Going Postal?

Do you remember that expression? I had forgotten about it until a spectacularly unpleasant episode at the post office last week.

This was one of those facilities with bullet proof windows and those mysterious hermetically sealed receptacles for packages. After 19 minutes in line, it was my turn for what I anticipated would be routine.

Jimmy, the clerk, took care of my first package and then I placed the next one in the package vessel. I told Jimmy that I had 17 of these, to which he responded that he could not put postage on 17 packages.


Instead, he would sell me the stamps, I would leave his station, put the stamps on the packages, return to his station, and wait until he was available to accept the stamped packages. These are the rules, he proclaimed. I tried to reason with him, but no such luck.

Jimmy’s next challenge was figuring out the denomination of stamps for $2.63 postage (which I had quickly figured out, but when I tried to tell him, he told me to stop interrupting him….). After another 6 or 7 minutes he proudly declared that we could solve the problem (!) with 3 seventy cent stamps, 1 forty-nine cent stamp, and 1 four cent stamp per package.

Then, of course, this had to be multiplied times 17. (You realize that he could have made 17 metered strips in less than half the time that this took. But, hey, these are the rules…)

Relieved that the end was in sight, I passed my credit card under the bullet proof window. Jimmy then asked me for my government issued ID.

I didn’t have my handbag. I had just put my credit card and about $10 cash in my pocket before I left for the post office. This was supposed to be a routine “one and done” errand.

He cut me no slack, so mission aborted. No stamps. No mailing. No way to check this nasty errand off of my list.

So why this story?

Are you a slave to the rules when it comes to how your clients, customers, or patients experience your products or services? My experience reminded me of a story (I think originally attributed to Tom Peters) where Ritz Carlton employees each have $2,000 available to solve customer challenges at their discretion. Ritz Carlton is the gold standard; the post office is the antithesis.

Which one does your company resemble?

As a leader, you are compelled to alter the rules so that people who buy your products or services walk away feeling great. Anything less than that throws your company into the pool of the mediocre. Don’t go there….it’s ugly.

Have a great day!