Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thursday/Tuesday Tips: Tax Mailing Edition

Thursday is tip day.

Today's tip: Use the smallest post office you can find for your mailing needs.

I know, it isn't Thursday yet. But I just had to write about my great visit to the post office. Believe it or not, I just had a fantastic postal experience while mailing our tax payments.

The closest full-service post office to Galveston Island State Park is in downtown Galveston, about 12 miles away. However, in the tiny burg of Jamaica Beach, TX, about a mile from here, there is a contract postal annex, run by the same people who operate the local business center. Contract offices have limited services; for instance, they cannot receive General Delivery mail at this one.

However, they can provide what I needed for mailing our tax payment: First Class mail, certified and return receipt. As all our U.S. readers know, going to the post office on April 15th can be a frustrating nightmare of long lines, overworked employees and grouchy customers. Everyone hates mailing their taxes. The larger the post office, the longer the lines.

So I headed to Jamaica Beach. It was noon, so I expected there would be a line of maybe a dozen people. The tiny office was completely empty, except for the two extremely pleasant ladies working the counter. One was training the other (on tax day!) and they asked for my patience while she learned for the first time how to fill out the forms for certified and return receipt mail. Because of that, the transaction took about 7-8 minutes, but the two women were so nice that I didn't mind at all. At one point, a man came in and dropped off a letter. No other person even walked by the hallway.

When I remarked that they were the best kept secret on the island, they laughed and said it was always like this. "Last Christmas, maybe five people mailed their packages from here," said the more experienced clerk. We chatted about the weather and the island and full-time RVing and I left with a big smile on my face. From the post office. On tax day.

While this was a truly exceptional experience, in general the smallest post offices are usually willing to go the extra mile to help. Last month when our general delivery package was delayed in Somerton, AZ, Sean called the post office several times trying to track it down. The next day the postmistress called us to update the status. In another very small town, when I stepped out of the bus, the clerk had the box on the counter before I could say a word. "How did you know this was mine?" I asked. "Because I know everyone in town, and I don't know you. So it must be yours," she replied.

It is less likely that your stuff will get lost in a small post office. It is also less likely that the clerks will be overworked and hostile. They might be downright friendly and willing to chat about local happenings. The lines will be shorter and the smiles bigger.

Even on tax day.

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