2nd Class Shopping: Living in spite of the Military Postal System


“I’m tired of being treated like a second-class citizen.”  ~ Rosa Parks

“I get mail; therefore I am.”  ~Scott Adams

“The constitution does not provide for first and second class citizens.”  ~ Wendell L. Willkie

 

Anime mail delivery in Japan

Anime mail delivery in Japan

 

“So how long will it take to get that special order,” I eagerly ask the Base Exchange (BX) supervisor, thinking that I had found a solution to my growing outdoor storage needs.  After trying various staff and two stores, I finally found an employee who seemed to be able to talk with some knowledge and authority.

“Six months.”

I double over laughing, literally, in the man’s face.  “S I X   M O N T H S!?!?!” I say incredulously, but with a look of total disdain for this the military’s inertia-driven, bureaucratically-burdened attempt at providing commercial shopping services….

“That’s what we’re supposed to say.  I have seen it take as little as 3 months,” came a completely serious response.  While smiling, he wasn’t sharing in the ridiculousness of the situation.

Okay, I understand a large plastic outdoor storage shed is large and heavy, and even bulky.  I understand that it is going to take some time to be shipped overseas…maybe even coming by ship.  But I never assumed that ox-driven, covered-wagons of the 1800s Oregon Trail would be a faster mode of transport than dealing with the Military Postal System….

I would prefer the time-tested method of Trebuchet, but we are unfortunately out of range....

I would prefer the time-tested method of Trebuchet, but we are unfortunately out of range….

I have written about mail before, particularly about the magic that receiving snail mail can illicit (read Snail Mail).  However, after having resided on Okinawa now for seven months, it’s time to re-address (get it – re-address?!?) my conclusions….

You see, we have an overseas military address here in Okinawa, even though we live out in town.  That means that our mail is handled and delivered by the Military Postal System (MPS).  The MPS is designed to handle the mail between America and the military, but at no additional cost to the service member.  In other words, when we mail a package here, we are only paying the coast to ship from San Francisco (where our mail goes) to its ultimate destination stateside.

With a process diagram like this, what on earth could go wrong?

With a detailed process flow diagram like this, what on earth could go wrong?

Except that the MPS doesn’t deliver, rain or shine.  In fact, it doesn’t deliver at all.  We have to go to a base and check our (Military) Post Office box.  And even though Jody – the military member in our case – works on one base (Camp Foster) in a brand-new hospital, apparently no one thought about including a mailroom or mail center to support this rather large command.  So, our mailbox is located on another base, and while on Jody’s way home from work, it’s on the wrong side of a very busy road (requiring a right turn, equivalent to our left), and, of course, it seems to be closed as often as the petroleum industry raises oil prices, and much for the same reasons.  “Unrest in Syria?  Shit, let’s close and do some ‘training’.”  “More terror attacks in the Middle East?  Well, let’s close for Force Protection.  And those uniforms just make us stand out like sore thumbs….”

Exactly how I feel when we visit our MPS Post Office

Exactly how I feel when we visit our MPS Post Office

Oh, and besides being complete inconvenient for me (it’s the other way from where I work and most places I habitually go), we were initially only issued ONE KEY to our PO Box.  Fother-muckers.  This is where the government fails the most:  claiming “too expensive” and “accountability issues” at the complete discomfort of the customer and failure in their very mission of getting us our mail!  Yes, like Rosa Park’s opening quote, I too tire of being treated like a 2nd Class Citizen.  Maybe I could stage a sit-down on a delivery truck.

If they would only focus on actually delivering our mail, instead of obsessing over its packaging….

Stop focusing on DOD and focus on, say, THE MAIL!

Stop focusing on DOD and focus on, say, THE MAIL!

PO-box-fullThat’s not enough though.  The thugs and hooligans working at the Navy’s Post Office on Camp Lester are, in a thin-slicing of their capability, undependable at best, and downright negligent at their worst.  While it’s not their fault we have a tiny mail box designed to hold only normal-sized letter mail, such restrictions shouldn’t challenge them to creatively bend, fold, and otherwise mutilate our oversized mail and literally stuff it so tightly in the slot that it’s hard to remove.  No, they don’t want to take the extra step of filling out a package notice and placing oversized mail aside for reasonable pickup.  They are never in uniform, at least when I’m there, although I’m told that they are Active Duty Navy enlisted.  They certainly don’t act like it; on more than one occasion, I’ve had to ask an “employee” there to take off his oversized headphones in order to conduct business with me.  Oh, and our address isn’t hard:  last name “KING” and “BOX 46;” from the amount of erroneously “delivered” mail we get, I’m unsure that basic math was part of their ASVAB testing.  While getting mail for another “King” in Box 14 can be understandable, getting mail for “Kong” in box 1032 is not, unless you really stretch and connect our names as, wait for it:  King-Kong.  I actually feel so strongly about the First Class mess that is this 3rd Rate Post Office where I’m treated as a 2nd Class Citizen for actually wanting my mail delivered, correctly and without damage, that I no longer go to pick up mail.  I love to get mail, but the experience of this MPS negates any such joy or comfort.

Our "postal" clerks (and they are postal) would be great at this old game....

Our “postal” clerks (and they are postal) would be great at this old game….

Now, to be fair, this is – thank goodness – NOT the case on the Air Force Base here.  The Air Force’s Post Office is really every bit as good as any USPS back home, if not better.  It’s full service, clean, organized, well-lit and professionally staffed.  Oh, and looky-see, the military members are actually in uniform and provide courteous and efficient service…all without the aid of headphones!  We have not had an issue using this post office, and this is the only one I will use…although the Marine Corps post office on Camp Foster is well-run too.

lost-in-the-mail

BUT, the core issue of our 2nd Class Citizenry is a problem shared by any and all military members stationed outside of “CONUS” (the continental United States):  we have military addresses.  What does that mean?  That means that large swaths of commercial America do not or cannot service us at our military FPO or APO addresses….

Fleet Post Offices (FPO, for the Navy and Marine Corps) and Army Post Offices (APO, for the Army and Air Force) serve in place of the city in our address.  The state block of addresses is replaced, in our case, with an AP, referring to “Armed Forces Pacific.”  There are other codes, such as “AE” if you live in Europe, and so on.  So, if we want something shipped to us here to be picked up with our normal military mail, we enter “FPO, AP” for city and state.  While most vendors’ online ordering and shipping systems will allow “FPO” to be typed in for city, many systems do no offer “AP” in their pull-down menus, which negates us from ordering.  While the situation is MUCH better than it was in 1991 during my first deployment, it still creeps up too many times to brush away.  It’s really shameful in my opinion that so many companies and businesses fail to account for a sizeable portion of Americans living overseas – especially the ones that talk about “supporting the troops.”  It makes us (or at least me) feel like 2nd Class Citizens, or at least 2nd Class postage.

lost mail cartoon

I ran into this recently with my dive organization, PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors).  The subcontractor they use for online commercial transactions decided to upgrade PADI’s web portal for shopping, but in their upgrade, failed to account for overseas military addresses.  Compounding the problem, PADI has decided to use only FEDEX and UPS for shipping, while MPS addresses can only receive mail from the USPS.  That’s double jeopardy for people like us overseas.  Believe me, I have expressed my concerns as a 2nd Class citizen via both email and phone, but with little effect.

Mail-topia, our dream.  Except for the bullet bra.

Mail-topia, our dream. Except for the bullet bra.

I still hope that we receive mail often in Japan.  Although the letter dance I so happily wrote about previously in Snail Mail results in stepped-on toes here in Okinawa, snail mail – and packages – are certainly no less emotionally comforting.

As for the 6-month “Special Order” from the Base Exchange?  I’ll save our MPS thugs and hooligans the challenge (and pleasure) of attempting to stuff that gigantic package into our PO Box.

~ Far East Fling, PSC 482 Box 46, FPO AP 96362-0100

I would prefer this delivery method....

I would prefer this delivery method….

Castaway


3870_headingI know what I wrote way back when in August under my blog Leaving Home for Home.  And while I still be in those central tenants of the idea of “home” as opposed to stuff in the physical world, I need to re-characterize my thoughts just a bit.

You see, our “stuff” has been castaway by our moving company Deseret Forwarding International.  Please read below (the graphics are from the company’s website)….

shday-movers

“Mr. and Mrs. King,

I apologize for your shipment being so severely delayed, and unfortunately, I do not think there is going to be an explanation that is sufficient.

NOT

NOT

In meeting with my operations team today, and specifically our outbound coordinator Rachel Sigala, it appears that she mistakenly thought all 7 pieces moved on the original load plan that arrived to Okinawa on 9/24. We have gone back over our operations procedures in hopes that this type of mistake does not happen again.

The Fortune Rachel Sigala Should Receive

The Fortune Rachel Sigala Should Receive

I also spoke with our port agent to see how/why your shipment has sat at the port waiting to sail for so long. They stated that they had no other freight going to Okinawa, and as a result were not able to load your shipment into a sea container. They never did find enough consolidation in Jacksonville, FL, so they moved it to the port in Savannah, GA where they will have enough freight for the sailing scheduled to depart on 11/6 and arrive in country on 11/26. This is the soonest sailing that we are able to place your shipment on. We are not able to move HHG through the military AMC system (like code J shipments move.)

Except in Our Case

Except in Our Case

I understand that no reason is sufficient, and that your family has suffered a great inconvenience. I sincerely apologize for our lack of service in your case and for any feelings of neglect or abandonment. It is never the type of service we aim to provide to our customers.

Except for the One About Actually Shipping Our Stuff

Bar for the One About Actually Shipping Our Stuff

I have attached our form with information on filing an inconvenience claim, and if you will send it directly to me, I will get it processed asap.

If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Well, All of Them Less Us

Well, All of Them…Less Us

Sincerely,

Lizzy Escobar

Deseret Forwarding International

http://www.deseret-intl.com

Phone: 915-615-0802

Fax: 915-774-5177

lescobar@hopeadmin.com

So, given this change in our circumstances, certain “stuff” really can be sorely missed, and life can be at least, well, quite cleaner with certain items.

Pick Movers Who Will Move You

Pick Movers Who Will Move You

We had been holding out for our shipment.  When a single crate arrived, the alarms bells should’ve been going off – and that very day I should’ve been on the phone tracking our “stuff.”  But we waited, having faith in the system, the government, and the military.  We assumed the shipment was split for whatever reason.  We reasoned that the back-to-back storms on Okinawa delayed arrival of our goods or resulted in a ship’s re-routing.  But alas, every check and balance in the system failed us.

Wooden Sailing Ships Would've Been Faster

Wooden Sailing Ships Would’ve Been Faster

So we’ve been doing without a vacuum cleaner.  Two of the four drinking glasses we brought with us have broken.  We have only the most basic kitchen supplies of a frying pan and a sauce pan or two, along with one small Pyrex baking dish and a tiny cookie sheet.  No rice-cooker, no blender, no toaster (for which I would trade the microwave which we do have), no utensils, no coffee mugs, and very limited flatware.  No iron or ironing board.  We have very little cleaning materials.  Only a single set of linens and pillows.  No cool-weather or winter clothes.  No furniture, no Blue Ray, no computer desk, none of our papers or files.  No scanner or printer (sorely needed for work and applications).  I have none of my pro-gear, which includes the vast majority of my scuba diving equipment I need to tech and dive out here; this is GREATLY affecting my earning potential.

My Reaction Upon Reunification with My Asian Rice-Cooker

My Projected Reaction Upon Reunification with My Asian Rice-Cooker

But that stuff aside, it is still only a very few focused items that we find ourselves longing for.  Our coveted “chair-and-a-half” and its accompanying ottoman which fit us as a couple like a glove and where we are able to decompress from the day’s pressure close to one-another.  We would very much like to move the computer off our dining room table so that we can eat like normal well-adjusted adults.  Lamps would allow us to read in bed in the evenings.  A printer/scanner would update us to at least 1997.  And our outdoor furniture would permit us to take full advantage of the panoramic views from our fabulous balconies now that the weather has cooled off and the humidity has dropped….

Tom's Furniture is More than We Have on our Balconies at Present!!

Tom’s “furniture” here is more than we have on our balconies at present!!

An X-Files word of advice to those moving in or with the military:  trust no one.  The military (which for purposes here is the same as the government) literally didn’t care when our shipment was late, nor were they willing to help or were they even able to track our shipment.  We had to go through a moving Japanese moving agency here (who were extremely helpful), which contacted the shipping lines, who contacted our moving agency in the states….  Who ultimately simply dicked-away our household goods shipment, and then forget about our “stuff” sitting around a warehouse…or two it seems, nor did they inform us of anything adverse along the way.  CHECK ON YOUR SHIPMENT when you move.  No one is watching your back or protecting your interests; you are and remain your own best and sometimes ONLY advocate.  We are both so very through with the military and this type of treatment.  One would think with the hardships endured by the US Military that there would be more recourse or relief for situations like these.  That is sadly not the case.

David_Duchovny___Trust_no_one_by_PascalWagler

We started to buy essential supplies that will be billed to Lizzy and Deseret International.  So, in effect, we went shopping tonight with someone else’s checkbook…but we did and will continue to do so in moderation and well within reason.  Tomorrow I will be able to vacuum, clean the floors and toilets, and put away our new dishes and cookery.  I have a wetsuit for the cooler weather and waters, along with a shiny new steel 80 cubic foot scuba diving tank so that I won’t be paying $10 in rental fees for every class and each dive.  And that’s for starters…for now.

Send a Review of this Blog over to Deseret!

Send a Review of this Blog over to Deseret and perhaps It’ll be their Featured Monthly Review!  (probably not)

If you can empathize with our situation, and you’d like to help do something about it, drop Deseret Forwarding International and/or your local congressman/senator a note and let them know how terrible you found/find this/our situation.  While Lizzy did a fair job “answering the mail,” she will never know the inconvenience she and her company have caused in our lives – until it happens to her.  I understand bad things happen and mistakes are made, but it’s much too easy to brush them aside with a simple email and “so sorry;” in the end, we are nothing more than a bill of laden number to both this company and our own military and government that is already forgotten.  And I have do doubt that the expense of our travel claim is already well-accounted for statistical in the company’s costs.  In other words, this is nothing more than a cost in this case of their failing to do business.

This is about the extent of our in-home entertainment

This is about the extent of our in-home entertainment

And although we choose to find and leverage the humor in it all while still making the best we can of our qwuirky home and far east fling here in Okinawa, deep-down inside, we still feel like we were abandoned and castaway.
At least seven additional weeks to wait for our stuff….

dreamstime_s_8736416

It’s a good thing our “stuff” can’t share in such feelings.  No one – or thing – deserves to be abandoned or be made to feel like such a castaway.