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Annals of Mail Delivery: Postage Due

You never know when a small decision may turn out to have greater meaning than you imagine....

It's a yellow house with brown trim.  The yard is well kept, and newly clipped bushes border the dwelling.  As a postman will, I have spoken at times with both the husband and wife who live here.  They are pleasant people.

I thumb through my two bundles of mail, and discover that I have a large manila envelope for them, the size of a magazine.  I only now notice that it is postage due.  To properly handle the piece and recover the revenue, the rule is I should return the article to the Post Office, show the receiving clerk it is postage due, and hand it over to them.  Next morning, another clerk will bring the item to me as accountable.  I will sign for it and deliver it after collecting the money due.  This seems ridiculous to me, on several counts.  First, I'm a lousy rule-follower.  Second, it would entail the expense of the time, effort and salary of three additional people handling the item.  Third, the piece will be delayed in delivery an additional day as well.  The revenue I would collect wouldn't make a dent in what has already been spent, much less justify the additional labor expense.

My decision doesn't take long.  The piece has been stamped 'postage due' by an efficient clerk, but has been additionally handled by several people who haven't noticed it.  I choose to deliver it.  Since it is oversized, I know many coworkers who would just fold and stuff it in the box to spend the least time at it.  My guilt mechanism doesn't allow me to do this.  I have no idea what the item is, but the people may not want it bent or creased.  Their cars are gone.  I knock on the door and no one answers.  So I place it between the entry doors and walk on without a second thought.

The next day, the wife meets me when I walk up to the mailbox.  "I believe I owe you some money," she says.

"No, it's all right," I tell her.  "No one caught it until it got to me, so I just left it to save time and hassle.  I didn't pay for it."

She thanks me profusely.  "We've been waiting a long time for it," she says.  "It was my son's death certificate.  He was killed in Iraq."

Sometimes a small favor is bigger than you think.

Comments
9 Comment count
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Pat on the back

I admire your being sensible, Stephen.

It's true we never know how far-reaching our decisions will be. 

More power to you.

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Blog comment

Thanks, Dolores. Very kind.

Steve

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Another Pat On the Back

Wonderful to learn rule breakers still inhabit the bureaucracy and that you think of the mail and the people you serve with respect. Well done.

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Blog comment

Thanks, Michael. Much appreciated.

Steve

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Blog comment

Thanks for your kind comments. 

 

Best,

Steve

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This is wonderful story!  I

This is wonderful story!  I think about the postman in our building, his back turned against the door.  He's busy sorting mail into the cubby holes and for some odd reason, I retreat back.  I tiptoe out of the door, not wanting to break his concentration.  A part of me wants to say hello but instead I shy away.  I don't know why.  Sometimes I get the vibe that he's not friendly, other times I feel he just wants to be left alone to do his sorting and get out of the building.  You are a kind postman, gentle with the mail you handle.  You take your time unloading them into mailboxes as opposed to pushing them and stuffing them into the already crowded boxes.  How considerate of you to leave that oversized mail with postage due at the recipients doorstep.  That was a very kind gesture.

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Blog comment

Thanks, Rina! Much appreciated!

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Beautiful story...

I was already filled with gratitude that you sensibly didn't cause the P.O. more expense by following the rules.  I do believe in rules, and sometimes am a very conscientious rule follower.  But I also believe rules are meant to be broken just as you did.  And I was grateful you were careful not to damage the package.  But when I read the ending, the tears came.  Glad you did not add any more bother to these folks' great loss.

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It nice to know that they

It's nice to know that there are still some kindhearted people about in the world.