I am a volunteer board member of a small non-profit organization in my community. I serve as the treasurer of the organization. Earlier this year, I recommended that we close our physical location (which was a rented cubicle space in a larger building), as nobody physically worked there any longer and we were basically just using the space for receiving mail. I suggested we save our rent money and get a P.O. box instead. The rest of the board agreed, so I started the process of getting things organized for the transition. Our last day of lease was September 30th.
As I am the board member who is de facto responsible for getting our mail (mostly because I have to pay our bills!), I chose a P. O. box location near my home. This particular location is a convenience store that has a USPS counter and a few P.O. boxes for rent.
Now, my mistake was that I submitted my paperwork online for the P.O. box on September 30th - the day our lease expired - rather than beforehand. I had mistakenly thought that after submitting my application and payment online, it would just be a simple matter of coming in with my application and ID, along with proof of payment, and picking up the keys. Alas, the USPS does not make things simple. I should note that every employee of the post office in this story was largely very helpful, and the situation was not the fault of the service workers. It was mostly a communication issue in the upper levels of the USPS that turned this into a bit of a debacle.
A timeline of events:
September 30th: I submit my application for a P.O. box through the USPS website, and pay for 12 months of access. I print out the documents, and bring them that evening to the convenience store. The clerk at the convenience store has a whiff of "new employee" about him, because he clearly has no idea what to make of the documents I gave him. Whatever, he's 90% a convenience store clerk, he's not used to this, and he's willing to help me. He makes some phone calls and then tells me that I need to submit my paperwork at the main post office. (Which I needed to do the next day because I didn't have my car with me.)
October 1: I go to the main post office with my paperwork, get up to the counter, and am told that they can't process my paperwork for the convenience store location "because that location's system is getting changed over." Okay, fine. I leave, planning to come back the next week.
October 6: (The next time I could get out there due to my schedule and transportation availability) I return to the main post office, and am helped by the only clerk I was not impressed with. She tells me that the system is still switching over, she usually doesn't work in this branch, dither, dither dither. She thinks I need to go back to the convenience store location to get my paperwork processed. I tell her that based on the information from my last two attempts, I'm not going anywhere until she makes a phone call or talks to a supervisor, because I am not interested in making trips to multiple locations. She disappears for about 10 minutes, reappears saying that she'll leave my paperwork for "Mike" to process, and that he'll give me a call the next day.
October 7: No phone call. I do not think of this until after hours, so I leave a voicemail and resolve to call back the afternoon of the next day if they have not returned the voicemail.
October 8: No return call, so I call the main branch again, and am assured that my paperwork is processed. The person on the phone proclaims that my only remaining step is to go to the convenience store to pick up my keys - everything is taken care of. I am pleased.
October 9: I show up at the convenience store to pick up my keys. The counter service person laughs nervously, saying she'll have to get her manager. Faint alarm bells begin to ring. The manager walks over, and explains to me that the main branch took custody of all of their unclaimed P.O. box that very morning, due to a system change. I will have to go back over to the main branch to claim my key. I request that they call the main branch to confirm, which they did. I sigh, get back in my car, and drive out to the main branch again.
The most experienced-seeming counter staff person at the main branch helped me, and I think she recognized me because she hauled her manager out of his office. He was exceedingly apologetic. I was a little irritated with him (not to the point of chewing him out in front of the entire line at the post office!), and told him that while I knew system updates needed to happen, this was incredibly annoying from the customer's perspective. I am given my keys, the manager's card, and am told to call his direct line if I had any problems.
While I'm there, I ask to fill out the mail forwarding paperwork for my organization. As I'm filling it out, the manager and counter clerk point out an issue - my organization had no suite number at our former address. I believe the building admin staff distributed the mail. Therefore, a forwarding address can't be set up, as it would apply to the whole building. I am sent to the carrier station across town to speak with a supervisor there, to see if this is something that they can clarify.
(The carrier staff seemed uncertain, but I was told to submit the paperwork and "see if it works.")
At the end, I got my organization their P.O. box. I hope that at least some of the mail forwards, but I can update our most important contacts with our new address. But I'm really happy I had access to a car, as this process would have been a nightmare to deal with without one.