JWG (jwg) wrote,

Cambridge Postal Advisory Committee

I have been a member of the Cambridge Postal Advisory Committee for about three years. As some readers know, I tend to volunteer for such things (Cambridge Library Expansion, Cambridge Civic Association, Cambridge Lavender Alliance, Cambridge Election technology, Lavender Country and Folk Dancers, Lavender Dance Legacy are all in various stages of activity). It keeps me out of trouble (actually gets me into trouble since I try to push the envelope in all these things) and is somewhat fun as well.

About six of us meet once a month with the Cambridge Postmaster. The Postmaster gives us an informal report of things going on. These have usually been usually crises such as the Anthrax thing, an impending strike several years ago, severe budget cuts because of declining revenue leading to multiple staff reassigments, loss of leases on rental facilities, terrible contractor doing main post office renovarion). Of course we can't do anything about this stuff but it is interesting to find out how things work.

Several years ago we went to the South Boston Postal Annex to see the sorting / classification system in operation. Ever notice on the back of many envelopes a faint orange bar code? Outgoing mail that isn't presorted passes through a scanner after workers dump and straighten the piles of mail. An image of the address is transmitted to a processing center in upstate New York and the orange id barcode is printed on the back. The workers there have about an hour to read these images and get the right 9 digit zip code plus the carrier route sorting information for that piece of mail. Then when this piece of mail is rescanned about an hour later, the orange barcode on the back identifies the piece so that the delivery barcode can be printed on the front. Then this piece of mail goes to the sorting machines which sort by delivery center zips so that the mail can be sent to the correct location. Some processing centers have more modern systems that actually read the addresses and figure out the correct code with no human intervention but they don't have any of these in Boston.

The next part of the meeting is consumer oriented where we talk about various issues. I usually bring up at least one lobby service related item (continuously broken/empty stamp machines, bad signage, philitetic bulletin board that has an "ad" for getting passports and nothing about stamps, junk all over the floor, etc.). We have gotten some improvements. For example the stamp vending machine problem was caused by the assignment of the key to only one person for accountability purposes so if it was empty or jammed it could only be fixed by that person who if sick or on vacation or at night .... It turns out by my pressing this issue at several meetings it was discovered that this accountability issue wasn't real and multiple people could have the key so it is much better now.

Several months ago I raised the messiness of the Inman Square post office issue. This is a crowded, not very much used office whose appearance is awful. Plastered with informationless signs and pseudo-ads, a "laundry hamper" in the lobby holding packages because there isn't room in the back, boxes of forms strewn about, etc. They fixed it up a bit (found a better hamper, removed some of the signs) but it wasn't very good. So for last weeks meeting I brought in some photographs and made a bigger deal about this. The current acting PostMaster said he would deal with some of this.

Wall Graffiti Wall Graffiti
Door Graffiti
It will be interesting to see if it really gets removed - there is a building owner / PO as tenant issue here.

Front Door Gloucester front door
Note that has no phone number or web site URL, it refers people to the S Boston PO and doesn't mention the Central Sq PO which is onlyh a few blocks away. I like the smoking and working dog notices on the door as well. They said they liked my sample and would try to do the same for this PO and several other branches as well. We'll see.

Hamper et al.Counter
Note there are two hampers and they sandwich the place where forms and packaging materials are. And the still busy signage - most of which has nothing to do with PO business.
Under the counter there are boxes of forms, there is a red package truck on the floor (they said we don't have such a truck) and I questioned the ugly mat that covers the nice floor (it hadn't rained in days). The said, oh such mats are always there to help keep the flooring preserved (why preserve it if you can't see it). I've suggested again that they do something about doors, covers over the unsightly stuff and move the counter to where it doesn't get blocked by people and hidden by hampers. We'll see - if they don't do much I'll make a big deal again at the next meeting or the following when the to-be-newly appointed PostMaster is there (if it isn't the acting one).

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