Post Office Puts Out Box Renewal Notice Then Refuses To Take Payment

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

usps-logoLast September I penned an article describing how the IRS demands tax payments but will refuse to take checks of $100,000,000 or more, now on the other end of the spectrum the US Postal Service seems to want to join the fun by placing post office box renewal notices and refusing to take payment in my case on the same day.

While in the latter case it was a minor affair, it does show the joy in dealing with another case of government red tape.


On December 31st I went to the Post Office to retrieve mail and found inside my PO Box a renewal notice envelope.  Along with the envelope was a letter that read in pertinent part:

Dear Valued Customer:

PO Box fees will change and most will increase on January 17, 2016. Your PO Box fee is due by January 31, 2016. Payments received before January 17, 2016, will be renewed at the existing PO Box rate (see renewal notice included with this letter). Payments received on or after January 17, 2016 will be charged at the new price which is not reflected in your January payment notice; therefore, if you want to take advantage of the existing prices, please pay your PO Box fee before January 17, 2106.

The New rate is not mentioned on the envelope so I do not know what it would be. One would imagine that would be helpful to provide the new price since between the 17th and the 31st it is still within the renewal window. But, perhaps it is for the customer to find out for themselves what that increased fee might be.

So, since I could not see any reason to pay a higher fee and since I was already at the Post Office when their windows were open, I penned a check for the current annual renewal fee and went to a clerk to make payment.

I handed the clerk my check and said that I wanted to renew my PO Box. She told me that she could not accept the check until Saturday (January 2nd). I asked why. She said they could not accept payment until after the new year. As you might expect I was a bit confused about this since it was that same day they placed the payment demand in my box. I replied back that I wanted to ensure that I would get the old rate for the box so I wanted to pay it immediately. Another clerk told me it was because their computer system would not allow them to accept payments for 2016 box renewals in 2015. So it seems one computer system tells the clerks to put a renewal notice in post office boxes but either this or another one won’t allow payments to be made on those boxes until some other point in the future. He also reiterated that I could come by on Saturday and make the payment then. The clerks here are always friendly, but they surely must tire of red tape such as this.

So I put the check inside the payment envelope, which is mailable, and handed it back to her as if it was just a piece of regular mail. Apparently this was acceptable.

Now, the payment letter will sit at the same post office, be opened by the same staff, and the check accepted and processed.

Was this event the final piece of bureaucratic snafus for 2015 and we will do better in 2016,  or is it a harbinger of 2016 becoming a morass? Superstitious minds want to know.

Let’s all make a new year’s resolution–to eliminate red tape and dysfunction.

By Darren Smith

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

39 thoughts on “Post Office Puts Out Box Renewal Notice Then Refuses To Take Payment”

  1. Check the difference between a Post Office stamp price for a letter and Fed Ex. Someone comes by once a day, six days a week and picks up my mail and drops off my mail. The reason the Post Office is losing money is because it is a government service and not a business. It needs to generate income but with the services it performs-not always sharp as some gumshoes I know but pretty well done-it cannot do much better. It also performs the most valuable service in our society; it makes us feel smarter and more capable, giving us something to complain about to boot.

    The people that work at the Post Office make that decision to go the slow and sure route and retire with a pension. The rest of us prefer to seek out own ways in the world and flit from flower to flower. Different strokes for different folks. You won’t find a Dangerous type gumshoe who has eaten in an ethnically diverse manner, who has friends of all colors, races, and creeds, who has interviewed tens of thousands, and who can lay you out in the blink of an eye for all to see, working at the Post Office. Now there would be a cross counter experience.

  2. Their computer system is limping along. Of the the 18 signature confirmation items I sent last year, only two had the recipient’s signature confirmed. After going through a labyrinthine inquiry process, I was told they would look into it. A few days later I was told they have no idea what happened and suggested I could get a refund. As far as I know, the items reached the recipients, just not scanned/recorded.

  3. I can believe the computer issue

    I have some places I do business with that will ONLY accept an exact payment for a recurring monthly service

    Got tripped up last year on the rate change at the Post Office – found the envelope – wrote the check and walked it into the PO but a few days late – I think they took the difference in cash – generally I like the Post Office and prefer to ship with them when I can – the rates going up rapidly is annoying on box rentals – I have a large box from when I used to travel a lot and for various reasons I can’t just trade to a smaller box with the same number last I ask –

    To the person with the laptop and battery problem – I have ran into related issues with an inflatable lifejacket – they have a small CO2 cartridge and shipping one of them is a hassle because they are “compressed gas” and fall into a special tariff for hazardous cargo – some airlines will not take them unless you know the correct tariff section – one time after spending hours on the phone and computer – I packed the lifejacket in my bag – told the bag inspector about things – they just looked at me and said “so what” and let the bag go through no hassle

    But another airline would not let my bags on-board when I had two reload cartridges in the same bag – note these are 33 gram cartridges about one inch dia and three inches long – about the same as used in a CO2 pellet gun – hat to take the cartridges out of my bag while the guys with automatic riffles looked on (honest) – could not take them with me – – my argument that they had 600 of the same cartridges on the airplane did not matter (the lifejacket under your seat)

    Welcome Darren to the real world

    1. I have never had bad relations with the post office. As a kid they delivered to the door, twice a day, rain or shine. Today they deliver to a common box for the area, but we have had the same postman for the last ten years and he is a nice guy (fellow Netflix watcher). The Post Office is small however the staff has always been helpful and pleasant.

  4. DBQ, Having lived many places, and dealt w/ many post offices throughout this country, both personally and professionally, I can tell you your experience, is an aberration. I applaud you for telling us about your aberrant experience. I too have gone into small town Post Offices and had fair to good experiences. I’ve had a few great experiences. However, the overwhelming number of experiences have been bad to nightmarish. I know some US Attorneys. Over cocktails they like to talk about the different law enforcement agencies that referred cases to them. The Postal Inspectors lead the list of bad referrals.

  5. @ Lloyd

    Ah…. the joys of small town living compared to your Post Office experiences. Serious it is a joy

    In our area if you live within a certain distance of the Post Offices.. about 20 mile radius around the facility, you must have a PO Box because there is no delivery AT ALL to your home or business (This seems to be a difficult concept for suppliers and people that you are ordering items from on line…..what part of NO HOME DELIVERY can’t you understand!!) If you live outside that mandatory area, there might be delivery to your box at the side of the road, but mostly to a cluster box at some sort of central crossroad. They do make an exception for people who are physically unable to get to the PO, disabled, who can’t drive or who are permanently ill. They do charge extra for the service though.

    To give you an idea of size, our PO (zip code) has less than 800 boxes for the area that it requires you to have a box.

    I know all the people at the PO. The ex postmaster was married to an older co worker of mine and is in the Hot Rod Club that we belong to. One of the ladies who works the desk is the aunt of one of my daughter’s best friends from 1st grade through high school and she is the SIL of the clerk at the Water District who we see at least monthly when we pay the bill. The other lady who works on the desk is the wife of one of my husband’s part time helpers. The current Post Master is new to the area but fitting in quite nicely. The mail carrier lady, who drives out and delivers the mail is the wife of one of my clients. We all know each other very well.

    Everyone goes out of their way to help. Takes their time with each person and we generally all, employees and customers, spend some time yakking it up about anything and everything. Every day at the Post Office is a social event where you see someone you know, shoot the shi*t, catch up on the gossip, read the notices on the doors about who died, who got married, and when the next public meetings or club meetings are…….coupons to get your animals “spayed or fixed”.

    I have to go to the PO daily to get the mail and checks from our business clients. I look forward to it 🙂

    I share these stories in hopes that some people will come to the realization that not everyone is the same, lives in similar areas, have the same needs or same life experiences. If people understand that their experiences (for instance with guns or the police) are not at all like others, then perhaps we can have some intelligent discussions……this is not directed at you Lloyd….just people in general.

  6. Take note @ how the commenter @ 10:04a defends the govt. stupidity. The same person defends govt. healthcare and all socialized programs. There’s a reason UPS and FedEx are putting the govt. union USPS out of business. This good post shows one of the million reasons why. Defend and deflect are 2 tactics used by socialists. KCF, @ 10:34a, deals w/ Medicare and gives an informed comment. All critical thinking people understand, at different levels, just how bad socialism is.

  7. “eliminate red tape and dysfunction.

    Only possible by eliminating the source of dysfunction.
    Red tape and inefficiency are the inevitable products of government control, always and everywhere.
    The only way to reduce it is to have less of it.
    Hoping for better management simply rejects history.

    Example: Medicare and its rule forbidding payment for an annual mammogram if it is not performed EXACTLY 365 days or more after the prior one.
    Not 363 or 364 days. Ever.

  8. Thanks for the entertaining PO post. Reminds me of a recent trip to the Post Office. I wanted to open a PO Box in Florida (not my home state) while on vacation for business needs. I had with me my driver’s license and my passport, since I needed two forms of ID. The clerk said that either the driver’s license or passport could be used but I also needed some other form of ID such as bank statement or mortgage documents, etc. I told him I was on vacation from another state and he just said ‘those are the rules’. Seems i can fly around the world with those pieces of ID but I can’t get a PO Box.

    I then just shook my head and then asked to have a new, unopened laptop sent to me back at home. I didn’t want to drag the new laptop on a plane and thought mailing it would be easier. Not the case. I stood there waiting for a price and was asked if the battery was in or out of the laptop. I was a bit bewildered and said I don’t know. I added that usually the batteries are not placed in a new, unopened laptop but I wasn’t sure. He said they couldn’t accept the package unless the laptop battery was attached to the laptop. If the battery is not attached they could not accept it. Since I couldn’t guarantee the battery was attached to the laptop they couldn’t accept it. Brilliant.

    I was tired and increasingly frustrated by this Three Stooges Post Office skit and decided to take my business elsewhere. I called FedEx and they picked up the laptop no questions asked. I returned to the PO to get a PO Box. The clerk I faced this trip said that the passport and license are just fine and I didn’t need the insurance papers I had brought after downloading them. She was at least personable and easier to communicate with.

    But that trip wasn’t without its head shaking moment. I was mailing a package Priority. I found the box, I put the stuff in the box, I addressed the box, and then I sealed the box. I bring it to the nice person I had just dealt with who signed me up for a PO Box and she nicely says ‘It’s $3 cheaper to send this package if you use the preassembled boxes’ (apparently those boxes have a barcode). Same size box, same weight, same markings (sans barcode) and same package, but $3 less expensive. So not wanting to give the PO any more of my money for such bizarre service, I ripped open the box, took out the stuff and put it in a $3 less expensive, but same box. I handed the clerk the old box for disposal and gave her the new box. That was that.

    Talk about a crazy way to run a business. I stood in line understanding why the PO is losing money and why they have such long lines, robotic employees and frustrated customers. While the workers seem genuinely nice, the system they work under is punishing for them and their customers.

    Finally, please stop asking me on every trip to the PO if I need a PO Box or tape. If I did I would ask for it. And some think that the PO should be banking centers. I can just imagine those lines and service……

    And don’t even get me started about the PO online portal and its crazy difficult to use layout….

  9. Daren

    Pretty lame way of kicking off the New Year. The Post Office’s explanation was perfectly reasonable. They designed it for people using the mail, not being there in person. Come on Daren, there’s a lot worse sh*t than that going on and this has absolutely nothing to do with red tape.

  10. Lets put monopoly capitalism in charge of health care for humans in America! Oh, they already are in charge.

  11. Hurray for government efficiency!

    Let’s put the government in charge of health care! 🙂

  12. This reminds me of the old Laugh In sketches where Lily Tomlin, snorting into a headset, played a character, working at a switchboard and responding to to various callers.

    If I recall correctly, she used to say something along the lines of this:




    Just substitute PHONE COMPANY with THE US POSTAL SERVICE. It fits perfectly.

  13. Jeez.

    I wonder how Darren handles really big problems. God save him if he had a sick kid, or his house burned down, or he had to cross the Med in a sinking boat with three kids under seven.

    Chill brother. You’re retired. Go back in a week. It’s not the end of the world. It’s also not the end of the United States of America, much as that may disappoint you.

  14. I don’t believe the story about the computer not being able to accept a check dated for the following year. That makes no sense. The post office simply didn’t want to accept the renewal prior to 2016 at the lower rate.

  15. Watch–your envelope will get lost in the mail and you will have to pay the higher po box fee because it wasn’t received prior to the deadline of January 17.

  16. I suspect the postal service’s computer equipment is not as up-to-date as yours and mine, given the tremendous financial burden Congress placed on them to fund their retirement system far into the future. This was apparently a Republican scheme (along with a few Democrats) to make the system insolvent so that they could argue more persuasively for the privatization of the postal service.

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