This season people are shopping in a whole new way. Online ordering has gained popularity with many people finding it hard to resist free shipping and the allure of not having to fight with traffic and crowds.
I recently saw a post online with someone complaining about their package being 'attempted' when they were home and knew it wasn't. I normally try to resist confrontation on social media but in this case I just couldn't.
I have had my own full time photography business for around 20 years. Some of you don't know that after my divorce in 2013, I fulfilled a dream of moving to the lake area. With that, my business was relocated to a new area and being a single mom, I took a job with the United States Postal Service to help supplement while rebuilding to make sure the kids were provided for. It quickly consumed more and more of my time.
After I learned the ropes I was really good at it. I enjoyed the customers, the peace of being outdoors, and the pets who excitedly waited for me to deliver their bacon treats. Love you Suzie and Cash.
One thing I did not enjoy was Christmas. Which seems to start earlier and earlier every year.
With Amazon, regular mail and finishing the last 'mile' for UPS and FedEx in rural areas, the volume of packages evolved from fitting everything in the back of our Ford Focus, to making multiple trips in my Jeep with little more than a peep-hole to see out of over a five year period.
It is hard to understand what the job is like if you have never done it, so let me clue you in.
Delivery jobs are physically and mentally demanding. It involves speed, accuracy and a heart for customer service. The mail carrier may be the only face and companionship some people see all day. Taking time out to visit with them and let them know they matter is part of the job for the kindhearted.
Carriers spend hours organizing the mail and packages especially the last few months of the year. Once they get out on the 'street', they are overflowing. There are many days carriers have very limited visibility due to the extreme volume. I 'staged' my packages, mimicking the classic video game Tetris like a professional, all while keeping them in the order that I would need them. Don't challenge me to Tetris, just saying.
Even on a route you know well, you are still out until after dark this time of year. If you know the route well you make better time, but the busiest day is Monday, and unfortunately for the substitute carriers, Monday and Saturdays are the days that full-time carriers have scheduled days off. You may have a person who has never done a route before on a route with 600 plus mailboxes over 70 miles. They are reading driving directions, mailbox numbers and multiple stacks of mail and packages all while driving on the wrong side of the vehicle. Sometimes they are from a different town because of being shorthanded.
It can be intimidating driving up a 1/2 mile long rural driveway at night, especially if you are in a vehicle they do not recognize. Have you ever been watched through a rifle scope? One of my carrier friends has.
The mail is put in trays standing on end, sometimes I would have 24 feet of mail and well over 200 packages on some extreme days. God forbid it was Wednesday when you also have the Lake Area Leader or various other items that had to be delivered to every box that day, and don't miss one. The one you miss will be the only person on your route who does not throw it away, guaranteed.
Many days it was like a clown car. I had just enough room for me to slip in. Then roll your window down all day in 20 degree weather... that will wake you up.
On top of all this you have time restrictions, the truck comes to pick up outgoing mail and your 'package pickups' at a certain time in the afternoon. You have to be done and back by that time regardless of when you leave or how much volume you have. If you aren't going to make it you have to drive back, drop all of that off and then go back out again even if it is a thirty minute drive back to the last box you serviced.
It is a difficult job and people don't understand the magnitude of what delivery drivers go through every day. Their first inclination is to say they are lazy, and there are some carriers that can be, but many are very hard working individuals.
My friend drives for DHL, and he drove from south Dallas to the Oklahoma border and back every day.
It doesn't matter if there is hail, a tornado, freezing rain, or 112 degree heat, you keep driving and delivering. It simply has to get done. One day I was delivering when a F1 tornado came up out of nowhere, so I diverted to take shelter right before my last few boxes on that particular route. One of those customers actually called and complained that I missed delivering their paper that day.
Sometimes the vehicle is so full a smaller package may fall behind a bigger one that gets delivered later in the route and gets missed. The carrier has to then redeliver the house sometimes backtracking many miles, or scan it attempted to 'kill the clock' and then deliver it the next day. People get frustrated and think, Well I only have a few packages how hard is that to get right? Remember, you only have a few, but a hundred of your neighbors also had one or two or five. Some customers required separate delivery because they filled the jeep by themselves.
This doesn't even touch on the flat tires, busted cables, brakes overheating, or the boxes sent by Amazon with a 50 pound bucket of pool salt in a box with one strip of paper tape that busts open the minute you pick it up. That's a good day right there.
The long and short of it is be kind and patient with your delivery people. They are willing to go above and beyond for the people that are kind and compassionate. Many want to do their absolute best for you. It is a very hard and physically demanding job though with long cold hours this time of year, they are human and doing their best.
Thank you to all of my customers who spoiled me with goodies throughout the years. It was my pleasure to serve you.
So when your mail is three hours late instead of getting upset, leave them a bottled water and some crackers in the mailbox, because they probably haven't had time to eat or go to the bathroom all day.