The Frustration Of Package Tracking

Are you like me? When you get the number do you check it immediately? The response is always the same whether it’s UPS, FedEx or the Postal Service: We haven’t seen it yet.

I ordered a Roku Sunday night. Don’t worry what it is. It has to come from California. That’s the important part. There is a tracking number, which of course is where the problems arise!

Are you like me? When you get the number do you check it immediately? The response is always the same whether it’s UPS, FedEx or the Postal Service: We haven’t seen it yet.

Then the kabuki dance begins. I check two or three times a day. Why? no clue. This is like pressing the elevator button more than once. It doesn’t help.

Tonight I checked and got the classic tracking response. A step was listed as happening after something that had to have happened before!

Shipment Accepted, November 23, 2010, 5:52 pm, SAN JOSE, CA 95101
Processed through Sort Facility, November 22, 2010, 9:03 pm, SAN JOSE, CA 95101
Electronic Shipping Info Received, November 22, 2010

How could it be processed through the facility before it was accepted? I have no clue. It’s frustrating.

It will get here when it gets here and not a moment sooner… though shouldn’t my paying attention rush it along?

My 13-Ounce Dilemma

If there’s logic in the Postal Service’s madness, it evades me.

This is a story about Mother’s Day… sort of.

My wife Helaine, herself a mother, bought a nice gift for my mom, wrapped it and took the package (really a padded envelope) to our local Post Office where one of the clerks weighed it and affixed the postage. She didn’t mail it.

Helaine planned on mailing the gift when my folks returned from a vacation. That turned out to be Tuesday of last week, when she drove the envelope to the Post Office and dropped it in the box in the parking lot.

It was delivered the next day… back to us, with the sticker you see. Packages over 13 ounces, when mailed using stamps, must be physically presented to a clerk at the Post Office. Period. End of story.

It’s for security, the sticker said. In this post 9/11 world we’re not supposed to question security – but I will.

Here in Connecticut, more than most places, we understand what postal security means. This is where Ottilie Lundgren died. She was poisoned by anthrax that probably passed through the huge Wallingford mail distribution center where three million anthrax spores were later found and removed.

But if the Postal Service is worried about security, why in heaven’s name would they have my carrier bring it back to my house? If it was dangerous, it’s doubtful it would have the proper return address anyway. As I remember, the 2001 anthrax letters all had phony return addresses. The same was true when the Unabomber’s package exploded at Yale, less than a mile from where I’m writing this.

The whole process makes no sense to me. In fact, I’m so confused why the Postal Service is doing this, I asked them to comment.

The rule actually predates 9/11, going back to the mid-90s. The weight limit, recently lowered to 13-ounces, complies with the weight limits for Priority Mail.

In an email response response, Doug Bem from the US Postal Inspection Service included this all purpose line:

“Unfortunately I won’t be able to get into the specifics of those security issues because someone who could misuse that information might be a reader of your blog; all I can say is that the issues still exist today.”

I am not denying that.

All I’m asking is, why send it back to me? It’s either worrisome, and should be treated that way, or it’s not and can go to my mom’s house.

To a certain extent the Postal Service has their hands tied. They can’t open my mail to check what’s inside.

“(E)ven though we are the law enforcement and security officers of the Postal Service, we don’t have the right to open any First Class letter, Priority Mail or Express Mail package without explaining why to a federal judge, who would then give us a federal search warrant. It’s not practical to screen the 320 million or so pieces of those types of mail the Postal Service handles every day.”

So instead, they declare a one size fits all rule which treats all 13 ounce stamped packages as suspicious… and then they just wash their hands of them and drop them off at your house.

If 13-ounce packages pose a threat, dispose of them. If not, deliver them.

If there’s logic in the Postal Service’s madness, it evades me.

The Book That Nearly Didn’t Make It

That photo on the left is a book I ordered a week ago and received yesterday. That’s the way it came from the Post Office (I’m guessing it was that way before Rich, our postman, got it). It was one or two bounces away from being undeliverable.

As it turns out, the book (Special Edition: Using Microsoft Office 2000) was physically OK and now goes into the ever expanding collection of computer reference material I’ve accumulated over the years.

The fact that I bought this book in the first place upsets me to my geeky core. When I was taking my Statistical Climatology course, I found using a spreadsheet was very helpful. I used OpenOffice, the free “office suite.”

Here’s the problem – OpenOffice is not the mature product that Microsoft Office is. I wanted to be able to export graphs as images, and it can’t be done in OO. More importantly, OpenOffice is poorly documented in printed literature (which is much better than on screen help while you’re using a program).

If there was a good OpenOffice book available, I would have bought it. But, I couldn’t find anything and so I settled for Microsoft – which I know is bloatware and helps promulgate Microsoft’s monopoly position. It upsets me on so many levels.

Speaking of buying computer books – here’s how I do it:

I go to Amazon, find the book I want, and then head to the “Used and New” section off on the right side. In most cases these books are new but are overstocks or for some other reason out of the normal retail market.

In the case of the book I bought, “Special Edition: Using Microsoft Office 2000,” the list price was $39.99, Amazon’s price was $27.99 and the “Used and New” prices start at $9.00.

The comment on the $9.00 book says it has a little wear and sounds used, but for $9.24 you get:

Comments: New! Cover crease, minor cover wear. CD sealed! Ships next business day!

That’s a pretty good deal, saving $18.75 from Amazon’s price.

Usually, I ship the least expensive way. That means a Postal Service employee crawls on his belly all the way from the warehouse to my house. Actually, it’s library rate which is v-e-r-y slow. So, when there’s a choice, I look for a dealer here in Connecticut or an adjacent state.

I have never been dissatisfied with the physical condition of a book I’ve gotten this way, and I’ve saved a mint.