Posts tagged “post office”

Be a rock star, just like…Spider-Man?

spidey rock star

This designed-by-committee advertainment highlights three benefits, speed, agility, reliability – the third probably not top-of-mind when we think of the web-slinger. And as if this cross-promotion for the USPS Priority Mail and Spider-Man (well, Spider-Man 2) wasn’t ridiculous enough, these qualities will make you a rock star. Just like the US Postal Service. Or Spidey.


That’s it. “Rock star” is officially over. Meaningless. We’ve known this for a while, but this is too far and we must all agree to stop it immediately.

ChittahChattah Quickies

In East Harlem, ‘Keep Out’ Signs Apply to Renters [] – When in a large city I often look at the residential spaces above dense commercial/retail and wonder who lives there and what it’s like (I once lived above a real estate office of some type – we never really knew what they did down there – and was constantly pestered by couriers and other delivery people) – but the answer may very well be that nobody lives up there. Naively, it doesn’t make economic sense, but the situation appears to more complex than that.

East Harlem has been undergoing a resurgence for two decades, yet the neighborhood is still pockmarked with four- or five-story walk-ups where the ground-floor stores are bustling and the apartments above are devoid of life. Their windows are boarded up, blocked up or just drearily empty, torn curtains testifying to no one’s having lived there for years. Although the vacancy rate in Manhattan hovers at 1 percent, at least some of the landlords of these sealed-up buildings are deliberately keeping their buildings mostly vacant, content to earn income from first-floor commercial tenants rather than deal with the trouble of residents. …At the corner of 106th Street and Third Avenue, the boarded-up windows and the remainder of the five-story building have been sleekly painted a rich taupe, allowing the Chase Bank branch below to escape looking as if it were in a forsaken slum. Still, no one lives in the apartments.

Reinventing Post Offices in a Digital World [] – Digital, and all that it encompasses, is remaking every industry. We straddle the opposites of welcoming new services and holding onto traditional ways of receiving familiar services. Nice to see the German post office reframe this away from loss, towards reinvention. The article doesn’t characterize the pain that must have been felt by the organization and the customers but you can imagine it must have been tremendous.

With mail volumes decreasing 1 to 2 percent annually in many countries, European postal services from Germany to Sweden to Switzerland have reinvented themselves over the past decade as multifaceted delivery and information companies tailored to the virtual age. Though Deutsche Post by law still delivers to every address six days a week, it has jettisoned tens of thousands of buildings, 100,000 positions and its traditional focus on paper mail. “We realized that being a national postal provider was an endangered business, that we had to redefine the role of postal providers in a digital world,” said Clemens Beckmann, executive vice president of innovation of the German post office’s mail division. After selling off all but 24 of 29,000 post office buildings in the past 15 years, the German postal service is now housed mostly within other business “partners,” including banks, convenience stores and even private homes. In rural areas, a shopkeeper or even a centrally located homeowner is given a sign and deputized as a part-time postmaster. At the same time, many European postal services, including the one here, have developed a host of electronic services that are increasingly making traditional post offices and mailboxes obsolete. Bills and catalogs can go first to digital mailboxes run by the post office on customers’ computers, and the customers can tell the post office what they want it to print and deliver

Ford reintroduces the 1965 Mustang [Yahoo! Autos] – First I’m hearing that Ford has its own business supporting the classic car market. There are obviously design, performance and legal/safety issues why they won’t sell you an actual 1965 Mustang, but the idea of having someone make you a new version of an old car is very compelling. Who will make me one?

As part of its Ford Reproduction business, Ford revealed today it had approved a new stamping of the steel bodies for first-generation Mustang that buyers could then build into their own 1964 1/2 through 1966 Mustang, using whatever engine, axles, interior and other parts they can find on their own. The first-generation Mustangs rank as America’s most-restored vehicle, and the cottage industry of reproduction parts has grown to where it’s possible to build a Mustang just as it would have appeared on the showroom floor in the mid-1960s, down to the pushbutton AM/FM radio.

Time, he’s waiting in the wings

Originally uploaded by Victor Lombardi, who criticizes the addition of arrival data to the NYC subways, because that info shifts the experience into a waiting experience. It’s funny, because I had just spent 40 minutes at the San Francisco airport waiting for an arriving passenger, where they had no signage whatsoever about the different flights. I found it incredibly frustrating and tedious, since I couldn’t stop watching and couldn’t plan what I should do for the next 5, 10, 20, etc. minutes. I was musing to myself that more information – LOTS more information – makes waiting more tolerable. In-flight maps give you more information, allowing you to participate vicariously in the flight you are on (rather than passively as a butt-in-a-seat). Add in the good-vibes of transparency and it’s obvious…

And then Challis blogged the story about the post office removing clocks which hit the blogosphere with a predictable critique — the post office is playing Big Brother by removing info that would make us less satisfied with the experience. Challis would probably agree with my call for transparency and participation, but what would Victor think about the post office? Do the clocks shift the waiting time to something less pleasant?

Clearly, it depends on the person, their frame of mind, and the location. Lots of context to consider. But the contrasting examples seemed provocative.

Kiosks, technology, and culture

Yet another article that mocks the introduction of an automated technology. In this case, it’s a self-serve postal kiosk in San Francisco. Several silly examples in the story where people struggle to figure out how to use it, taking longer than the line for a real person, where the machine asks for lots and lots of extra info (since it has no a priori context like a human might), and so on.

Some themes that we now know

  1. Lots and lots of stuff is badly designed
  2. Many people can’t easily become quick at interacting with a new computer system
  3. Some tasks are more appropriate for a kiosk than others.
  4. Lack of context in an automated system and the resultant work the system (and thus the user) must do in order to establish that context reads as silly, funny, frustrating, and unacceptable

It’s impossible from these stories to tell, of course, what’s really going on. Me, I love self-check even if I have to fight it, even if I have to bend my natural tendencies to work the way it wants me to work. Maybe it’s being an introvert, or a bit of a technology geek, or curious, or just the idea that there’s a scam to be had by being savvy and checking out automatically rather than the usual way.

Waiting is the hardest part

Lady: I’m sorry, we have no midsized available at moment
Jerry: I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have the reservation?
Lady: Yes we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars
Jerry: But reservation keeps car here, that’s why you have reservations
Lady: I know why we have reservations
Jerry: I don’t think you do, if you did, I’d have car. See you know how to take reservation, you just don’t know how to hold reservations. That’s really most important part of reservations, holding, anybody can just take them.

I ordered something from eBay just after Xmas, hoping it would arrive in time for our upcoming trip. It hadn’t arrived, so I checked the shipping status (yep, the shipper sent it USPS with a confirmation on it, very nice of them for $6.99). And the tracking info has been stuck since Dec. 28 with

Dec 27 2005 Mail Retrieved From Customer
Dec 27 2005 Received at UPS Mail Innovations Origin RPF R. Cucamonga, CA
Dec 27 2005 Processed at UPS Mail Innovations Origin RPF R. Cucamonga, CA
Dec 28 2005 Manifested (Postage Paid)
Dec 28 2005 Entered USPS Facility – SCF SAN FRANCISCO, CA

It’s been in San Francisco since December 28. That’s a long time already. I went in last week with the printout of the tracking information and the nice people at my small-town post office took the printout and my phone number and passed it along to the postmaster. I figured they’d call that day and I’d have an update. That was almost a week ago, so I went back in. They still have the piece of paper and the only thing they can tell me is that we can wait for it to arrive.

Wait for it to arrive? What is the purpose of a tracking number? The package is obviously stuck in some sort of delivery problem, it’s a one-day delivery trip from SF to Montara. Nearly two weeks of waiting, and the only thing we get from this tracking technology is that we wait?

It’s a sham, isn’t it? They have no ability to diagnose or debug or actually track the package, regardless of what the name of the feature implies.

I can’t believe they told me to wait. I don’t want to wait; I want them to find it. That, however, is not going to happen.


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