Washington's Five Most Fascinating Post Offices How hard is it to get some service with a smile?

Page 4 of 5

Fascinating Post Office No. 4: Southeast Station, 20003

Location: 600 Pennsylvania Ave. SE

Though I’d never visited Southeast Station before, a confidant informed in an e-mail in re: “A Particularly Painful Post Office” that this “Post Office [sic: Southeast Station is a station, not a mere post office] on Pennsylvania by Eastern Market really, really sucks balls.” What USPS reviewer wouldn’t want to investigate this testicular claim?

1. Automated Postal Center (APC)

I thought that a P.O. on Pennsylvania Avenue fewer than 10 blocks from the U.S. Congress and about 20 from the White House—a USPS facility built for the convenience of our nation’s public servants who walk their dogs on Capitol Hill’s lush lawns and push their well-groomed children’s expensive strollers down their exclusive neighborhood’s wide thoroughfares—would be rockin’ at least one APC, maybe two. I thought wrong.

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2. Safety Glass

Southeast Station’s staff must implicitly trust the numerous other government employees this P.O. presumably serves—like the Grateful Dead, 20003’s cashiers operate “without a net.” (By “net,” I mean “safety glass.”)

3. Prompt Service

I was 15th in line at Southeast Station, a personal worst. Two cashiers at the front of a 15-person line and no APC? This place needs some TARP money.

4. Parking

Street parking only, and it costs a quarter for 10 minutes. I found a spot out front and counted myself lucky.

5. Service With a Smile

Evaluating the attitudes of postal employees on April 15, aka “Tax Day,” is a little bit like asking a woman giving birth if bringing another soul into the world is really worth the painful havoc that baby is wreaking on her pelvis, lower back, and genitals. Thus, though no clerks were particularly friendly during my rainy–Tax Day visit to 20003 (and, truth be told, I wasn’t feeling very talkative either), I’m inclined to give everyone a pass. This time.

6. Triflin’ Factor

I suspect most triflin’ M.F.s at 20003 aren’t behind the counter. Case in point: a “former House Committee” employee I interviewed about the quality of service at Southeast Station gave me a decent quote, then told me about the plan she has for constitutional reform called the “Serve Your Country Amendment.” This constitutional amendment would ensure that all members of Congress and the President—and, in fact, the entire Washington “establishment”—would be forced out of Washington “like every 12 years” so that they don’t become “entrenched.” While I applaud this worthy sentiment, I wondered how a woman I’d watched struggle with certified mail forms: 1) could successfully lead a movement to alter a historic document that doesn’t even have room for a basic Equal Rights Amendment (for women! for all women! for your mother! for my mother! etc.); 2) thought a Washington City Paper blogger with no business card or laminated press credentials could somehow help her organization-less, constituent-less, Web site–less cause.

7. Customer Comments

“They need more help,” says Paris Singer of Capitol Hill. “There should be a simple way to know how to get certified mail.”

Final Grade: My correspondent was right: This post office does indeed suck balls. F.

Our Readers Say

This station doesn't just suck balls. It literally fries up the Rocky Mountain oysters. 15th in line on tax day? I question your calendaring skills as I've been 15th in line multiple times here, all year long. Picking up a package is a nightmare, parking is usually unavailable, and on occasion I thought I might have to get a napkin for the postal clerk's dribble and drivel.
I am so happy to see that other people feel the same way about the post offices in this area! What is up with every employee treating you like shit and moving at a snail's pace?? I'm sorry you hate your job but don't blame me. And that damn glass case that you have to lift up to slide your package through and then close it before they can open it and they yell at you if you open it too quickly or do something incorrectly.... The last time I went was to mail a package that happened to have a 1 oz bottle of perfume for someone's Christmas gift and I was stupid enough to be honest when they asked if there were liquids inside - the guy told me that since I didn't know the alcohol content of the perfume, I couldn't mail it. Now it's only FedEx for me.
I have had good luck going here weekday mornings around 10; usually the line is not too long and it moves fairly quickly. But it's kind of a no-frills experience. I expect most of those Capitol Hill workers you mention are using the post offices in the federal buildings; I think there's one in the Cannon building and I expect the Capitol's got it's own. No need for them to mingle with the common people! : )
I love the Ledroit post office and have never had to wait more than 15 minutes for service. The clerk has always been very courteous to me. For a one person operation its remarkably efficient. Maybe the bad review will keep folks away!
THE worst post office I've dealt with in DC (and I've been here since 1988) is the 20009 PO on 14th Street NW. This one is the epitome of northern charm and southern efficiency (ie. they're rude and slow). Lately I have noticed they've been staffing better so maybe there's hope...
omg...pleeeeeeeeeease go take a look at the post office in Silver Spring, 20907. They have a full staff of all the other post office rejects. I have never gone in there and not had to wait in line at least a half hour. It's also right across the street from a sunrise assisted living facility, so you're constantly stuck behind someone's grandma still trying to figure out how the post office works after all these years.

They do have an APC though...........
This is the third zip code I've inhabited in DC (20001, LeDroit Park). First was 20010 then 20009. Not being a fan of driving across town to go to the post office, LeDroit Park is my favorite. The one-woman-show is effective enough. She's a little surly but damn efficient. My experiences with DC post offices has me permanently emotionally disfigured, so ALL I ask for is efficiency and no bullshit.

A few months ago she tried to tell me USPS no longer does media mail. I calmly stated I mailed some media mail yesterday at a different post office. She looked at me flatly, and rang me up for media mail. Good enough.
The Penn Ave PO sucks. Don't go on a Saturday. You will be in line forever. Plus it is hot as hell in that place.
Requiring ID as a condition of acceptance for a MasterCard or Visa is a violation of the merchant agreement. The clerk can *ask*, but they still have to accept the card if you refuse to show ID. Lots of stores violate this rule, but I would expect the USPS to know better (snort, snicker).

Do your part: anytime a clerk demands ID as a condition of credit card acceptance, call the number on the back of your card and report them. You'll notice that any stores you report will stop asking for ID a couple weeks later.
Oh, and I can't believe the article failed to mention USPS's most grievous customer service move of all: no late-night counter service! Need to send a package after 9 pm? Sorry dude, you may be in the capital of the free world, but you ain't gettin no service. At least the station on North Capitol used to be open until midnight, but they started closing at 9 pm a few months ago. Pitiful!
Justin, thank you for exposing the heinous Southeast Station.

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