Did he really just say that?

I had a package for my daughter in Philly and a choice to make: post-office or UPS? Admittedly, I am a fan of UPS - it just seems simpler and easier to walk into a UPS store and walk out quickly. (OK, fine, they also make Amazon returns a 30-second transaction).

I also needed to purchase a box and today I was in a "support your local post office mood" so that's where I went.

I selected a flat box, assembled it, inserted my gift and gingerly walked to the counter. I knew Tom (not his real name to protect the innocent) so after a quick chitchat I said, "hey, can you just seal the box for me?"

Tom looked at me, pointed to the counter and said, "no, but you can purchase this tape for $3.75" I thought he was kidding so I smiled and said, "it's ok I just need two pieces of tape."

Tom replied, "we're not UPS you have to buy the tape."

Wow, did he really just say that to me? Dude, I'm a marketing guy, you never tell your customers, "hey, we suck, you should really shop somewhere else."

Watching my body language, Tom told me about a $1.50 option - pre-measured tape for the box I purchased - I had no choice; walking out and driving across town would have been a foolish, unproductive and a much more expensive option.

I didn’t fault Tom, he doesn't make the rules but seriously #USPS, is anyone listening? Does anyone care? (rhetorical questions of course).

Remember Blockbuster Video? They had a nice head start and somewhat of a monopoly with their business model. And then competitors showed up. How did I know? Originally, I mean when things were goooood for Blockbuster, the store was filled with videos and a few snacks - after all they were a movie store. But, as time went by you could tell things (on the profit front) weren't so good anymore. The store started to fill up with game consoles (makes sense), soda, accessories and over time, I felt I was in a 7-11 not a video store. Yep, when you have to maximize every square inch of your real estate space, you may not be doing so good.

Walking into a post office these days reminds me of the last days of Blockbuster -- while most of the 'merchandise' is related to mailing 'stuff', my friend Tom spends a good three minutes trying to sell me upgrades, more stamps, and of course packing tape.

Here's the thing; every business should try to upsell and increase profits as long as it has also maximized the user experience for its customers. If you fail with basics, why bother upselling?

I am a frequent visitor to my local #UPS, often with an open box - I never had to ask the shipping clerk to seal it. The big "miss" for #USPS is not wanting to upsell (good business) but ensuring that next time I will go where I'm not a 'revenue generator' but a welcomed customer.

There's a lesson here that goes beyond shipping a box; I see this "miss" way too often in other areas - the restaurant that charges an extra $2 for sharing a meal, the direct seller refusing a return and pointing you to the small print no one ever reads, and the list goes on.

Short-term gain that often leads to long-term loss. That's simply bad business.

Here's the real tragedy; for a mere fifty cents, the USPS will deliver a letter from NY to CA. A postal worker will actually put it in my cousin's mailbox. Wow! Tipping a valet attendant costs an average $5 for a much shorter distance. The USPS has had everything it needs to be successful but someone is missing the point - it means nothing unless you serve.

All in, the box I sent to my daughter cost me $7.50, fifteen minutes and leaving frustrated. I'm not going to bail on our local USPS but I will stick with the fifty cent option next time -I don't even have to buy stamps at the post office, they sell them in the supermarket and Costco.

Customers have unlimited options and the power to find new ones. Many businesses use social media advertising as their primary marketing channel but only a select few, look at the most important metric; “acquisition cost of a customer.” Likes, clicks, shares are deceiving - they don’t translate into paying customers.

When it is all said and done and you go where you’ve been afraid to go, “how much does it really cost me to get a new customer?” you are going to be shocked at the relatively high cost of acquiring a new client.

All the more reasons why you should do everything to hold on to every customer you already have. It is not only simpler but a lot less expensive - often a smile, going above-and-beyond, being accommodating or just plain old listening is all it takes.

Simple is better. Be the customer you serve.

Yes, he actually said that.

Customer ServiceZev Asch