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Insights from Hawthorne Publishing

A Small Regional Press Depends on—Yes! The Postal Service

Over the last four or five months we at Hawthorne have shipped among the various titles we offer over 1200 copies of one particularly popular book, most all of them as individual sales. In the case of this title, Cracking the Camouflage Ceiling, the story of one of the first three women chaplains in the U.S. military,  orders came in from our website via Paypal and usually the next day the books went out. The number of mis-sents or mistakes could have been about four. How did we accomplish this? With the often maligned post office exclusively, one-at-a-time at the local Wesfield, Indiana branch.

I don’t know what the overall problems of the USPS are, its budget deficits, the political implications of changing administrations, the challenges of technologies that are obsolete and policies that change for the entire system.  I do know that any business would be proud to have the employees that we encounter and who make our publishing company work at the “ship the book” level.

On any given day we will move into the Westfield office with a large book box or two or three of individually packaged books, sometimes 20 or so of them. Our friends there are experienced and jolly, making the trip pleasant as well as efficient. Nan will take up the books, start the litany of “Do you have any dangerous items such as lithium batteries,” and “Is there any perfume in this shipment” as she checks each zip code for accuracy. Or Tom at the other window will check for anomalies and give advice about the time any one of our packages will arrive. If there’s a gap in the packaging, they find the tape and re-seal.  The wait is always short and service brisk.

Standing next to patrons who are shipping packages are often fairly long lines of passport applicants. Small children are wheeling around their parents’ legs, teasing each other, or flipping through (or off) the greeting cards in stand-up displays, several national backgrounds if we can judge from the languages we hear. Passport services with the long application form seem complicated to me and take up to an hour at times, but everyone is generally patient. For passports Kim, the post office superintendent comes out and talks with folks along the line wanting to make the waiting time to process the paperwork and take a photo as short as possible.

But it isn’t just the snappy service that makes a visit to this rather small branch of our national government pleasant. It’s the fun these people have and with us as they do their jobs, usually uncomplainingly. We regular customers come to know a couple of the behind-the-scene people’s schedules from the early dawn to mid-day. We know about Nan’s move to another town, and Malia’s pride in her college-age daughter and younger children. Tom has photos to show of his star basketball-playing daughter if nobody’s waiting and we can tell him of weekend plans. And there has recently been time to talk to Lindy about whether the new requirement they have to honor, saying “Welcome to the Westfield Post Office” to every single person who comes in is ridiculous. The line can pitch in on the discussion and they usually do.

Their equipment is not exactly state of the art but it works about 3/4s of the time. But their dedication and genuine service are at a 100% level and it helps make our company work!

Nancy Niblack Baxter is Senior Editor at Hawthorne Publishing. Flip back to see and order her books.