Watch for extra charges at the Waverly post office branch

While the United States Post Office seems to be losing money each month, at least one Baltimore branch has decided to take matters in its own hands - by charging extra postage at random intervals.

The Waverly branch of the Baltimore United States Post Office charges an additional 17-44 cents for an article of mail that can be sent from the USPS Hampden branch for just 44 cents. It's pretty shocking that one would receive a different rate from various post office branches. Before compiling this story, I had to check with my own eyes to make certain this was accurate.

In January, my fiancée purchased 150 61-cent stamps because a clerk at the Waverly branch said she would need that amount for our wedding invitations. Initially, she requested the Forever Stamp, which at this time (January 2010) was valued at 44 cents. The letter itself is approximately 5 3/4 inches tall and 8 5/8 inches wide, which is well within the parameters of a first-class piece of mail.

In March, I mailed the first batch of invitations from the Hampden branch. The clerk at that location said, "You realize you need only 44-cent stamps, right?" Of course, I didn't. I mentioned this to my fiancée, who said she still had 100 more stamps (four sheets) for the second batch of invitations, which were intended for a second reception but were to be mailed in the same size envelope with the same weight.

I returned to the Hampden branch a few weeks later to exchange the stamps. I found on the USPS website that the post office will exchange full sheets of stamps if they are purchased in error, whether it is the post office or the customer (listed in DMM 604, 9.0 "Refunds and Exchanges"). Both a clerk and the supervisor at the Hampden branch claimed that they could not exchange the stamps. When I mentioned the USPS refund policy, they claimed they never heard of it and instructed me to call the 800 number, which is 1-800-275-8777.

When I returned home, I called the 800 number. I mentioned the refund policy, and the customer service representative said that she had never heard of it. When I gave her the exact DMM number, she said, "Oh, that's strange, that is hidden from me, but I can access it now." She claimed that I needed to check with the actual branch where the purchase was made to receive a refund.

A few minutes later, I called the Waverly branch. After being connected with the supervisor, I told her I need a refund for the stamps that were purchased incorrectly. She immediately told me that the post office never gives refunds on stamps. When I quoted the USPS policy in DMM 604, she said, "Oh … can I call you back?"

She returned my phone call 15 minutes later and said, "If we had made the error, we would exchange the stamps. However, we did not make an error." I said, "I just came from another post office branch, and they said that the letters needed only 44-cent stamps, not 61-cent stamps." She said, "Well, they must have been different letters." She claimed that their scales are calibrated, so there is no way they could have been wrong.

Of course, I was furious. I asked for the supervisor's name so that I could again call the 800 number and file a complaint. She said, "My name is Tarter … you can tell them whatever you want." I asked if this was her first or last name, and she said it was her last. I asked for her first name three times, and she refused to give it to me. "Tell them it's Mrs. Tarter," she said.

At this stage, we were curious as to why the post office attempted to charge extra. We weren't sure if the clerk measured the size wrong or if the weight was measured incorrectly. For some reason, the scale totals at the Waverly branch are not visible to the customer, so you essentially have to assume that they are giving you the right information.

On April 17, my fiancée went back to the Waverly branch to have the letter checked again. I came in with her but stayed in the background as to avoid any additional confrontation. This time, she was told that the letters would cost 88 cents to mail. This became even more confusing because the price increased at only the Waverly post office. My fiancée requested the ability to exchange the stamps, but she was told by the clerk that they were unable to make exchanges. The supervisor was summoned.

It just so happens that Mrs. Tarter was at the post office again, and she blamed my fiancée for purchasing the stamps of wrong value. When my fiancée stated that there seemed to be a problem, seeing that the scale had shown two different values, Mrs. Tarter began to act belligerently, claiming that the letter "must not have been full" when weighing it the first time.

Meanwhile, the post office clerk told my fiancée that the letter would cost 88 cents not because of the weight, but because of the size. My fiancée asked the supervisor for her ID number and name, but the supervisor just said, "My name is Mrs. Tarter!" at least three times. She again refused to give her first name.

On April 27, three days after the wedding, my wife returned to the Hampden post office to mail the invitations for the second reception, including the one she took to the Waverly post office. The clerk reassured her that the letters need only a 44-cent stamp on them.

In conclusion, there are three major problems here:

• The USPS website clearly states that customers can exchange stamps purchased in error, but neither of the two branches nor the main office would allow this.
• The Waverly branch is charging more than it should for some first-class letters. I don't know if they have a problem measuring or weighing the letters, but it's evident that there is a problem.
• The supervisor of the Waverly branch, Mrs. Tarter, has an attitude problem and should be reprimanded for her unconscionable behavior toward post office customers. While she was yelling at my fiancée, multiple people waiting in line gasped at what was occurring.

I'm still not sure what our next step should be, as the post office appears to be in such a dire need for money that it will treat its customers as horribly as possible. If an actual company tried to pull off something like this, people would just stop shopping there. But it's rather difficult to send wedding invitations any other way. Maybe we should have just sent out evites instead.

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