Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Going Postal in Berkeley

Means being out to lunch:

The Adeline Street Post Office has two service windows, but only one window was being operated on Monday afternoon.

“It’s always this crowded,” a man standing in line offered. “They only have one clerk.”

Most of the patrons took the wait stoically, but one woman, after being served, stormed out saying, “This ain’t right. You know I ain’t got no patience for this.”

During the next half-hour, the clerk answered the phone and coordinated work with post office delivery workers while serving customers in the line.

At 10 minutes to 1 p.m., twenty-five minutes after the patron first got in line, with two people still ahead of him and seven or eight more now behind, the clerk called out to everyone in the lobby, “I’m going to have to make an announcement. I’m the only person working here. I have to close the window at 1 p.m. for lunch. I’ll be at lunch for an hour. I’ll try to get to everyone in line. I’m doing the best I can. I’m the only one here.”

At one minute to 1 p.m., with seven people still in line, the clerk announced she would be closing in a moment. There were groans and heads thrown back in disbelief by several of the remaining patrons.

It speaks to the level of economic ignorance--common in Berkeley in the FLUBA's experience--that the reporter can't hazard a guess as to why this situation has persisted over several years; i.e. the US Postal Service is a monopoly which has the legal right to exclude competitors.

....There was [a sign]. Placed at the service window, it read: “Dear Customers: Due to staffing, window services will close daily during the following hours for breaks & lunch. 1st Break 11-11:15 a.m. Lunch 1-2 p.m. 2nd Break 3-3:15 p.m.”

....At least one Adeline Street Post Office patron has taken it upon himself to change the situation. For several weeks, South Berkeley businessperson Jesse Palmer has been circulating a petition among the Adeline Street customers, calling for “adequate staffing levels” at the Adeline Post Office.

....In a letter attached to the petitions and mailed to U.S. Postmaster General John Jack Potter and the Berkeley Postmaster at the main post office on Allston Way last month, Palmer wrote that “the Postal Service has adequately staffed the post offices in wealthier areas. For instance, there are always plenty of clerks at the Claremont Post Office on College Avenue. It certainly appears that the postal service doesn’t care about patrons in our lower-income neighborhood.”

Palmer has yet to receive a response.

The one-person window staffing “has been going on at Adeline Street for years,” Palmer said in an interview. ....It seems like a simple matter to get adequate staffing. That’s not rocket science. ....”

Palmer said that he has met with Berkeley U. S. Postal Service Customer Service Coordinator Mercer W. Jones about the Adeline Street problem, but said that Jones “wasn’t very helpful. He suggested I do things like use the computer to conduct my mail business.”

Unlike in the United Kingdom, where he could simply take his business to a competitor.

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