Commercial Web Sites That Suck – USPS Edition

Once in a while, you run across a commercial or government web site that is so frustrating to use that you wish its developers could be consigned to a hell of using it all day, every day, for eternity.

This one wasn’t quite that bad. But the thought crossed my mind. The web site was the USPS site; my task was to renew my PO Box without physically going to my post office and standing in line… my boot and cane make that alternative uncomfortable, to say the least.

Last year I renewed online with no troubles at all. But a web site developed under government contract is a source of revenue to be milked forever, and the USPS site has changed considerably since last year.

By experiment (i.e., by attempting to set up a new account and discovering I used the same account name as last year), I rediscovered my username, and they emailed me a temporary password. Well and good.

I logged in and navigated to “manage your PO boxes.” I was informed that I have one; indeed, I was told everything about it, except for one thing.

There was no “Pay your fee” button. There was a way to set up an ongoing automatic payment, but that would involve allowing USPS to store one of my credit card numbers, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. Too many tales of government entities inadvertently disclosing allegedly secure information have made me wary. Yeah, I know; the Post Office is supposedly privatized.

Poking around for something that wasn’t there, I eventually clicked a “?” by some arbitrary control, and was informed that if it was less than 30 days before my payment is due, there would be a “Pay your fee” button. Great. So USPS can’t keep track of a payment made more than 30 days in advance… and it happens to be due 32 days from now.

So it’s not quite “you can’t get there from here”; rather, it’s “you can’t get there from here… today.”

It’s your feral gummint… privatized courtesy of Saint Reagan… at work!

(For much, much more fun, though, try using the City of Houston web site to find out any simplest thing, e.g., when your next heavy trash day is scheduled. The site is breathtakingly beautiful… and demoniacally frustrating.)

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