Website of the Week

United States Postal Service http://www.usps.com

Complain all you like about skyrocketing rates, lost mail and possibly deadly biohazards. I love the postal service. These guys handle 200-million pieces of mail a year, and almost all of them go to the correct addressee in a relatively timely manner. The reason people throw such huge fits when it doesn't happen is because they've built up an enormous sense of trust for the organization that delivers in rain and snow and sleet and hail — and they're honestly surprised when things get screwed up. The United States Postal Service uses alternative fuel vehicles, offers relatively cheap two-day service, and my mailman, Larry, never shows up at our front door without a huge smile on his face. What more can you ask for 37 cents?How about the organization's well-organized, convenient and marvelously helpful website? Rather than cursing the e-mail-creating entity that has probably cost them billions in revenue, USPS has embraced an Internet presence, and offers online almost every service you get at your local post office — from ordering stamps to paying bills. You can change your address, hold or redeliver mail, or print out your own express or priority labels, all without setting foot in a post office. Usps.com provides point-and-click rate calculation, painless ZIP+4 lookup, the all-important track-and-confirm-delivery function, and a service called NetPost, that actually prints and mails real paper cards that you design online. Can you imagine sending invitations and announcements in the mail that you've never even seen? Neither can I, but I'll let you know how it works out.

It's such a nice change to see an old-school establishment like the Post Office embrace modernity and provide such a friendly, content-rich website. Before I discovered the page, I used to suffer through the automated postal telephone service, spending hours of touch-tone fun trying to discover how much it costs to send a card to the British Virgin Islands. With the Postal Service's site, the answer is only a few clicks away, and I never need to be put on hold.

Still, I hope they don't go too far into the 21st century. I wouldn't want to lose Larry.

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