Hazards of Landlording-here’s one you never thought of

We’ve been offline for a couple of weeks, during which we experienced a lot of what all of you have- the cellphone outage. out-of-town visitors, more visitors, family reunions, and gaining five pounds from all the eating out. We’ll catch up little by little but I wanted to tell you first about a lesson learned re: the US Postal Service.  This lesson may save you some grief.

I have a 3 BR/2 BA house and for several years I have rented out the extra bedroom and bath.  On the same day that we had visitors from New Jersey,  one tenant moved out and another moved in.  Meanwhile my friend from LA , with whom I was planning a road trip to British Columbia, also showed up and realized he’d left his passport in LA. He got a friend to fetch his passport and mail it to my place using certified mail.  I use a PO box for 90% of my mail so I didn’t notice we weren’t getting any mail in the mailbox.

After a few days his passport hadn’t shown up so he accosted the mail carrier, who told him that he hadn’t delivered any mail to us for a few days because the house was vacant. Vacant!  Never mind the cars in the driveway and parked in front! Never mind the well-tended and watered planter box next to the mail box! Never mind that there were three adults and a dog living here the week this happened! Never mind that the house has not been vacant for even a day since I bought it in 1993! He thought the house was vacant.

Why?  Because he saw the forwarding order from the tenant who moved out and concluded that the house was empty. He apologized profusely for his error but by that time the passport had been sent to some kind of postal clearing house in Sacramento. We called the post office on Clark and they advised us to wait a few days. We did and nothing happened. To make a long story short, we went down there twice and enlisted the help of a supervisor named Eley,  The passport finally showed up this past Saturday, after being lost in the bowels of the USPS for almost three weeks. The stress on both of us was extreme.

The USPS is like any other organization- only as strong as its weakest link. Every supervisor we talked to at the USPS said the carrier “needed to be talked to”. How ’bout he should be retrained??  The lesson learned is that certified mail, which costs $3 and change, is useless.  If you have something valuable to send, send it REGISTERED which costs $12 but at least they can locate it. Registered mail is signed for at each stage of its journey, much tighter tracking.  I notice that Fed Ex has a small package option for $8.  I suspect that when Fed Ex loses something, they find it pretty quickly. Again, they have a signature for each transfer.

Next time, Fed Ex for sure. And folks, don’t bother with certified.  It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.  If you have any stories about lost mail and the USPS we’d love to hear them.

END

Should the USPS Offer Financial Services?

The Post Office’s inspector General has proposed just that.  In a while paper released earlier in the year, the IG suggested that USPS start offering financial services such as check-cashing, bill payments, international money transfers and even small loans.

When you think  about it, it makes a lot of sense. Postal workers are looking for work, and there are a lot of them .  The USPS is second only to Walmart among civilian employers with 491,000 workers.  Meanwhile our poorest citizens are losing access to banks , which always seem to close their branches in the poor neighborhoods first. Poor people pay dearly for payday loans and check-cashing services. It has been estimated that 25% of American households are un-banked or under-banked meaning they have no or inadequate access to checking and savings services. These folks pay more for banking services than the rest of us do.

This arrangement may seem outlandish to us but many Asian and European countries have been doing this for years. Japan Post operates one of that nation’s biggest banks.  I once hosted a particularly obnoxious German tourist who wouldn’t stop complaining about the fact that he couldn’t make long-distance calls from our post offices. Hey, there’s another idea…

Anyway, the idea of expanding postal services, especially those helpful to our poorer citizens appeals to me. What do you think?

RCB WILL BE ON HIATUS FOR A FEW DAYS. Your comments are welcome and will be responded to by the middle of next week. See you soon!

USPS and CCCU- last update, hopefully

Those who waded through the saga described in my last post will recall that 1) I was advised by CCCU to close my checking account because I lost some checks  2) I opened a new account but after a month the new checks hadn’t come 3) CCCU contacted the Deluxe (check) company and was told that the checks must have been lost in the mail 4) CCCU closed THAT checking account and opened a new one for me and 5) I had to contact all 14 of the utilities, credit cards etc that I have payments deducted for to advise them that the payments would now come from a THIRD checking account.

I imagine you can guess what happened next. The day after I finished all the letters, calls and visits changing the account number for the second time (North Valley Bank insisted on an original letter) , the checks showed up for the second  account, now closed. According to the package, the checks were mailed from Lancaster, CA on March 13. It took FIVE WEEKS AND ONE DAY  for a small package to arrive here from Lancaster.  In the meantime I had tried to research the lost-mail stats fro the USPS and found- not surprisingly- that there are no clear figures. The consensus seems to be that the loss rate is between 2% and 5% for the USPS and a QUICK survey of what’s available on the loss rate of UPS and Fed Ex seems to indicate that customer satisfaction is far higher with UPS than with Fed Ex but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.  A graph published by Fed Ex gives their loss rate as .55% for what that’s worth. 

I was curious to know how long it would take me to hear from CCCU since the very helpful and talented staff there are skilled at calming customers and I really wanted someone from management to give Deluxe a reality check on their delivery times.  This morning a nice person named Jolene (“like the Dolly Parton song”) called and we agreed that if this NEXT order of checks doesn’t get here in two weeks, I should call her and she will call Deluxe. I’ll settle for that. I will also mention that the envelope in which Deluxe mails its checks ( with the box flattened but you’d have to be an idiot not to figure out that the “Important Documents Enclosed” are checks) in a plastic envelope that says “tamper-proof” but which can easily be cut open so should really read ‘tamper-evident”.

I hope this is the end of it.  

I will add just  one thing more. Of all the entities I have had to deal with during this mess, the EASIEST one was Suddenlink, the WORST one was PG&E. Happy Spring!