It was the paperwork that broke the system

It’s good to know one’s limits. Going camping without preparations is no fun. Thinking you can make it up Kilimanjaro without stopping to acclimate to altitude can be deadly. Betting on the underdog with money you don’t have will likely get you beat up in certain circles.

I have discovered a new limit of mine; Postal forms for international service. After years of doing drawings and giveaways for my books, open to global markets, I have to pause and reconsider these due to the number of forms I have to fill out.

Looking at the USPS website, the policy has not changed, and the quick form for copies of The Symmetry of Snowflakes fall within the parameters provided. However, in going to my local post office, complete with President Eisenhower brass plaque, they agents explain to me the changes. It is no longer the short form, it is the long form, and this is no longer a weight based metric. Every piece of mail needs it.

In my first attempt, I had no time after the 30-minute line to spend on the forms. So in my second visit, in a short line, I tried my luck again to see if the instructions were consistent. They were. So I left the line, grabbed the pen adhered to the counter, and started to fill these forms in. After my return visit to the line, at the counter, and processing the first package, it turns out that the staff hates the new system too. The seven-page form, top discarded for instructions, gets a print on demand sticker for each page (one for the sender, one for the agent, and the rest in a baggie attached to the envelope. In addition, there is a postage stamp printed, and the printed form sticker after the details are hand typed into the computer.

What a bad system.

I should not be surprised. Government agencies love paperwork. Stamps and stickers in septuplet seem the pinnacle of the USPS.

So, with disappointment and regret, I am sorry to inform you all that I will not be doing paperback drawings for international countries. Readers in the UK, EU, the Outback, and Canada, as important as you are to me, I will need to find a way to send you digital winnings. It wasn’t the prices that have gone up twice in the last four years, the long lines I have waited in, the machines of automation that nearly fractured my finger tips on pressing hard enough to register, it was the paperwork, I just wasn’t built to fill it out in septuplet.

Paul PetersComment