Monday, April 24, 2006
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Cooper Station Post Office
93 4th Ave.
New York, NY 10003
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My wonderful boyfriend got me a wonderful tshirt for my birthday. Sadly, it didn't fit. More sadly, he lives in another state, so I had to handle the return for him. More sadly still, the company from which he bought the shirt is in Canada.
According to the USPS website, Cooper Station Post Office is the post office closest to my apartment. It's a short, mostly pleasant walk to a round, mostly pleasant building.
Not wanting to waste my time, or the time of federal employees, I went to one of, at my count, three side tables that are filled with envelopes and extra forms. I examined these, and selected and international envelope, which I carefully read. It noted that I would need to fill out a customs slip, so I did that as well.
My package neatly set up, I went to the postage machine. It weighed my package in at 5 oz, and printed up a nice little stamp for me. I affixed it to the envelope, and, customs form in hand, noted that the mailbox was strictly for domestic letters that did not cost 39 cents.
I approached the postal worker to ask if I had to stand in line just to hand the thing over. He told me that my postage was insufficient for the envelope, but I could purchase a plain envelope if I was willing to stand in line twice. I realized I had no choice, and hopped in line.
The line was relatively short and moved quickly. However, at least three times, the postal worker I spoke to gave a speech to the people in line, notifying them that if they had one of several transactions he proceeded to list (buying stamps, sending domestic letters, etc), they did not have to get in line. The speech seemed pretty idiotic, but it was nice not to have idiots in line. At least two people ducked out of line after these speeches, so it made the lines shorter -- always a plus.
The line had one of those nice displays that dings whenever a counter is free and displays the counter number. It even has an arrow pointing to the counter in question, for the confused postal customer.
Once everything was properly packaged, I affixed the stamp I had bought and took the package and the customs form and returned to the line. The woman I dealt with was polite, but there were a few snags.
First, her scale did not weigh my package the same as the one at the postage machine. We agreed that I would have to pay the difference (24 cents, no big deal), and then she rang it up for the full price a second time by accident. Once that was cleared up, I paid her for my envelope and additional postage, and was on my way.
I arrived home an hour after I left.
It seems silly to not offer the plain envelopes with the priority mail envelopes. They are a specific brand, so it would be easy enough to tell if a person brought his or her own. If the postal service is worried about them getting stolen, I wonder why they don't worry about the priority mail envelopes getting stolen. In fact, I could have stolen the envelope anyway: the woman at the first window did not charge me, and the woman at the second window was surprised that I had not yet paid. I'm not about to steal from the federal government and then brag about it on the Internet, though, so rest assured: they have my 49 cents.
The primary postal worker I dealt with was polite and helpful but brusque. From what I saw, he did his job well. As an aside, though he completely rocked the ponytail, I hope he realizes that it does not hide the fact that his hair is thinning. If he does, more power to him. If he does not... well, no matter to me.
I really liked the display for the line. However, I noticed that at least one counter did not show up; instead, the postal worker had to guide a customer to a window that was never displayed. Hopefully they will get that fixed. The system was otherwise efficient.
All the scales should be identically calibrated. To do otherwise is inconvenient and unfair to the customers, and it looked to be inconvenient and unfair to the workers, as well, or at least the worker I dealt with.
And if you can buy a stamp to Canada without getting in line, you should be able to mail the package without getting in line. Otherwise, the machine isn't saving anybody anything.
For life experiences: tolerable, but unpleasant. For post offices: good but not great.
I've been to better post offices, but I've been to much, much worse ones as well. Bring your own envelope if at all possible, and don't bother buying your stamp ahead of time if you're just going to get in line anyway.
The rest of the Internet
The Village Voice printed an article about the NYU dorms to be built around the post office.
visual.resistance got a nice shot of the building after a thorough coat of graffiti. It wasn't this bad when I went.
Wikipedia has a brief entry.