Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Finding a post office

Posted by shannonclark on May 18, 2004

or why design matters

So, last night I went looking on the USPS website for the address and location of the main post office in Chicago, the one that is open 24hrs.

I challenge you to find it.

Really – by the tools provided on the USPS website, it is essentially an impossible task.

Find a post office somewhere near your particular zipcode, perhaps, though no matter what you do they seem to assume you only want to find a post office because you want to purchase stamps (ignoring that you might, say, want to send a birthday package that needs to be weighed).

Try finding a post office not in your zipcode, in say an unknown zipcode.

Yes, they do let you put in a city. Sure, that helps if you live in the middle of Kansas, but I live in the middle of Chicago, we have hundreds of post offices, a search by Chicago, IL (no zip) returns ones mostly on the south side, but in no particular order. As well, when you look at the results, they show a grand total of 5 at a time, with not even an indication of how many more are available, or any way to sort/further search them.

You can’t for example, search for a post office “still open” or “open 24hrs” or “which can take packages” etc, etc, etc.

Highly annoying.

In fact, I may go so far as to say that the USPS website is one of the single worst designed sites I have seen. Primarily because like everything else from the USPS (more on this in a moment) it assumes that either you are looking for a very small handful of tasks they assume you might want (buy stamps) OR you know exactly what you want and just need it (for some reason) i.e. you know the address already, you know the strange codes and names they use etc.

Offline they are not much better, in fact I might say they are, if possible, even worse. In order to find it I then looked in the Yellow Pages (well technically the blue pages where government offices are listed).

They list the 50+ some post offices in Chicago with nothing to note about any of them other than a very obscure name (Fort Dearborn, Haymarket, etc). All have the SAME phone number listed, an 800 number.

When you call it, you are then given a very long list of 7 options (not one of which appears to be “talk with a human”), then selecting the one that appears to be potentially “I want to find a post office” you are asked “please put in your zipcode”.

I refused.

It then demanded again.

I refused.

Finally it let me talk to a human, after first having a chance to select whether I wanted to hear the USPS privacy policy.

Then what is the first question the woman who answered the phone wanted? Yup, what is my zipcode.

Why this is so important I really don’t know. But it is highly irritating and annoying – I seriously thought about lying completely, because I did NOT care one whit about finding a post office near my zipcode. Rather, I had a very, very specific post office I wanted to find – one that would be open 24hr, which I knew was in Chicago, I just didn’t know the address – which since I was getting this information for someone else was what I wanted to know.

After a lot of effort, she finally did find it, apparently she has a way of searching for a 24hr post office, but why mere customers aren’t allowed to do this, I really don’t know.

So, take a look and see why the site is so user unfriendly.

Shannon

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5 Responses to “Finding a post office”

  1. […] around this time one of the most popular blog posts I made is one I wrote a few years ago about finding a 24hr post office in Chicago. I had a similar challenge last year finding a post office that was open late in the East Bay. And […]

  2. nick said

    so where’s the post office in chicago? Was doing a similar search and found your blog, but after reading the whole thing got no address. Do you remember?
    Do you remember the zip code :)?

  3. Chu said

    Same story, if anyone else stumbles on this page, the 24-hour post office is:

    US Post Office
    (312) 983-8765
    740 S Canal St, Chicago, IL 60607

  4. Chu said

    By the way, you really want to do a zip code search for “60607.” That’s not the address that pops up, and apparently there is another post office close by that closes at 2am.

  5. William Smith said

    I’m writing to get this off my chest. Three years ago I went to the post office in Chicago on Sheffield just north of Fullerton. My intention was to apply for a passport. I had the application and paid the money. Then the clerk, the fat thing with the strange front teeth, asked me to raise my hand and state my name. Then she told me that I had written my name two different ways on the application which was pure nonsense. I said I hadn’t and she insisted that I had. She would not return the money. This creepy USPS employee was absolutely infuriating and I left very disgusted. I just figured she had a screw loose.

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