In the midst of clearing out my house and greenhouse, trying to decide what few things I want to take with me, what few things I want to put into a box or two to leave with my parents, in between listing flora on ebay and tracking down friends that I've promised a cutting or seedling or division to, I've been boxing plants up and sending them off via UPS or USPS. Ebay buyers love the USPS' flat-rate boxes, pack just about anything in the provided caskets, with little regard to weight and send them on their way. For shippers too, it's an ideal situation; ebay provides reduced postage rates on flat-rate boxes when you print postage from their site & the post office provides these uniform boxes to shippers free of charge. Win-win for most; just don't try to repurpose an already used flate-rate box for a future shipment...
Yesterday morning I packed up a plant, chose first class postage in lieu of flat-rate (the medium box was too big and the small box was too tiny); my box of choice was an outdated flat-rate box from my stash of "plant mailing boxes"; the size that I was using is no longer available for flat-rate shipments. After packing the box, I removed all wording that stated this was a flat-rate box; I then taped the mailing label to the box and added it to my drop-off stack for the post office later in the day.
Those of you that live here (though I am sure that this is not unique to here alone) have no doubt noticed the lack of service at our local post office. There is one employee that seems genuinely interested in helping patrons and three others that give the distinct impression that they would rather be fondling themselves whilst licking stamps instead of actually assisting with the sending of mail. It is, of course, the play of the Fates that the helpful employee is most often relegated to the bowels of the post office, where he is helpful to no one, and such was the case yesterday when I went to post my mail. As per usual, there was one window staffed, a second open, but not really "open", as the employee there was staring intently at her computer screen so as to avoid the long queue of patrons waiting at the one working window. I'm always sort of amused that the post office doesn't have a window dedicated to mail for which postage has already been bought--sure you can slip your letter into the appropriate slot, but my three boxes and four books just won't fit in the slot; nor would the packages of the three people behind me, all of whom had also already affixed mailing and postage labels. The wait, as it was, was on.
Arriving at the window, I let the guy know that my boxes were postage paid; he took them and asked for the lady behind he to come forward. I then heard a rather brusque, "Excuse me!," turning, it was the guy in the window. "Sir, this is a flat-rate box. You've put first class postage on it. Do you know this?" I assured him that I did know this, that I was reusing the box (Had I been really with my game I should have pointed to the Please Recycle Postage Materials sign next to his window); at this point I was told that flat-rate boxes may only be used at flat-rate fees. Period. I asked for clarification, "So, even though this is a box size that in no longer offered, a box that I have removed all flat-rate markings from, I am not allowed to repurpose it?" "That's correct," was his reply, "Once a flat-rate box, always a flat-rate box."
The last time that I checked, the USPS was losing money far faster than it was making any, patrons are more and more disgruntled by the lackluster service that the post offers, stamp prices keep going up and up & myriad other complaints exist. Hmm, I wonder why that might be. USPS, you might be a necessary evil, but in the age of electronic banking and alternative shipping methods, I'm banishing you where and when I can.