Field Reports

Field Report: Morning Edition

Sergeant K

Today is our last day in The Field until December 27. I’ll be home on leave. If you need me, don’t call. Send a letter. I’ll reply when I get it.

A customer came in yesterday and walked with purpose to the counter and asked for a “white envelope” to send an 8×11 photo in. I was so taken aback by the determination she showed that I could only think of the brown manila envelopes we have. I asked if it had to be white. She sort of laughed and was like, “No, probably not. That’s just the color I had it in before.”

It was then that it occurred to me that we have rows and rows of white bubble envelopes. Full shelves of them. The confused look she gave me when I made it seem like we didn’t have white when, clearly, behind me was a white envelope paradise suddenly made sense. Wordlessly, I walked and grabbed one. When I got back, I said, “I’m sorry I was confused. But I mean, what is white, really? Isn’t it ALL the colors?”

“Wow,” she replied. “I didn’t know I was going to get a dose of philosophy with my shipment.”

Less than 20 minutes later, I shoved a frosted cookie bite right into the outside of my mask as I either forgot I was wearing one or am trying a new diet. (Spoiler alert: It’s not a diet.) Did I have a backup mask? No, I did not.


A customer came in at 5:20 p.m. on Monday, which was only two-thirds of what we did on the busiest day of all time, but that is way too busy anyway. Everything was piling up, UPS was there to load the 400 packages, and we had a line to the door. We had a special helper come in to scan because ROTC Laura was in the sick bay.

Anyway, this customer came in and took up a significant amount of space just inside the door, forcing the line to maneuver between her and the dropoff pile that went on for miles. I saw her. I heard her. Can someone please disable the speakerphone mechanism on phones while in public places? Please? She loomed.

When it was her turn, she came up with the boxes and began her story. Her story didn’t make a perfect amount of sense but the stories that involve scams rarely do. This one had to do with toys and an orphanage and nuns. At that point, though, because my smoothie and bagel had worn off an hour earlier, I wasn’t getting the whole picture; all I really understood was that she had never shipped anything before.

She kept saying “proof” as though she was positive there was going to be some sort of arrest made for these packages and she wanted to ensure she had evidence of shipping them back to this toy place somewhere in Illinois. “I need a tracking number,” she kept saying. “Don’t forget the tracking number.”

Shipping PSA

Unless it is a perfectly flat envelope or stamped letter, there is no OPTION to send something without a tracking number.

Proof (continued)

I ran the first one and told her the options. She chose FedEx because “that’s how they were shipped to me so I should send it that way, right?” Everyone knows there comes a point in customer service that you just go with whatever logic the customer presents because arguing requires time and brain function you don’t want to exert. So yes, I said, we’ll ship them FedEx.

I printed off the first label, placed it over the old label, and began to move the box to the table. The customer freaked out as though I was stealing her car in front of her. I froze in place.

“I need proof you sent it.”
“You’ll have the tracking number on the receipt.”
“No no. I need you to take a photo of me with the box with the new label on it.”
“So that they know I sent it.”

She hands me her phone and I snap a photo of her with the label.

“Now, I want to take your picture with the label.”
“Excuse me?”
“I want to take your picture with the box.”
“So I can prove an employee at this store sent it.”
“When they receive the box, they’ll know an employee at this store sent it.”
“Can I take your picture?”
“Are you sure?”

Fuck yes, lady, I am sure. You are not taking my picture with a box you’re sending during what you say is a scam involving toys, orphanages, and nuns. How do I know that YOU are not the scammer here? Just let me send your boxes and then please let me shut the open light off. Please.

My brain started swearing and pleading simultaneously. I got through the rest of the transaction, snapping a picture of her with each package, following all of her insane logic, and then, as we wrapped it up, she asked if she could take a photo with all of the boxes together. I said, “No. You’re done.”

That might have been projection.

Photo of the Day!

All of this needed to be packed into one box. We like to joke that we play Tetris all day but come on. This is a little too on the nose.

Customers Deliver the News

“So you guys will get the vaccine first, right? You’re essential workers.”
“God no,” I reacted.
“I’m sure they said postal workers were on the list.”
“That’s fine, but I’d rather my parents got it first.”
“How old are your parents?”
“My dad is 70 and my mom is 68.”
“Oh,” the customer responded, making a “that’s too bad” face, “I’m sorry. They’re not going to be the first group. They’re going to start with 74-year-olds.”
“Okay?” I responded quizzically.
“I hope they’ll still be around for it when it gets to them.”
“Are you suggesting my parents might die before they get it?”
“Oh, no, I mean…”
“Where. Would. You. Like. To. Ship. Your. Package. To.?”

I still don’t understand the approach this person took to this story.

“The stimulus bill passed.”
“Sweet. Did they decide on $20 or $40?”
“They decided on $600,” she responded very seriously.
“It should have been $600 a month from the time it started,” I responded, reflecting the idea that she was excited about the $600.
“No it shouldn’t,” she responded.
“Okay,” I said which is what I say when I’m done with the conversation.
“I’m glad it is exactly $600.”
“That’s good,” I responded. “Are you going to buy a PS5?”
**stares at me**
“Where would you like to ship your package to?”

I couldn’t think of anything that might cost exactly $600 so I just said a thing. Sometimes, I just say a thing.

“Stock market is way up today.”
“Where would you like to ship your package to?”

That sentence will NEVER prompt more conversation from me.

And We Got To Play Santa

Private Ryan told us we could play Santa Claus to one customer’s shipment yesterday. He asked how I would pick and I said I’d know when it was time.

Around 3:45, this mother and daughter come in with these two boxes going to Colorado. Her son lives in Colorado Springs and was going to come home for Christmas but then he was diagnosed with Covid three days ago and is miserable. It’s always cheaper to send one box rather than two with very rare exceptions so I asked if I could combine them. She had taped them with duct tape and made a comment about that. And I said my usual, “At least it’s not painter’s tape. Painter’s tape is, y’know, designed to come off.”

The thing is, I said this to the daughter who was maybe 9 or 10. And she made great eye contact with me and i said, “I like how I’m saying this to you as though you have a lot of experience with and obviously know about painter’s tape.” And she laughed and the mother laughed. And anyway, we could play Santa with a shipment up to $30. So we could combine their stuff and the shipment was going to cost around $34 and I thought that was close enough to 30.

I had to re-box it, though, so the whole thing was going to cost about $42. She said, “That’d be so great if you could put them in one box.”

She had her checkbook out and was ready to fill it in. So then I said to Private Ryan, “Okay, I’m gonna use mine now.” And he said, “Great!” So I rang them up and said, “We get to play Santa every so often so I’m going to charge you for the box and some packing so your total is $7.12.”

The shipment should get there Christmas Eve. They both were shocked and giddy and I got teary and they almost cried and she declared to everyone that she would be coming here for all future things and I said, “Merry Christmas.”

At least the girl learned about painter’s tape. that’s the true lesson here.

Colonel C

Me. I was the special helper in the above story. For some reason, Sergeant thinks when I’m on vacation that I’m available to help her in The Field. So I went in and started scanning things. It was really busy, but scanning is pretty easy.

Prior to this, I had cleaned the whole house, shampooed carpets, loaded and emptied the dishwasher, done laundry, etc. It was quite a busy day.

Later in the evening, after she thanked me for coming in to help, I was again loading the dishwasher. I said, “Man, I did a lot of work today.”

She said, out loud, where I could hear her, “Oh Jesus…” like in a super annoyed way.

“What?!?” I said and she goes, “Oh my god did I say that out loud?”

So I began listing the thousands of things I did and she responded, “I know. I thought you were talking about your time in The Field with me and I was like, “What the shit you talking about?”

“I enjoy our part time job,” I responded.

“Your sacrifice is appreciated,” she said. “Thank you for your service.”

“Shut up.”

She’s so snarky.

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