21 September 2011

How to Rescue the United States Postal Service

In the heat of the overwhelmingly gratifying public response to my proposal to solve the problem of America’s uninsured, I am ready now to turn to some of the other great challenges that face us as a nation in our time. First up: the ailing United States Postal Service.

The problem here is not really that Americans no longer use the mail to communicate with each other, or that almost every other form of communication is faster, more reliable, and often cheaper: FedEx, e-mail, Skype, messages in a bottle cast into the ocean. All of these are superior to the “services” provided by the U.S.P.S., although admittedly, the other guys don’t sell cute little stamps.

The real problem, however, is that the Post Office is boring. It’s badly decorated. It’s full of long lines of customers who fritter away their lives while they wait for assistance from counter staff who are equally bored, much more surly, and dubiously qualified to carry out their duties. In short, it’s just like a fast-food restaurant.

“But Americans like fast-food restaurants,” you say: “Why aren’t we flocking to the Post Office for more of the same soulless, unhealthy atmosphere?”

Well, you’re getting close to the solution.

Starting right now, the United States government could generate substantial income by renting its 31,000 post offices and reselling its supplies to a business that puts expansion above every other consideration — ahead of anything else on earth, really. Namely, Starbucks.

This would mean a few changes, right from the very first day. The popular expression “Going postal” would now come to mean “Ow, my stomach hurts from drinking all that coffee.”

The “Venti”-size cup would henceforward be known as the “Cinquanta-due,” though it would contain the same amount of coffee. (But with a “Forever” cup, you get two free re-fills!)

All of those overpriced, minuscule Starbucks baked goods and sandwiches would be wrapped in unused Express Mail envelopes — which is actually no big deal, since they’re made of the same ingredients.

Starbucks gets a lot out of the deal, since after all there are only so many strip malls in America, and it’s time to look for new locations. Also, since not even Starbucks can be everywhere at once, the company can now entertain the possibilities of re-purposing old mail trucks and sending them out to deliver Starbucks direct to your doorstep.

Mail delivery would still be performed, but the next time it takes two weeks for your letter to get across town, you won’t mind. Customers’ expectations reasonably would be diminished, because — hey — what does a coffee shop counterperson know about mail delivery?

So if your contract hasn’t arrived by the end of the next business day — no sweat! Sit back and enjoy another cup of chai!

The 574,000 former employees of the defunct U.S.P.S. will have the option to apply for employment with Starbucks. Some may object to losing their labor-union representation. Others may object to limited breaks, or to requirements to behave politely toward customers. Those who can’t cut the mustard will be offered a consolatory cup of latte (only one per customer, while supplies last; void in Utah).

But most former postal workers will be glad to wave goodbye to that old “Neither rain nor snow” bullshit. How did they ever manage to keep up that phony act for so long?

Soon you’ll see that moods are improving across the board, as it becomes impossible to tell who’s waiting for service in the post office and who’s just hanging out, drinking coffee, writing in their journals, and listening to the super-cool music Starbucks always plays.

And in faraway Washington, our representatives will be able to return to other pressing issues of the day, confident that they have served their constituents well, albeit not quite so well as they’d serve us if they, too, were Starbucks baristas.

1 comment:

TGaskins said...

I was just in the post office the other day and was surprised by how unfriendly the wait staff were. I felt as if I were inconveniencing them some how.

I truly hope that the post office doesn't go the way of the pay phone, but on the other hand, maybe it's time to re-think how I correspond with the rest of the world.

I'd be happy if Starbucks took over the customer service portion of the postal service. I am always happy and a little hyped after a Starbucks experience.