aghast.

Your post today has me twitching, so I'll try to be brief...sorry...I'm twitching too badly to reply to all the comments about what all is wrong with this picture.

Anyway, I just found this site.....Office of Inspector General That site states, " Additionally, auditors noted the Postal Service should develop a comprehensive innovation strategy and a more disciplined process for the development and implementation of market-based initiatives. By doing so, the Postal Service will be better equipped to successfully develop new products, services, and processes and face the challenges and opportunities of electronic and digital alternatives as well as industry competitors. "

The way I see it is that Shape Based pricing that went into effect May 2007 was a new service, and probably 50% of the postal employees across the country have never been properly instructed and trained to charge customers correctly.

Because of all the things that are wrong with the picture you posted above, I suggest you go to Hotline New Complaint Form and fill it out. You have the info about who committed the alleged misconduct/wrongdoing. You have first hand knowledge of the misconduct (overcharging).

I would not hesitate to report Cheryl, and would not wait for a reply from anyone. Remember, Cheryl is the one who told you, "it has been the policy for 5 years to assess any padded mailer the package rate." She clearly does not know how to do her job and needs to be properly trained ASAP!!!. Isn't 4 1/2 years a bit too long to not know and follow the shape based pricing structure? Hasn't she, and others been overcharging and stealing from the unsuspecting public far too long?

I Have to quit...twitching is getting bad. I suggest that if/when you fill out the Hotline Complaint that you keep a copy of what all info you provided them in the different boxes on the form.

Good Luck...I'll be following this.


She did admit that there seems to be a lot of confusion but that she was told by the regional office that all padded mailers were considered packages.
Are they just stupid or what? Why do Regional Offices and Managers not know the Shape Based Pricing requirements?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 12:35AM
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If I knew HTML code, I would start this posting with about a six-inch high AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

After more than six weeks with no response regarding the materials I sent for inspection, I finally got in touch with Cheryl, our Postmaster, the one who promised to get me an answer about this postage situation and to get me a written letter documenting the decision. When I finally reached her today, she started talking about the differences in the materials I sent, stating that two were flat and one was bumpy--interesting because I sent two totally flat envelopes--one had only a 2"x4" note in it. When I began to point out the facts, including that there was only TWO envelopes I sent to her, she abruptly cut me off and stated "Here we will send your envelopes as flats." When I asked her if I could get a letter to that effect, she told me "NO."

At this point I told her that the P.O. was engaging in discrimination, charging different rates for the same product with variances not only from Post Office to Post Office but from clerk to clerk within a post office, and that after five years it was astounding that nothing had been sorted out.

She hung up on me.

So this is what passes now for Customer Service at my once friendly local P.O. This is what providing materials, patiently waiting for answers for SIX WEEKS, and having faith that Postal Employees would give a damn enough to follow through and actually get clarification not only for me, the customer, but for themselves.

How can you do your job properly when you don't even understand your own rules? They obviously are not going to let a little thing like that stand in their way of continuing to overcharge.

I am so disgusted, mainly with myself, for waiting and believing I would get this straightened out.

Time to fill out a formal complaint.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 1:46PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

Amazing!...but why am I not surprised in the least?

Would you mind posting here the address of the PO involved along with the Postmistress Cheryl's last name if available?

I will then forward a link to this thread to PO management over your area, and also send it to other managers, explaining that it is a nationwide problem that has gone on ever since they went to Shape Based Pricing back in May 2007!

At this point I told her that the P.O. was engaging in discrimination
Since it is overcharging, I consider it more like stealing.

chemocurl...aka Sue

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 2:51PM
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I decided to call (what I think is) the Main Post Office in Minneapolis, MN, 1-800-275-8777. Not wanting to complicate things again, I simply asked if someone mails an oversized envelope from their PO, takes it in and gets metered postage, is it proper for the recipient to then be charged further for receiving it? I talked to someone in Customer Service, who put me through to her supervisor, who told me I should ask my local PO why I was being asked to pay additional postage on metered mail. When I told her I HAD tried to straighten it out locally with no results, she put me through to yet ANOTHER supervisor, who told me she couldn't give me an answer but gave me the number for Northland Consumer Affairs, 612-349-4401.

I called Northland Consumer Affairs and had a lengthy chat. Again, I stuck to the simple and straightforward (to me!) issue of the recipient being charged extra for an envelope that had been sent from another PO with METERED postage. I spoke with Mary Jo who repeatedly told me she was not familiar with postal rates and regulations. Even when I pointed out that I could think of no other provider of services who could charge TWICE for the same transaction after agreeing to a straight fee, she was non-committal. She told me that I should contact Mailing Requirments!!!!

First of all, my question had NOTHING to do with the size, shape, weight, etc. of the mail involved--it had to do with one PO charging the sender metered postage and then another PO charging the recipient further. Secondly, I HAD provided material to Mailing Requirements and had never heard back from them or received a letter with their findings.

So, not that it will do ANY good, she is going to contact Cheryl at my local PO and tell her she needs to follow through with the findings by Mail Requirements. Even if this did get to the heart of this part of the question, which it won't, I am sure, it will be a conversation with no DOCUMENTATION, which means any time I receive an envelope with metered postage, my local PO can continue to try to make me pay more.

Why is this such an impossible question to answer???? Can you imagine any other provider of goods or services that could charge you for something and then turn around and almost double the charge later? What if you ordered a meal at a restaurant which the waiter told you would cost $25 and then the cashier tried to charge you more and said the menu prices were open to interpretation?

I feel like a dog chasing its tail. After the runaround and finding it impossible to get an answer to the legality of the simple question of the USPS billing both the sender and the recipient for METERED mail, I cannot begin to fathom trying to sort out the discrepancies of charging padded mailers as flats or parcels. It seems to me like the USPS couldn't care less.

The PO and Postmaster I have been dealing with are

Cheryl Kempf
Lindstrom PO
12760 N 1ST AVE.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 12:04PM
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i wonder if it'd be cheaper in the long run to get a po box in the place that charges correctly? we don't pay much for ours. people like them (the po's) just are wrong doing that!! while one lady here at ours does it right, the other lady always tries to have me put 3 stamps on my stuff. so i go in when the other lady is in. (which i haven't done in a while!! LOL)

    Bookmark   November 27, 2011 at 4:31PM
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