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September 1998
Vol. 1 No. 12 Page 6

The Attack of the Skirt and the Shirt

by Paul Gereffi

They stand out like a sore thumb. In a sea of blue shirts, any visitors on the workroom floor at the office are easily detected. (Unless they happen to be hiding up in the catwalks looking through the peepholes.) It's not just their slow, uncertain pace because they're not used to others moving so fast, but also their mode of fancy dress.

We were subjected recently to a visit by two well-dressed people, bent on educating us ignorant letter carriers how to do our jobs. And blaming us for management failures. Two drones from the Main Facility ivory tower dirtied themselves by rubbing shoulders with us long enough to explain the logic of the candy-stripe mail.

This complex mail tracking system is far beyond the abilities of mortal carriers to comprehend. Only the highly-trained, brilliant management people can understand its intricacies.

The system is explained to us by this guy in the fancy shirt and the woman in the snazzy skirt in much the same condescending manner as we might explain the use of toilet paper to someone who has lived all their life in a jungle. (It will only dawn on us much later that they never had a need for toilet paper, we just thought they did.)

To sum up the candy-stripe system simply: it's how management cheats. Local mail is fished out of the system, avoiding the maelstrom of DPS, and gently placed on the carriers case to be worked first. All misthrows are then manually sorted and taken to the right route.

A few lucky pieces are delivered individually by supervisors or light duty people later in the day. Oh, but if only ALL the mail could be get such royal treatment. Unfortunately, local mail is what is measured for on-time performance bonuses.

Therefore, only THAT mail will receive the special treatment. The rest of the mail is still subject to DPS...Delayed-in-Processing-due-to-Stubbornness.

As for our visitors that day, they looked down their nose at us and went on to scold the carriers for delaying the mail. They said that customers have an inalienable right to expect next day delivery of local letters. This has suddenly become priority one with management, and only the carriers and not mail processing are preventing it because they don't do their job.

The shirt (and I am not making this up.) said sometimes carriers misdeliver whole streets, and that we should know that Avenue and Terrace, for instance, are different. As if this is a common occurrence.

The skirt chirped in and said the only reason mail should not be delivered is in case of something like a police shoot-out, and that we should go back later and still try to deliver the mail. (Yes, this was actually her example of a rationale to delay mail. Is she out of touch, or what?)

Of course, the reason for all of this is allegedly customer service. Except, why isn't all mail treated like this?

When a carrier mentioned about the bonus, the skirt wagged her tail and the shirt sat up and begged, so we know what's really behind it. As far as the many letters delayed daily by DPS, the skirt acknowledged a few problems but said it was mostly working.

This is like smelling a dirty diaper, but pronouncing it clean and fresh by only looking at the outside of it. (Which is the way I used to handle it.) Why not look where the real stink is, which is mail processing. And, the shirt admitted that carriers indeed more accountable for problems than others.

His remedy was that we, and I quote, should have chosen another craft. After this informative service talk, the shirt and the skirt skipped back to the Main Facility, probably to see who was having cake for their birthday. Their workday was undoubtedly over after this grueling 30-minute workout. Now for a day of gossip and sniping and stabbing each other in the back. I just hope they didn't run into any police shoot-outs on the way.

Paul is a member of NALC Branch No. 2550, Fort Lauderdale, FL. He was featured in the September, 1997 issue of the Postal Record, On the Record, page 16. He is a writer for his branch newsletter as well as a contributing reporter for Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.


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