Sunday, June 3, 2012
THE LOST ART OF ASKING “WHY?”
My denial was in vain, because when I finally got up to the counter, I was told that all of the information from the three forms associated with the sample packs that I was shipping internationally had to be typed into the clunky, cranky old PC-type terminal – apparently not an easy task given that it didn’t “like” half of what she tried to put in. The poor employee was looking frazzled, partly because she was struggling with everyone’s bad handwriting, international addresses and non-English entries, the passive-aggressive people who were tired of waiting in line, and then my sarcastic comments poured on top of that. I did try to be as nice as I could to her, given that the whole fiasco was not her fault.
Of course I asked her why she was suddenly required to type in information from the customs forms, and she seemed surprised by the question. Her response was that when she had come to work that morning there was a message informing her that from now on she was supposed to type in all of the information from every customs form.
“But why?”, I asked. She replied that she did not know. It was just the order she had received.
“From whom?” She did not know.
“Who made this incredibly stupid decision?” She did not know, but thought it must have been someone in the US Customs Office.
“Why would the US Customs Office suddenly want to triple the work of every postal employee when the post office is laying off half of their employees and closing offices? It makes no sense to create unnecessary work at the same time as the labor force is reduced.” She could not answer that question.
“Why do you need to duplicate information that’s already on the forms in triplicate?” She didn’t know, but thought maybe it had something to do with the fact that US Customs is now run by “Homeland Security”.
Ahhhhh … now it all started to make a little bit of sense, albeit illogical sense, and only if one is prone to paranoid conspiracy theories.
“Is there someone I can complain to?” She gave me the card of the person in charge of the main post office.
When I called the number, the person in charge had the same reaction as the employee. She was surprised that I complained, and she did not know why the post office had been asked to manually enter information from every customs form. I asked her who had made the decision, and her answer was that “they” had made the decision and issued the order.
I asked the obvious question, “Who are ‘they’?” She had no clue.
Now that I think about it, there’s a third component to the whole scheme. With postal employees doing a whole lot of extra, unproductive work, the post office will lose even more money than they currently do, and accelerate their slide into bankruptcy. The whole shebang can then be taken over by something like Central Services in the old film Brazil. And no one will ask, “Why?”
[Glacier photo from Wikimedia; customs form sample from USPS website, Brazil image from Wikipedia]