Messed-Up App of the Day: International Mail

Yesterday, I sent a package to a friend in Europe.

I had been procrastinating, because sending packages internationally is no fun. Here’s how it works:

  1. I drive to the Post Office in Grapevine, Texas. They have friendly clerks there who cause me to leave in a better mood than I arrive in.
  2. I ask the friendly clerk his advice about sending my package. He points me to that particular plastic envelope over there. He instructs me to write my address and my recipient’s address on the envelope, and then complete this form, which he handed me.
  3. I pull off to the side so that the customers behind me can be served while I’m writing.
  4. I write my return address (three lines) and my recipient’s address (five lines) onto my envelope.
  5. I begin filling out the form. Guess what: I have to write my address again, and my recipient’s address. Again. And then answer some questions about my phone number, email address, what’s in the envelope, and so on.
  6. It took about ten minutes to fill everything out. Working with a pen was slow and sloppy (I just don’t write stuff by hand anymore). Most of what I’ve written, I’ve written twice. Which, of course, runs counter to my DNA, which dictates that data should never have to be entered more than once. (!)
  7. Done writing, I now enter the special little side-queue where I get to finish up my transaction without having to wait behind everyone who’s entered the building since I started writing.
  8. Now it’s my turn with a different clerk, a friendly lady this time. I hand her my form and the envelope with my stuff in it. She begins typing. I try not to interrupt her, but we kid around with each other a little bit while she’s typing. She comments about how long the name of the street is.
  9. I asked, “So, wait a minute. I’ve already entered that information by hand twice. Are you telling me that they make you enter it a third time (!), that you’re typing it in right now?” She looked a little embarrassed and responded, “Oh yes, I have to type it in, too.”
  10. The transaction concludes quickly after she gets all the data re-re-entered. Twenty-eight dollars later, I’m all set to go.

Three times data entry, and two of those by hand. …That’s rough.


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