Mail and More...

Mail and More...

I can smell America's stink all the way over here. It reeks of disillusion. Living abroad there are so many things that just work. The transportation is efficient, the health care is progressive and resources are plentiful. There are also things that never work ... like the mail. For me as an outsider my life is still in the U.S. so the bulk of my mail comes from there. I rarely receive mail from peers and family in Germany. I don't even bother to check the physical mailbox because nothing but invoices come in my name. On the rare occasion someone sends me something they are using the United States Postal Service aka U.S.P.S. If I am expecting something I know that the USPS can be a bit slow. It is a service that was always overwhelmed and operating on fumes at the same time. So when you tack on oceans and customs things do take a bit longer to arrive. Regardless of delay the USPS is still reliable moreso than other carriers like UPS or FedEx. So with the service being threatened or its existence being used as political leverage the delays are the least of our problems.  

In the states, I did everything through our postal service. I mailed my rent check, paid all of my utility bills and pretty much all important correspondence went through the mail. Unless something was time sensitive or obtuse in size I always sent and received through the USPS. Why? Well being the long standing option it was reputable and accessible. The prices and value of the service was always consistent. Surely, year after year prices went up but only by change. And when you physically went to the local post office you always saw the same faces. My mother also worked for the postal service so it was simply trusted and for generations it handled everything from passports, money orders, mailing of gifts and absentee voting. There was no doubt about these things passing through the system would safely arrive to their destinations untampered. The idea that the USPS and its tenured employees would be complicit in some sort of voter fraud is just insane. These people are federal employees with responsibilities as respected and necessary as our military and law enforcement. It is rare to find someone working with the postal office taking advantage of that virtual oath of service. And the American people frankly aren't that damn smart to collude on voters fraud via snail mail. The election system is already rigged without anyones involvement. It is embarrassing to even speculate on the possibility of it. Elections in the past have been won on absentee voting alone. And in my case when I mail in my ballot from abroad I am taking so many steps to ensure my ballot arrives and is counted. And I am paying for the packaging and postage from Germany. It would be far easier not to vote than to return a fraudulent or void ballot from 5000 km away. 

It is public knowledge that the USPS has been a financially strained organization well before Tonald Drump or even Barack Obama. The dismantling of the age old institution has a lot to do with Congress. They were never supported or respected as a branch of federal government. They have been crippled by budget cuts and profit loss. There is also this which I won't elaborate on here because it is way too controversial and problematic for me to tackle. Even that is just an opinion piece that leaves a lot questions unanswered from USPS's own internal auditors. In essence, the USPS has always faced bankruptcy but they have managed to keep the business model intact where service has been consistent and uninterrupted. Today the postal service despite its past is also in battle with Amazon and Walmart who are strong arming the USPS. And who could compete with the likes of them? They are giants in a gang called the 1% spearheaded by Tonald Drump. They all want to sell goods hand over foot ensuring the little people will always suffer. Mom and Pop shops cannot cope with online sales. Monopolies are avoiding taxation. And while the rich and greedy order whatever they want 24/7 the majority of the USPS's clientele is relying upon them for vital things like payroll checks, supplemental income and our medicines. We are not the ones voting from our summer homes or buying million dollar cookies from Neiman Marcus. We are the veterans waiting  blood thinners and Zoloft. We are the elderly relying upon delivered home health aids and disability checks. We are the immigrants who send money back home and require the mail for important immigration documents. We are the poor who can face eviction if the rent doesn't arrive by the fifth and who do not have bank accounts so money orders are essential. We are people who are expats and nomads that require P.O. Boxes, Mail Holds and Forwarding. The service the USPS provides to the above and more is lifeblood and services were interrupted or eliminated as early as February. So this has absolutely nothing and everything to do with the election. We have got to have a regime change to get things back to the way there were before the early 2000s. 

So B.C. (Before Covid) it was already bare bones in the physical post offices. The lack of employees and the absence of things like flat rate packaging. Then guaranteed services became unreliable where timelines for delivery were spoken like questions than statements. There were rumors of the USPS going bankrupt and online pleas for every American to buy a book of stamps. As I collector I sure did assuming if every man, woman and child spent that $10 the USPS would recover. Sooner than later small businesses whose entire inventories were shipped through the USPS found their customers purchases being returned to them. Customers located on islands and in outlying areas were first affected. Then it was international customers and even APO's leaving businesses scrambling to get already paid and misshipped packages to their final destinations. They tried to blame it all on Covid-19 but the rest of the world was shipping normally. In example, I ordered something from H&M in April and didn't receive it at all. It arrived after I had already returned to Germany in June. Of course my family returned it for me via the USPS and even still the item did not make it back until late July. The best part of it all is 30 day invoices with Klarna was new in the States and the item was to be paid before I even received it. To communicate with both parties about the whereabouts of my order as well as my payment from Germany was a nightmare. These two parties were not to blame because it was the USPS who had literally sat on that package. I ordered the same exact thing here in Germany and received it in three days which was expedited in comparison to normal service at no additional cost to me. And virtually no other carrier services have been affected here in Germany. There is sometimes a slight delay on replenishment of certain imported goods but not all out loss or interrupted services. It has gotten to a point where people have actually died waiting on vital medicines like insulin. Seriously, people that cannot leave their homes, lack transportation or do not have caregivers are dying waiting for their medicines to arrive in America.

To be honest I have taken the USPS for granted for years. We all have. Stealing their pens, using their packaging tape and hoarding their shippers at home or in our offices. We then expect for them to show up in blizzards and hurricanes with our random purchases, junk mail and political propaganda. We never think about the hours these employees must keep or how the organization pays them. We never think what if they cease to exist. And living abroad it is quite clear what this looks like. Here you do not get the luxury of having free resources and packaging. No one is going to haggle with you on the cheapest option to mail your oblong care packages. You bear responsibility and liability for your own packages. And no one is going to hide your important letter under your welcome mat. Here in Germany my mail is an afterthought but what I do receive isn't handled with care or expertly placed. I have up to five different carriers who insist upon dodging me and never leaving my items. My letters and things that shouldn't fit in our mailbox are crumpled and pushed to fit. If I need advice around mailing I should seek it online because third party kiosks and corner stores are my only options. These places are too mismanaged, unorganized and crowded to help me send my gifts to Florida. Half of them do not even know what I am talking about when I ask for a stamp to mail things back home. So now I see the difference and the level of service. I realize how precious it is and how it is life or death for my fellow Americans. And in the long run if I rely on the service to stay connected to family and friends back home what will we do when the USPS is no more. 

Going forward if there is a future for our postal service they are looking to the American public to empathize with and support them. You can do this by buying stamps and other various products because that funds their employees pensions. You can be considerate of shipping times and make sure that when placing orders or sending something that it may be a while. And when your mail carrier arrives at your home or business be considerate of them. For those here in Germany encourage your friends and family back home to hold on to service even if they just send a few Thinking of You cards your way. The other way to ensure there is some positive change for the USPS as well as longevity for the organization is to vote. Look to your local and state officials who are hindering people that need the service. Write letters. Sign petitions. And of course in November if you can vote in person do so or try to physically bring your early or absentee ballot to your local election office. For those abroad there are specific party affiliated agencies that can give expats options around getting ballots on U.S. soil in time to be counted. And many states do allow U.S. citizens with residency elsewhere to vote via fax. I know while I am chasing DPD packages here I am pushing for service back home I am used to. And I know if we rally together we can save and ultimately reform a service that has supported us for generations and hopefully many more to come.