The denouement, hopefully, on the mailbox saga ... When we were in Dallas over the weekend, I found a locking mailbox at Home Depot that said "approved by the postmaster general" and bought it. It's not nice as the tower mailbox that we bought earlier, but it does have the required verbiage and the box does say clearly that it is USPS-approved. They shouldn't have any problems with this one!
Sunday evening, it was a nice and toasty 60 degrees, so I removed the concrete pedestal of the tower mailbox -- the one that the local station master refused to deliver mail to -- and packed the mailbox up in the box that it came in. The manufacturer was kind enough to take it back (making an exception to their usual policy of not taking back already installed mailboxes) if I would ship back to them. I'm pretty sure, though, that they're going to charge me a restocking fee -- the thing was set in concrete and outside in bad weather for nearly two weeks.
Today (Monday), I drilled and put in concrete anchors and set up the new mailbox. I also went to UPS and shipped back the old mailbox ($45!). Then, I went to a nursery and bought a boxwood and a holly to plant alongside the post. Came back home and planted them.
I was putting the final touches on the plants when the local postmaster called. The complaint that I'd submitted last week had finally gotten to her. She said she'd come by our house to talk.
"Is that the mailbox they're refusing to deliver the mail to?," she asked when she got here.
"No, I gave up and sent that mailbox back. This is a new mailbox that I just installed," I told her.
"I was going to say ... this one is approved by the postmaster general, so I don't know what the problem would be for this one."
"Well, the problem is that my wife went to the post office before we bought the previous mailbox and asked whether it was okay. She was told it would be fine as long as we installed it to the right height and setback. They even sent someone to measure it after I installed it and he said it was fine. But the station master refused to deliver mail because it didn't have USPS-approval marking on it."
"We are trying to draw a line here," she said, "and say that new mailboxes have to have the approval designation."
"But then the post office should not have told us that it was okay to purchase the mailbox," I countered, "and besides I can show you pictures of that mailbox and the other mailboxes in town that aren't postmaster approved and have similar slot-type designs."
So, I got out the laptop and showed her the pictures.
"I would have let this one go," she said when I showed her the picture of the tower mailbox we'd purchased and installed, "the slot is easy to get to and quite safe. I'm going to call a meeting of the station master and the mail carrier for this route and talk this over. It's hard to get the right balance between customer service and regulations. But this one could probably have been fine."
They can talk it over, but we're out a couple hundred dollars, a day of work and all the time this month that the wife stood in line at the post office to collect the mail. A better customer-oriented organization would have clear policies that every one would consistently follow. And if a customer made a decision based on incorrect information supplied by a employee, then they would try their best to make the customer whole. It's obvious that the tower mailbox was a marginal decision -- it could have been approved or not -- yet, the Norman post office decided to get all bureaucratic about it.
Still, having someone come to our house to talk it through was a nice touch.