Friday, October 29, 2010

My favorite pumpkin

Here's my favorite pumpkin. Do you have one you would like to share? E-mail me here.

Thanks to Y2 for this great picture

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Ghost in the Post Office

For several years, custodian Ed Nelson looked after the labyrinth of stairs and hallways that make up the grand old 1930s-era San Pedro Post Office. In fact, he still frequents the place. Employees see him regularly. The awkward and disquieting fact is that he’s been dead for more than 27 years.

A lift to the hereafter? Ding Santiago, left, and Brian Bundy
 peer out from an elevator alcove at the San Pedro Post Office
The facility’s General Clerk and Historian Brian Bundy says that all of the office’s employees know about Mr. Nelson — or at least they know the legend, which goes that the former custodian died in the building or had a heart attack there and died later. (The truth, as it turns out, is even more melancholy, but more on that later.)

What many agree on, is that Mr. Nelson still seems to be coming to work. Or perhaps he’s made the Post Office his afterlife address.

Bundy himself has had some unusual encounters. On one occasion he felt a sharp tug on the keys at his belt. When he turned, there was no one there. But his keys were strewn across the floor, and the key ring, which he has kept for demonstration purposes, was bent open and misshapen. Another time Bundy was standing and looking down at some paperwork when, just above the tops of the pages, he saw shoes and pant legs. But when he lifted his gaze, the apparition vanished.

Maintenance employee Kathy Reyes has had an even more unsettling experience. She was on the phone in the basement maintenance shop when she looked over and saw a man in a blue uniform standing in the doorway. She acknowledged him and he nodded slightly in response. Then suddenly he was gone. “I was so scared,” she says, “it’s like I was frozen. I couldn’t move.”

Custodian Lance McCall tells a similar tale. Looking up into a stairwell, McCall saw a man in a uniform doubled over. But he only got a fleeting glimpse, because when he asked the man if he was OK, he disappeared. While closing up the Post Office, McCall has also heard doors opening and closing and seen lights that he’s turned off pop back on. “I’m a little shaky about being here by myself,” McCall confesses.

Distribution Clerk Ding Santiago feels the same way. Santiago has heard equipment rolling and footsteps when there was no one else in the building. “It makes the hair on my arms stand up,” he says. For that reason, Santiago never liked working Sundays by himself. “Sometimes I would bring my wife, just to keep me company,” he admits.

This is not to suggest that the haunting is malevolent, or even mischievous. Business Mail Acceptance Clerk Rosie Rivera will confirm that fact. She knew Ed Nelson.
“We both started as carriers back around 1977,” recalls Rivera. “He was in his 60’s back then, and when his eyesight started to fail he switched to the custodial craft.” She describes him as about 6 foot 2, slim, with thick glasses and clean shaven.

“He was a very, very nice man,” she explains. “He had never been married and he wasn’t close to his family, so I think he came to work here for the companionship. And he never missed a day — at least not until he passed away in 1983.”

In fact, it was a postal employee, Sandy Johansen, who found Nelson when she went to his home to find out why he had stopped coming to work. The biggest surprise of all came later, when attorneys contacted three San Pedro Post Office employees to reveal that Ed Nelson had left each of them substantial amounts of money. One of those people was Rosie Rivera.

“I was dumfounded!” says Rivera. “I was also very grateful. I was a single mother and the money really helped us.” Rivera remembers that one of the other beneficiaries was also a single mother, a letter carrier named April. The third recipient was another letter carrier and Nelson’s best friend, Henry. Rivera doesn’t remember their last names or exactly how much either of them received, but shortly afterward, April quit and Henry retired.

It turns out that Ed Nelson probably didn’t need his job at the Post Office at all. But it was where he wanted to be — then, and perhaps even now. “This was his family,” Rivera concludes.

Another employee who remembers Mr. Nelson is Long Beach Postmaster Ken Snavely, who began his career as a Part-Time Flexible carrier in San Pedro. “I would come in on Sundays to take out Special Delivery mail and the only other person there was Mr. Nelson. I’ll never forget the image of him mopping those long hallways downstairs.”

And, like Rivera, it makes sense to Snavely that Mr. Nelson might still be haunting those halls. “That Post Office had become his life,” says Snavely, “and if you believe in that sort of thing, well... maybe he just couldn’t let go.”

San Pedro Postmaster Teddie Rebollido won’t comment on whether she believes the ghost story or not. “I have enough trouble convincing my custodians to work in that basement,” she laughs. “But,” she adds with pride, “it is one of the things that makes this place so special.”

Story and photo credit, Ted Snyder

Do you have your own Postal ghost story? Click here to tell me about it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PMG writes to employees

PMG Jack Potter, who announced his retirement date, wrote a letter to employees to accompany his public decision. You can find the whole text here, but there are a few noteworthy excerpts.

He writes not about himself -- but about postal employees.

"The progress we made together, despite enormous obstacles, has been simply amazing. Service, customer satisfaction, efficiency, cost management and our reputation for trust have never been stronger," he said. "We’ve come through some trying times and I’ve always known — whatever the situation — that we’d stand together, work through it and emerge more focused than ever. And we have."

He thanks fellow employees.

"The most rewarding part has been the people — the thousands of people I’ve had the chance to meet and work with, inside and outside the Postal Service. I have always been proud to be a member of the postal family." he said.

"My pride, based on your commitment to our customers and to our nation, has only grown in the years I’ve served as Postmaster General. That will not change — no matter where the future takes me — and I will remain a strong advocate for the Postal Service."

What do you think about his letter? Comment here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Postmaster General sets retirement date

Benny here.

Well, the news is that my successor (actually, there's been 69 others in between), Postmaster General Jack Potter has chosen to retire, effective Dec. 3.

He started in 1978 as a clerk in New York City and rose through the ranks. He was one of us. In fact, he's a second-generation postal employee.

I've got to give him a salute. His ten years at the helm have been tough, to say the least. He dealt with 9/11-related security concerns, the anthrax threat, declining volumes, revenue declines, Congressional concerns, and public opinion swings.

Plus, he's had to the point man for employee groups, mailers and the media.

Deputy Postmaster General and Chief Operating Office Patrick Donahoe will replace him.

Got a comment about the retirement?  Leave it here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

After the storm

The storms that dumped up to 10 inches of rain across southern Minnesota and central Wisconsin had mostly passed by the morning of Friday, Sept. 24. But in many places, the full effects of the deluge were yet to come.

In St. Clair, MN, Postmaster Denise Gjerde noted that the nearby Le Sueur River was rising at a rapid pace. She called MPOO Mike Stevens and Pemberton OIC Natalie Schmidt to give them the news and begin planning for possible implementation of the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP).

Sandbagging had already begun at the city’s water treatment plant and several homes in the area. By early evening a small barricade was built around the Post Office. But the waters continued to rise and the effort kicked into high gear. A troop of more than 100 volunteers descended on the Post Office, Gjerde said. Other residents and area businesses provided food and other support to keep the volunteers going. By early the next morning a wall several feet high surrounded the building.

A pair of portable sump pumps rounded out the defense, leaving the Post Office on an island surrounded by floodwaters. Because there was no access, the COOP was implemented and operations were moved to Pemberton. Gjerde, her husband, Doug, and building owner Harry Fitzloff took turns around the clock, monitoring the water level and ensuring that the pumps remained working.

By late Sunday, water had receded substantially and St. Clair was up and running again Tuesday. Damage to the building was limited to minimal water seepage in the lobby area. “I feel so good about what we were able to do,” Gjerde said. “When we take our oath, we’re entrusted with this. It’s not my Post Office, it’s everyone’s Post Office.”

The people of St. Clair have proven that point.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Make a Difference Day

Tomorrow is "Make a Difference Day."

Postal people are well known for their generosity and giving spirit. What do you do to make a difference? If you're not doing anything now, do you plan to do something this next year?

Comment here.

John Lennon, stamp collector? Listen to Your Postal Podcast #29 for the answer

The new edition of Your Postal Podcast offers a revealing look at the early childhood of John Lennon, seen through his collection of postage stamps, now on exhibit at the National Postal Museum this month. One of the Smithsonian's conservators talk about young Lennon's stamp album and the clues it reveals about the man he was destined to become.

Also, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the October edition of Your Postal Podcast features the story of a Missouri postmaster who has a personal interest in being among the nation's top sellers of Breast Cancer Research Semipostal stamps.

To read a transcript of this edition of  this audio magazine for postal employees, please click here. While at Your Postal Podcast, you can catch up on previous shows.

All of the podcasts can also be downloaded free at the iTunes store or via any other RSS feeder.

Please click here to share your comments and ideas for future editions.  

Photos courtesy Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A royal Postmaster

When Houston, MN Postmaster Eileen Przytarski returned to work on Oct. 4, she may have looked a little tuckered. A week of fulfilling royal duties can wear you out.

Eileen and her husband, Ed, served as Frau and Festmaster of the 50th Annual Oktoberfest, La Crosse’s weeklong celebration of music, beer and all things German. They presided over dances, parades and community outreach events.

The honor caps a lifetime of community service. Ed has officiated high school and college wrestling for more than 35 years. He is also active in the La Crosse business community as director for Downtown Mainstreet Inc. and chairman of the city’s Redevelopment Authority. “It’s really my husband’s honor, I just get to tag along,” Eileen jokes modestly. The two have been involved with Oktoberfest for years and joined the fest’s Grenadier Corps in 1984.

Eileen was on hand for the full week’s schedule of events, and the work has just begun. For the next year the Przytarskis will represent Oktoberfest at other festivals throughout the region and as far away as Winnipeg.

They first learned of their selection back in April, but had to keep the secret until the Festmaster’s Ball on the eve of the festival. “But people start talking to one another, and they figure things out,” Eileen said.

She’s back in her office now, getting herself ready for what is going to be a very busy year. “It’s a great honor and a great opportunity for both of us,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, too.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is it or isn't it? Inside the USPS "motto"

It's a saying we sometimes embrace and sometimes dislike.

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

We've all heard the phrase, especially when the roads are closed and vehicles can't get through, or when downtown is flooded or high winds knock out the power.

Herodutus Picture via Wikimedia Commons
These words were first chiseled over the front of the New York City Main Post Office in 1914, and they stuck

The roots of the phrase actually go back to the writer Herodotus, who was singing the praises of the Persian war couriers in one of his books.

According to USPS Link, an architect from the firm that designed the New York Post Office was the son of a Greek classics scholar and an avid reader of the works.  He picked the inscription from one of the writings and pitched it to postal officials, who approved it.

What do you think? Should we embrace the motto, or dispel it? Comment here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Flat out wrong

Our flat tubs seem to be everywhere...except in our Post Offices.

To the right is a recent photo of  a stack of tubs in the back of a competitor's truck.

What do you do when you see unauthorized use of flat tubs?

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's not "junk"

Benny here. Does it bother you when people refer to "junk mail?" I know it bugs me.

We call it Direct Mail, and here are a few facts:

The U.S. Mail System – the largest in the world – is a major contributor to the business, commerce and communications of the United States and the world.

The U.S. mailing industry is a $900 billion a year industry that employs 8.5 million Americans. They include printers, paper and stationery product manufacturers, catalog and publication producers, marketing and direct sales firms, card and envelope businesses; advertising, consulting, information and research firms and many others.

Millions of organizations throughout the U.S. depend on Direct Mail to inform the public and to promote their products and services. These include large and small retailers, government agencies, non-profit organizations, churches and educational institutions, advocacy groups, politicians and small businesses.

Direct mailers include your local neighborhood businesses like restaurants, dry cleaners, realtors, vehicle repair shops, banks, home-based enterprises, and plenty of other businesses that help drive the local, state and national economy.

Direct Mail provides Americans with valuable information about products and services, businesses, programs and activities, and how to get the best value and satisfaction.

Direct Mail provides information on shopping sales, discounted prices and services, coupons, bargains, special promotional offerings and holiday hours, community activities and programs.

Direct Mail also reaches many Americans who live in rural and remote areas where there is less access and availability to shopping, retail and consumer needs.

Direct Mail saves them time, money and convenience by providing them information on products and services available through catalogs and mail order.  Shopping by mail also contributes to the savings on fuel and helping to protect the environment by reducing vehicle use and pollution.

Does this information change your mind on Direct Mail? What about your customers? Comment here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Five-Day delivery and the environment

The Postal Service says that dropping Saturday mail delivery would cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 10 percent annually.

We claim we generate 5.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its direct operations, including the energy powering postal facilities and the fuel used in delivery trucks. By moving to five-day delivery, as the Postal Service has proposed, the agency would reduce its carbon footprint by between 315,000 and 500,000 metric tons annually, cutting emissions between 5.9 percent and 9.4 percent.

That would be equivalent to taking between 60,000 and 95,000 gasoline-powered cars off the road each year.

What do you think about this? Comment here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Now that's a funny story!

Okay.... we all have them. We spend lots of time at our workplaces and each of us probably has a story or two. What's your favorite story?

Frankly, we could all use a good chuckle.

Simply enter in the comments section below or by clicking here. You can be anonymous. C'mon, make me laugh!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

If this mailbox had a name

If this mailbox had a name, what would it be?
Comment here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How a letter carrier created the modern avocado

Photo by Ron, used by permission

A Letter carrier is namesake behind the avocados of the world

Go to any produce section and pick up an avocado. More than likely, you’ll be holding a Hass avocado, which accounts for 80 percent of all avocados produced commercially around the world.

This particular avocado was created by a letter carrier, Rudolph Hass of La Habra Heights, CA.

Rudolph Hass with his wife, Elizabeth
In 1922 Hass saw a magazine article illustrating an avocado tree with dollar bills hanging from its branches. The idea of making money from fruit was intriguing, especially since he was making just 25 cents an hour.

On his route, one of Hass’ customers was known for growing many different types of plants and trees and was experimenting with growing avocados. Hass purchased a few seed pits from him and planted them on his own property with an eye on the future.

As the seeds sprouted and grew into trees, he grafted cuttings from existing trees into the seedlings. After several years of failed grafts and experimentations, one of the young trees began producing avocados that were markedly different. They were luscious, large, and had a dark, pebbly skin unlike avocados previously grown, The flavor and texture were much richer, as well.

In 1935, Hass received a patent for his tree. As word spread of this new fruit variety, other growers began to buy bud wood from Rudolf to graft trees in their groves.

A whole new produce industry was created from this one parent tree and today, with sales of more than $1 billion in the U.S. alone, the Hass variety dominates the world of avocados.

There’s a plaque on that property commemorating the location and birth of the modern avocado, thanks to a letter carrier with a little creativity.

La Habra Heights, CA, Letter Carrier Bianca Gonzalez holds a Hass avocado.
She’s at the site where the first tree was grafted by Letter Carrier Rudolph Hass.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Caption Contest: This Cat's Got It All Going

Janice Westoff in Pullman, WA, caught this feline, innocently perched between two mailboxes. If you were to write this caption, what would it be?

Enter your caption here.

Earlier this month, we had another caption contest, "The Mouse Ate my Letter"

Some hilarious comments you can read here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ship your bags before you fly

Benny here.
If you've flown lately, you would notice that airlines are starting to charge fees for luggage.

It started with minimal charges for second bags. Now, even first bags are getting charged.
(See chart of current fees here.)

Then there's the checked baggage fees, carry-on restrictions, overweight or oversize bag charges too. What a hassle for travelers.

It wasn't this way in my day!  Just throw as many bags as you could into the carriage and off you went!  Although Mrs. Franklin packed enough for the Revolutionary Army, we still had room.

Maybe there's an opportunity here for the Postal Service. For example, maybe we could have three specifically designed Priority Mail boxes of different sizes with flat rate tiered pricing systems for simplicity.

Is this a market we should tap into? Comment here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Who sends the most mail?

According to Target Marketing, many companies continue to use mail to promote and retain customers. Each year, they publish a list of the top 50 mailers. No doubt, you are very familiar with most of them.

Here's the top four:

World Wildlife Fund:  More than 66 percent of WWF's revenue comes through mail solicitations.
Habitat for Humanity: More than 25 percent of donations come through the mail.
The March of Dimes: Mails more than 74 million pieces annually which brings in 21 percent, or $44 million dollars, of the non profit's donations.
Hearst Publications: The publisher of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Redbook, Town and Country and 10 other magazines.

Who do you see a lot of mail from? Who is a heavy mailer to your customers?
 Comment here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reflections: National Postal Musuem

Many people aren't aware of the National Postal Museum.
It's a gem of a musuem, housed in a beautiful building near Union Station in Washington D.C.  The interior is a wonderful three-story high marbled edifice, where three suspended aircraft that were airmail pioneers float above.
The floor has mail trucks, an old mail train car and a stagecoach.

The interesting and varied history of the Postal Service are on full display in the outer rooms. Of course, there are stamps and other memorabila related to the history of mail delivery.

Have you ever been to the musuem? What do you think of it? Share your experience here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Take your Congressman to Work Day, Part II

Last week, Congressman Jim Oberstar (DFL-Minn) visited the North Branch, MN Post Office.

He spoke with employees about a number of postal issues and thanked them for the great service they provide. He also talked about his work many years ago as a clerk in the House of Representatives Post Office while he was a student.

He also took special note of plastic mail trays and tubs, pointing out that they are made at Minnesota Diversified Industries.

MDI serves people with disabilities by providing them with employment opportunities in competitive businesses. MDI operates two facilities, at Hibbing and Grand Rapids, MN, in Rep. Oberstar’s district.

What do you think about elected members visiting Post Offices? What do you think would surprise them most?

2011 USPS Postal payroll calendar

The handy payroll calendar is our most popular link. Click here to bring up the full-sized version, then use the "File - Print" command on your toolbar to send it to the printer.