Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ruler of a Tiny Realm

..and I DO mean tiny.

Well, one thing that's the same in MN as NJ is the PO. O-Y!

I filled out passport applications a while ago for the family, but we were lacking photos. Since passports are now required for travel to Canada, and since I have to go there in July, I decided this might be a good time to complete the applications. I figured I'd do my passport now because I need mine first, and do the kids at the start of Summer (these things are PRICEY!)

So last evening Hannah, Maxie and I traipsed off to CVS for some fine passport photos. Max looked like a mini-IRA terrorist in his photo, but aside from that they were fine. Then today, en route to some out-of-St. Paul-shopping I needed to get done, I ventured to a small PO in a small town (not my designated PO) to turn in my application.

The guy behind the counter at the PO was - not to put too fine a point on it - a real Cliff Claven type. He was obviously the kind of guy who enjoyed being master of his domain, and telling everyone else how to do whatever it was they needed to do. And he loved the sound of his own voice.

When I presented my application & birth certificate & all the other stuff to him, he said that the photos were too fuzzy. I'd only planned on submitting my application at this time, but I showed him the kids' photos too, to see if he thought they were too fuzzy. Yep. Fuzzy, fuzzy and fuzzy. Okay, fine, I'll get the photos retaken - no big deal - no rush. I felt cool about it.

But - not understanding that I was making a huge request - I asked him if he would write a note for me to give to the folks at CVS so I could get a refund and get new pictures taken.

His response was very wordy, "Well, here's what you want to do, you want to go to X post office, have them take the pictures, blah blah blah, yada yada yada..."

As he rambled on I said, "Uh, yeah - okay - I'll probably just get them done at CVS - can I get that note?"

This made him angry. I wasn't drinking in his pearls of wisdom. And it must have seemed that I interrupted him since he never came up for air.

A woman who had been in line earlier and was standing to the side chimed in, "At the post office they'll charge you $15, I just went to Walgreens, it's $7 there." I responded that $15 was "totally ridiculous" (another thing which didn't endear me to Mr. PO) and he - obviously feeling threatened that someone besides himself was offering advice in a government office, said in a very loud voice, "Uh, it's kind of hard for me to tell you what you need to do if you're not going to listen."

To which I responded, "You know, you could be nicer." Oops.

And that's when he ripped up the note he was grudgingly writing ("I've never had to write a note for anyone before...") Jerk.

When I asked him - and wrote down - the name of his supervisor, he told me that when I did get my photos, NOT to come back to HIS Post Office because he would refuse to serve me because he didn't like my attitude. "I'm the Passport Clerk and I can choose to deny service to anyone I like."


I was absolutely, TOTALLY cool about getting new photos - honest! I had all my paperwork, and was respectful to the man (until he became loud and aggressive.) But I didn't bow to his knowledge as deeply as he would have liked, and had the nerve to criticize the outrageous prices the PO charges for passport photos, and - oops - pointed out that he could be nicer.

So I'll go to another post office. It's not a huge deal, and there's one much closer to my house with passport hours tomorrow morning.

How evil, though, that a person's ability to get a passport hinges on one jerk's easily punctured ego? Give someone a little bit of power and sometimes it goes to their - head.

Eh. At least it gave me an excuse to have a good steaming anger-cry in the car in the parking lot.

When I returned the photos to CVS the guy there was really nice - and stunned to hear about my experience. He's been dealing with me now for 2 months, seeing me and/or the kids just about every day as we pick up milk or prescriptions or soap, and so far all dealings have been extremely pleasant.

So it ended with a bit of a reality check from the nice guy at CVS "That guy must be a jerk - leave it to the government..." , and the happy knowledge that I never have to visit that PO (or that town) again if I don't want to.

Back to the knitting - and with any luck tomorrow I'll have something really cool to show you!
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posted by Annie at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Why on earth did he think you wanted to pay the PO $15 when you already paid CVS and they should do them again for free? Idiot. You can still get into Canada without a passport if you drive, just in case you don't get yours in time. They're really backed up.

April 10, 2007 5:51 PM  
Blogger Liz K. said...

Annie, I hope you do complain in writing to his supervisor. This small, small man must be reminded that he works for YOU, a citizen of the United States who pays his salary!

Fight the power, Annie!

April 10, 2007 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Kat said...

Sorry the PO guy was so rotten. In a weird Boston turn of events, the folks at the various POs I use here are incredibly helpful. Oh, and if you are a AAA member and can get to one of their offices, passport photos are free.

April 10, 2007 5:58 PM  
Blogger CraftyCanadian said...

OMG! I totally feel for you... I'm going through some PO related passport nonsense myself. Better luck tomorrow!

April 10, 2007 5:59 PM  
Anonymous Heather said...

That really stinks. I don't typically comment on people's blogs (bad blogger, I know), but his treatment of you made me mad here in NH.

Unfortunately for him (and luckily for you!), he cannot deny you a passport. He does not issue them himself (that's done a National Passport Center -- there's one here in NH!).

I would definitely call his superior and file a complaint about his treatment of you in this matter. I bet it's not his first complaint.

Hope you get the passports without too much hassle!

April 10, 2007 6:10 PM  
Blogger La Cabeza Grande said...

Harrumph! Martinets litter the landscape. Good thing the CVS dude counterbalanced the jerk.

April 10, 2007 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Molly (Saint Paul Knitter) said...

I haven't seen everyone else's comments yet, but I can only assuming I'm repeating them....That is so UN-MINNESOTAN!!! You should hopefully have a normal interaction with the next PO you visit. I've even had some very nice ones. Well, good luck and that guy should be ashamed of himself!

April 10, 2007 6:15 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

yeah, I had a run in with an officious bank officer a while ago. I wasn't asking for a loan, I wanted to change the rewards type on my credit card. He made me wait and then told me he couldn't do anything because I was self-employed yada yada...He was quite nasty about it. I guess since I wasn't there in supplicant mode, he was put off.
I went to another bank and they were much nicer.

April 10, 2007 6:48 PM  
Anonymous Ruth said...

Oh boy. I've seen several families of non-English-speaking immigrants attempt to get passports at our local PO since January 1, and I've yet to see anyone succeed. It's quite a to-do. Glad I have mine.

April 10, 2007 7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anne said...

Blech. I do hate dealing with the post office. If there was a proper way of getting real mail without ever having to use them, I'd be allll over it. Hope your day got better after that!

April 10, 2007 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Wish I knew which PO this was. Guy sounds like a self-loather.
I live in E metro, and went with my daughter to the Washington County License Center on Hwy 36 in Stillwater and we got a passport for my infant grandson. She had cropped the photo to the proper size to fit in the space, but they said the head wasn't quite the right size. No big deal--they took another picture right there for only a small charge. There's also a Washington Co license center across Radio Drive from the big Kowalski's in Woodbury.

April 10, 2007 7:51 PM  
Anonymous susan said...

he must have other "shortcomings."

April 10, 2007 8:39 PM  
Blogger donnac368 said...

Wow! Are you sure you weren't at my PO? They just "love" me and all me ebay...

April 10, 2007 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Wow, what a jerk! At least there are other post offices nearby, because I wouldn't want to go back there either.

April 10, 2007 9:17 PM  
Blogger maxine said...

Could be the next passport office thinks the original photos are fine. Sorta like who gets to decide about knitting needles on the airplane.

April 10, 2007 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

That is very interesting that he was such a jerk about it. When I went to my post office to ask about passports a few months ago, the woman was very helpful and professional, and she even suggested getting your pictures somewhere else since it would be cheaper!

Since I work for a public school system, I understand that 'tenured' employees can get a power trip, and that there is little you can do about it. It is amazing to me that in our money-driven era we can still have a government operating in the 19th century.

April 11, 2007 1:41 AM  
Anonymous Cheryl said...

I was wondering how you got down here to Western PA to go to the Post Office? Sounds like my brother-in-law was waiting on you...the one who was discharged from the navy because he is --- whacko-- and got 10 extra points on his civil service test because he is a "disabled Veteran" (his tour of duty --did include Groton connecticut and the Bethesda Naval Hospital after all(

April 11, 2007 7:34 AM  
Blogger stitch-dom said...

Yuck!!! Makes me embarrassed to be a public servant. When my father was a diplomat in Washington, my mother and I were harrassed by a customs agent at an airport - she made us feel like criminals for jumping the queue to catch our connection. I was 12, and ended up crying all the way home. Her bad day got worse since my dad complained to the State department and she got suspended without pay for two months.

So it can help to complain - particularly if the post office has service standards they aren't meeting. Or maybe you can hope all that bad karma will catch up with him and one of these days he will play his power games with the wrong person.

I want to hear more about Canada - when are you coming? Are you teaching? I would love a chance to take a class with you!

April 11, 2007 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Nicole from Indy said...

MN Nice, right? Ahhh there is always at least one in the bunch!

April 11, 2007 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annie, I've been following your blog since you moved here. I moved from Tampa 18 mths ago. The PO can be a nightmare. I go to the post office in Korte's Market on Randolph. My HS daughter, Ariel, needs your help with a project she is in over her head. She is an "accidental designer" in the MOA Prom Contest. As the only contestant who will be actually attending a Prom this year, she needs votes to win the People's Choice vote on the web site. The other experienced designers are probably the same type you met in Chicago. They all have tons of design experience. Ariel entered the contest becasue she was frustrated trying to find a dress she could wear to the Prom and that is all her experience. Please visit the web site for the MOA Prom Contest and vote. Email me at pomputius3@msn.com if you have any questions. We did major remodel work on our Highland Park house if you would like some sympathy about remodeling in the cities. Take Care, Pam

April 11, 2007 9:44 AM  
Blogger Uni Puff Puffs said...

The post office people are *never* wrong, even when they put other people's mail in your box...or when your magazines suddenly appear (all bound nicely in rubbery elastic) after missing for a month.


April 11, 2007 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Kandace from Rochester said...

How frustrating! If you want to drive 1.5 hrs (what? too far to go to mail a package?) to Rochester, I love our post office workers. Some friends at work and I practically make up excuses to walk over there and mail something, because the people are so nice! We agree this is the first place any of us have lived where that is the case. I'm sorry you had such a rotten experience.

April 11, 2007 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Tana said...

As someone who moved from the East Coast to the Midwest, I can attest to the post office being about the same speed. Our street was under construction last summer and UPS, FedEx, garbage trucks and everyone else managed to continue to provide service...except for the post office. They quit delivering mail without notice and then totally didn't get it when I tried to ask them what exactly about them was so different from everyone else that they couldn't continue to provide service just like everyone else. They thought that everyone should go down to the post office to pick up their mail and they have the oddest hours - 8:30 to 12:15, then 12:45 to 4:15. Hello? Most people have jobs from 8 to 5. I must confess, after living in the Midwest for 6 years, I found their behavior quite shocking. Oh my!

April 11, 2007 10:04 AM  
Blogger Grace said...

I really resent that, "leave it to the government" comment. Instead of blaming the individual, the way you did, why is it acceptable to smear a whole class of people working for the government?

That kind of rhetoric, and the attitude it represents, does real damage to the fabric of our society. It rationalizes breaking laws, cheating on taxes and not participating in OUR government (like voting).

April 11, 2007 10:06 AM  
Blogger kemtee said...

Annie, hon… worst thing is that no matter what you do by way of complaining to the postmaster, he's virtually untouchable. (So much for civil "servant.") Union and whatnot. Besides, it seems as though his attitude problem is too ingrained.

TG for the nice folks at CVS.

…back to my regularly scheduled lurking.…

April 11, 2007 10:32 AM  
Blogger Mrs. H said...


What a *insert favorite bad word here)...

People like that make me ill. I hope you do turn him in to his supervisor. As a taxpayer, you deserve to be treated with common curtesy in a situation like this. Who does he think pays his salary?

Love your blog.

April 11, 2007 11:20 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Do everyone else a favor and call the Postmaster of your area and report him. People like that need a kick in the pants, or outright torture.

I run a small mail-order business and spend a lot of time at the post office, wishing EVERYONE would complain about the idiot clerks and get them fired.

On the other hand, there are a couple really nice clerks who have it together at my post office. They balance out the idiots.

April 11, 2007 1:53 PM  
Blogger Sarah (AKA Fleecy) said...

I waited with my family for 2.5 hours to apply for passports at our local PO. At least once we got to the front of the line the postal employee was very nice - far nicer than I would have actually expected under the circumstances (she's says it's like that every day.) I don't have a problem with needing a passport to go to Canada, but I do have a problem with a government that decides that absolutely every American (including the tiny newborn who with her mom also waited for 2+ hours) needs a passport to go anywhere and then fails to hire the additional staff necessary at any level to make it happen in a reasonably timely and semi stress free way. But that's just me.... :-)

April 11, 2007 2:06 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

What a jerk indeed! I hope you let his supervisor know about his horrid behavior, that was totally unacceptable!

April 11, 2007 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

Wow, what an awful man!! I work at the univeristy post office part time where I go to school, and none of us would ever be that rude. Don't let it get to you, those kind of people like to make everyone around them miserable.

April 11, 2007 8:45 PM  
Anonymous knitone said...

You should not have to put up with that sort of attitude at any government office. Since you got his name, recommend you notify the post office about your problem. As long as he gets away with his "attitude" he'll continue. I work for the government and I know if I gave that kind of customer service, I'd be called on the carpet.

April 12, 2007 6:32 PM  
Anonymous Tom Green said...

Annie - thanks for setting the link to ePassportPhoto.com but I must admit I'm a bit confused... have you used ePassportPhoto for your photos (and then printed at CVS?)


April 14, 2007 4:39 PM  
Blogger annie said...

No, when we did the CVS they took the pictures, but I'm going to take our own now and then just print them at CVS so they have appropriate paper.

April 15, 2007 6:17 PM  
Anonymous cynthia said...

You really should complain. Therfore, the USPS will be aware of their 'problem'.

Go to www.usps.com.
Click on 'Contact Us' located at the bottom of the screen.
Hit the 'email us' tab and fill out the form.

You should get a call from a Supervisor at the PO you had a problem with. The Supervisor is required to try to rectify the situation with you (and I believe, apologize).

I usually don't comment on blogs, but I just had to on this one. I have complained on the USPS web site for things such as excessive receipt of neighbors' mail at my job and my home (separate complaints) and for PO Clerk errors and one who had spoken to me with a really bad tone (the PO in the city where I work is awful).

April 16, 2007 5:41 PM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I forgot to tell you, the situations did get resolved so it does work.

April 16, 2007 5:44 PM  

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