Recently, my wife and I went lunchtime shopping in RI at a large market called "Trader Joe's" which specializes in food products we can't easily obtain locally. What I found interesting was the "alert" bell by each cash register. When lines started to build at the checkout counters, the bell was sounded, and the local TJ manager would yell out "all hands on deck." Other store employees, busy re-stocking shelves, would stop and come to the front, open up new register lines and keep the customers moving without having them wait long.
We were impressed with this labor arrangement, similar to the operation of our smaller local Noank Community Market, where folks are also cross-trained. When we spoke with our TJ checkout person, he told us that all TJ employees are cross-trained in California on all aspects of store operation and can shift to cover almost any job duty where needed. In a larger market, this is impressive to see.
Days later, at lunchtime, I stopped to buy stamps at a local CT Post Office. Only one window was open, with four windows closed and five people waiting. The person at the front of the line asked lots of questions about mailing a package to Canada, which seemed to confuse the post office attendant. I waited at least five more minutes.
Ten more customers had lined up behind me. Meanwhile, six other post office employees moved back and forth in the back rooms, doing other duties, avoiding looking at us. We waited five more minutes while the "Canadian package" saga continued at the one window. Finally, the fellow next to me asked me how long I had been waiting. I pointed to my full-size gray beard and announced (rather loudly) that I had "just started to grow this when I arrived" at which point some folks started laughing.
This action woke up the existing attendant, who finally called for "help out front." There was no immediate response. Three minutes later, a reluctant employee appeared and opened up just one more window...to help serve what had now become 15 people in line. Three windows remained closed, even though the other employees still moved around in the background...performing other duties... still avoiding the front counter.
The next frustration was that the additional attendant had trouble finding a roll of first class stamps and didn't know where to find the 2nd oz. stamps for heavier letters. Meanwhile, she apologized because "everybody is at lunch." She finally found a crumpled up sheet of 9 stamps, which I hurriedly bought, amid cheers from the waiting crowd.
Granted that the Post Office is having a difficult time with the competition from the Internet. Why then does it make sense to still foster conditions which will alienate the remaining customers who would still prefer to utilize their services?
In fairness, I don't run into this problem everywhere. But its fair to suggest that upper post office management should attend the next "Trader Joe's" new employee training session. Special attention can be paid to the time management of "lunch hour" employee breaks...usually the neediest time for their customers.