Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Petulant Customers…

I’m going to have to call the Post Office tomorrow to apologize.  That’s what you do when you make mistakes, jumping to erroneous conclusions before examining all the evidence.  It’s a common situation for me to find myself in, but I still haven’t figured out the cure.  After fifty-some years of making the same kind of error, over and over, I still look at an event and make a determination, then hastily act upon that determination.  As they say, history repeats itself.  What’s the other quote?  Oh, yeah…”The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from history.”

I wasn’t rude as I talked with the nice lady at the Post Office last week, but I was frustrated.  Several times during my busy day, the toll-free line had rung with a customer on the other end wanting to find out tracking information for their package.  We shipped out a large quantity of orders last week and we always pay a little extra to track every package, just so we can answer the customer’s inquiries.  “When did you ship it?”  The click of a button and entry of a name brings the information.  “Where is it now?”  The answer to that one is already in front of us after completion of the first operation.  “When will it be delivered?”  That extrapolation comes after examination of the first two answers, but is usually fairly easy to arrive at.  This day, for some reason, none of the information was visible for the packages about which the customers were inquiring.  The program which was usually so informative only showed our initial printing of the label. 

I knew the answer immediately.  All last week, a new substitute Postman had run the route and picked up our bins of outgoing mail.  The regular Postal employees know that all the packages have to be scanned into the system and usually do that onsite, either inside the store or out in the parking lot.  Since I hadn’t seen that happen with the new guy and now the information wasn’t showing up on my computer screen, the obvious had occurred; the rookie hadn’t done his job and now we were paying the price as our customers lost confidence in our ability to do ours.  I made a call to the supervisor at the Post Office, apprising her of the situation.  I didn’t accuse the young man, but told her what my computer screen was indicating and led her, not so subtly, to the same conclusion I had drawn.  “No, we’re not mad.  We just need things to be done correctly.”  Those were my words, but I was mad.  And, it was certainly his fault.  In reality, I didn’t want the young man to get in trouble, I just wanted him to do his job.

Turns out, he was doing just that.  Today, I looked at the records in that program again, finding that every single entry from our shipping last week showed exactly the same thing.  According to our tracking program (from a third-party, not the Postal Service), not a single package had reached its destination last week.  My initial reaction was anger.  I was even more convinced that the new guy had flubbed his job completely.  I even snapped out to the Lovely Lady, “How can they be so incompetent?”  I almost reveled in my misery (some of us are put together like that, you know) for some time, until the bright light of lucid thought pierced the darkness of my mood.  Maybe there was something wrong with the program!  That’s a possibility.  Our online postage service has had one problem after another with a new version of its software they released just over a month ago.  Could that be it?  I quickly changed to the Postal Service’s website and checked the tracking of several packages.  There it was in black and white…the rookie had done his job on every single one of them.  The packages which should have been delivered had been; the locations of the others were listed, just as we normally expect.  It wasn’t a personnel problem!  It was a technology problem!  I was ecstatic!

Then it hit me!  The news, which was good for my business, wasn’t so good for me personally.  I now have to make amends.  The apology will have to be made and I will hope that no lasting damage has been done.  And, once more, I have to give myself a good talking to.  Why, just recently I stood with friends and told them what a good job the Postal Service does with our packages.  Their on-time rate is exceptional.  Our customers are constantly calling and emailing us to share their joy and surprise at the quick delivery time of their orders.  I know the organization to be competent in their performance.  But at the first sign of problems, I place blame and make phone calls.  I am ashamed. 

I am hoping that this will be the last time I have to learn this lesson.  I am fairly certain that it will not be.  But I will attempt to remember this and the myriad of examples that have come before, the next time I’m tempted to jump to the conclusion.  Why should we expect competent folks to be incompetent?  Why would we accuse people we know to be honest of dishonesty?  I’m convicted by what the old professor says in “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” when the other children believe that Lucy is lying about the world inside the wardrobe.  “…a charge of lying against someone you have always found truthful is a very serious thing, a very serious thing indeed.”

We are taught to expect the worst in others, both by our experience and by our role models; even by the media and the world around us.  I live in hopes that I may one day break out of that conditioning and assume the best about people.  Rose-colored glasses?  Nope!  Good advice is to be found in the Bible, when we’re told  to “consider others better than ourselves.”   I think I’ll work on that in the days to come.  I’ll let you know how it goes….

I’m pretty certain that this battle will rage as long as I breathe.  I’m glad I don’t have to face it alone.  Do you fight the same type of battle over and over?  Good.  Then, you know what I’m up against and can help me do better.  I’ll try to do the same for you.

“Learn from yesterday; live for today; hope for tomorrow.”
(Albert Einstein~American physicist~1879-1955)

“(Love) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 
(I Corinthians 13: 6,7)

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