Snail Mail Controversy

Superbox type I use. If I get a package, the mail carrier leaves a key in my box which opens one of the big compartments. I then "post" the key in the mail slot for the driver to pick up the next day.

Superbox type I use. If I get a package, the mail carrier leaves a key in my box which opens one of the big compartments. I then “post” the key in the mail slot for the driver to pick up the next day.

Everyone says we don’t get mail any more. Maybe we get bills or junk mail. We don’t send or receive letters. One stamp to send a card costs $1. The only thing we use mail for is online shopping, and even then, most of our packages are couriered.

Yet there’s been an uproar this Fall because Canada Post has started implementing a change it announced last October: the end of delivering mail to individual houses.

When I was a kid, we had one of these. The driver would put up the flag when we had mail. We also used the flag to alert the driver that we had mail to post.

When I was a kid, we had one of these. The driver would put up the flag when we had mail. We also used the flag to alert the driver that we had mail to post (Photo: mprnews/CC)

Photo: Thomas Hawk @ photoree.com (CC)

Group of rural mail boxes at the end of a country lane. Photo: Thomas Hawk @ photoree.com (CC)

Most people in Canada have never had mail delivered to their door. If you live in a rural area, you may have a mailbox at the side of the road, accessed by a mail carrier in a vehicle. More likely, you and your neighbours have a clump of mail boxes, placed together, that you visit on your way home from work. Suburban folks like me use a superbox: there are three sets of them on my street. Anyone in an apartment or a condo has a group of mail slots in the lobby. Some people choose to rent a post office box. And everybody else gets door-to-door delivery. Apparently that was 32% of the population last year.

The new style of superbox, now appearing everywhere

The new style of superbox, now appearing everywhere

So now the holdouts are being forced to leave their homes and pick up their mail at a superbox! They are being installed at breakneck speed all across Canada. I can understand that if you are home all day and you looked forward to the mail carrier’s visit, it is the end of an era. But I am taken aback by the indignation and anger people are feeling. The key argument seems to be that mail carriers check on people who are frail-elderly or have disabilities and give them some human contact. This argument hinges on the assumptions that (a.) these people get mail regularly; (b.) they actually come to the door to speak to the mail carrier; (c.) the mail carriers have some sort of obligation to provide door-to-door social services and (d.) that these people are well enough to live in their own homes but have no other contact with human beings, so the mail carrier’s visit makes a difference. I trust you can tell from my tone that I am skeptical. What person with mobility issues has ever chosen a residence based on whether it gets mail delivery to its door? I doubt it is a big factor given how little mail everyone gets. And what relative of an independent person with mobility issues has ever said, “I won’t worry about mom/grandma because at least if anything happens, the mail man will take action!”

The underlying issue is that Canada Post is a Crown Corporation – it is not a government department, but has an arms-length relationship with the government. It is expected to pay for its services from its own income, rather than through tax dollars. It recently became profitable again after several years of losses. So the real issue is that it needs to cut its labour force and introduce efficiencies in order to stay profitable. It is planning not to replace 15,000 employees who will retire by 2020.

Well, Canada prides itself on its national public services such as health care. Most of us are not too keen on having them either for-profit (like Canada Post) or privatized (like Air Canada).  We love our CBC (broadcasting) and our Via Rail (train service). We sure as heck don’t want Atomic Energy, the Royal Canadian Mint, or the Bank of Canada to be privatized!

So for most people, the end of household mail delivery means one of two things: a shift toward privatization, and a symbol of the transition away from personal services. For the latter, people who don’t like ATMs, self-service gasoline, self-checkouts at the grocery store or library, baggage check-ins, or telephone menu trees, can now grumble about one more point of contact that’s been taken away, and its impact on jobs and, er, the state of civilization.

Now ask if anyone wants their taxes raised or to pay more for these services – of course not! They just want everything to stay the same: the same cost, the same jobs, and the same level of service. If only the world worked that way!

So I would say: ask the 68% of Canadians who have never received mail through their front doors what they think of the changes. I think you would get a collective big shrug! From my point of view, why support two tiers of service: those with community boxes and the elite with (expensive) home delivery?

I was pleased to find there are some accommodations for people who have difficulty reaching a superbox or difficulty leaving their homes. It is on page 7 of Canada Post’s report. You probably also know that Canada direct-deposits all benefits “cheques” directly to the recipients’ bank accounts.

Some questions for you!

  • How do you get your mail?
  • If you are in Canada, do the changes impact you or your loved ones negatively?
  • What do you think of self-service at banks, stores, libraries, gas stations, and other public places?

42 comments

  1. joanie

    I’m in the US. My mail is usually delivered into the mailbox on my front porch. At least twice a month, my mail is delivered to a neighbor or I receive a neighbor’s mail. I will redeliver mail 1 or 2 blocks in any direction. If it’s more than that I take it back to the post office and drop it back in the slot. As to packages, if I have a choice, I will pay for any service other than USPS. Packages disappear. Packages are delivered to the right street but two blocks away from my house (Thank you, Mrs. Fisher, for bringing my cousin’s Christmas present to me!). I was having packages delivered to my work address (different city, different post office) but I retired this year so I don’t know what I’m going to do for Christmas.
    I pump my own gas because all the stations are self-serve. I miss the old gas stations where you could get your oil checked and a tire patched if you needed it. I don’t need their cigarettes, lottery tickets or alcohol. Who thought it was a good idea to sell liquor in a gas station?
    To round out my curmudgeonly rant, I don’t use self-service if I can avoid it. My library doesn’t offer it.

    • Hi Joanie, our superboxes are not numbered the same way the houses are numbered (so, for example, I could live at # 37 and be assigned to box # 12). I think this causes our mail carrier to make a lot of mistakes, too. I bring mis-delivered mail to my neighbours, as well! Once somebody’s new passports were delivered to my box, and when I rang the bell at the owner’s house, I could hear them talking but they wouldn’t come to the door! I was persistent and loud until they did. Otherwise they might not have received their new passports in time for travel! We can’t buy alcohol at gas stations here, but probably only because the govt hasn’t found a way to make money from it…

  2. Our snail mail is bleeding in the red, but it continues. They will need to make some more changes to make it go further.

  3. EcoCatLady

    I’ve read about this controversy before and honestly, I’m not sure what to think about it. How do you send outgoing mail if you don’t have a mailbox at your house? Do those big group mailboxes have a place to put outgoing mail? Do you have to go to the post office? That would make Netflix significantly less convenient!

    I guess my basic thoughts are that if you’re a person who leaves the house on a day to day basis to go to a job or whatever, then making a quick stop at the mailbox or post office would be no big deal. But if you’re a person who doesn’t regularly go out, then scheduling an extra trip might feel like a burden – though I’m sure most of us could use the exercise of walking down the block a few times a day to check for mail.

    And what about packages? Do they deliver packages to your home or do you have to go pick them up somewhere? I think that would be the clincher for me. If I’ve ordered something online I’ll usually watch the tracking pretty carefully and make sure that I’m home to pick it up right away so it doesn’t get stolen. If your packages just get dumped by a mailbox cluster up the block… well, I’d have a problem with that. And if I had to drive to the post office to pick it up… well, that sort of defeats the purpose of ordering online, so I’d probably just drive to the store to buy it instead.

    I also sometimes order things online if it’s really heavy and I think I’d have trouble wrestling it into my car (like the time I ordered an extension ladder, or the greenhouse I bought this spring.) If I had to go pick it up at the post office, it would probably mean renting a truck, which would mean that I’d have to re-think that entire approach.

    Do I sound like a spoiled American? 🙂

    • Sabrina

      Just to let you know, here in Italy the only way to send a package is to go to the Post Office (during office hours, of course). 😛 To receive a package you must be at home, otherwise they just leave a message in your mailbox and you go pick it up at the PO. And most of the time they don’t even bother ringing the bell, they just leave the message. So now I always get my packages delivered at the office where there is a reception.

      • Hi Sabrina, it is the same here. We have to mail packages from a post office so they can be weighed and measured and priced. I am always annoyed when I get a notice saying there was an “attempted delivery” of a parcel because I don’t think they make any effort to alert you, either! We do have the option of every parcel being sent directly to the post office with no delivery attempts, just a notice saying it’s already there.

    • Hi Cat, I had to giggle at the thought of checking mail several times a day. We get mail once a day Monday to Friday. Instead of giving everyone superboxes, they did consider reducing mail service to 3 days a week, but that option was rejected. Yes, there is a slot in the superbox to drop outgoing mail with the right amount of postage on it. The superbox also has big compartments for packages, and if you get a small to medium packet, it is placed in one of them and they give you a key. For even larger packages, there is still home delivery. But most people are not home during the day and end up having to retrieve them from the post office.

      • EcoCatLady

        Ha! Well, it’s not that the mail comes more than once per day, it’s that I never know what time it’s gonna arrive, so I end up checking every few hours until it gets here! Mostly it’s when I’m expecting a Netflix DVD! 🙂

  4. Here in the USA, I get my mail at the doorstep everyday. And I do use the post office. I communicate with some friends on paper, and I pay my bills by check.
    Additionally, my doggies’ life revolves around the mail. His eagerly anticipated high point of each day is the mail hitting our doorstep. I fear that without the sense of purpose that waiting for the postal carrier gives his life, he would quickly become a delinquent hooligan.
    Now, what of all of those poor Canadian canines bereft of a duty? How long until they will be peeing on the carpets, chasing the house cats, and ultimately descending into bands of marauding wolves, threatening the border with the U.S. ?
    🙂

    • I use the post office to mail the occasional parcel and to pick up packages that I miss when I’m at work. I use express and priority mail sometimes too. Ha, my dad had a career as a safety officer and he did work for Canada Post for a short spell. Dog bites were a significant occupational hazard back when people left their dogs outside in fenced yards. Now that dogs are indoors and pampered, I imagine that threat is mostly gone! But of course they can have their daily dramas in which they protect the household from the “intruder” 🙂

  5. Fiona

    It sounds very reasonable when you explain it like that. My only concern is that the Superboxes are not the most attractive neighbourhood objects!

    We receive mail in a brick letterbox at the front of the house. We get an annoying amount of mail…often 4-5 letters a day. Lots of it is to do with our Retirement Savings Account (all kinds of share notices etc.) Like many people, it’s a race for us to collect the mail before the actual snails eat it (whole new meaning to ‘snail mail.’) If I leave it overnight, all the edges will be nibbled off.

    I do like the personal service of having it dropped to our house. And there’s something about having a Postie (as they’re called here) delivering mail at the same time each day.

    I love our Library Self-Service. I like the way the laser reads the card and I love being able to print all my info on due dates etc. whenever I want. I intensely dislike Supermarket Self-Service, where you have to scan your own trolley load. I always mess up the scanner somehow and trigger, “Wait for Attendant” while the queue behind me groans.

    • The mail we receive is pathetic. I have switched all my bills and bank statements over to electronic. We are now able to opt out of print notices for investments. I get a couple of significant items a year, like the verification that I filed my income taxes (also confirmed online) and a paper copy of the car and house insurance. My parents don’t have Internet so they still get all their bills by mail and they pay them by phone or sometimes at the bank. Are you serious about the snails? That is funny! Whenever I use self-checkout at the grocery store, it is always telling me to bag my items when I have already done it! At the library, most people like the self-check but some are convinced we will lose our jobs because of it! (Not true – it frees us up to spend more time with the people who need more help). I do find a lot of people are confused by the on-screen “see staff” messages. For instance if someone tries to pick up her sister’s reserved book with her own library card, she is surprised she has to “see staff”!

    • So, my parents snail mail gets nibbled, but they get most mail to a post office box. Which makes some sense – they were v v nomadic for a long time! But if you have a POBox you can go on holidays with no problems – they hold your mail with no issues, I believe…

      At this apartment, I get it in a mail box, with lots of junk mails, despite signage. The loft had ‘internal’ apartments, but some how spam managed to get past the security doors.

      I see in Australia see the move to centralised places to pick up packages – at service/gas stations and in the malls. I feel weird about getting things delivered at work, given I’m in a depot with multiple buildings, it’s not that simple. An office is so much easier – til I misaddressed something to the BF’s office for Xmas. Thankfully some pavement pounding found it!

      Lastly, I get mail in envelopes that say ‘get this online’ – and it’s generic. Whatever it is, by whatever law, can’t be electronic – grr!

      Love self check for books – unmanned area suits me fine. Self check at the super market is SO weight conscious and makes it so hard to use your own bags. They should trust more.

      • I don’t know if it’s the same in Canada and Australia, but a company can ask to have a “junk mail” flyer delivered to every address in a certain area – it’s used for product advertising, political campaigning, etc. As long as the company pays the appropriate rate, Canada Post treats it like other mail and is then obliged to deliver it. So they couldn’t opt to deliver to some addresses and not others, if the customer had paid for the service. We do have non-postal service people coming around to deliver their own flyers right to your door, and some people do put up “no flyers” signs, but I don’t know if they legally have to obey (as with telemarketing phone calls). I can’t imagine many people volunteering to get their junk mail online 🙂

  6. NicolaB

    I’m in the UK and we still have door to door post (although the Royal Mail has been privatised, I believe it still has an obligation to provide ‘universal service’- delivering to all parts of the country for the same price, 6 (I think!) days per week).
    We have a letter box in the door, rather than out on the road, and the postman (well, woman actually) doesn’t collect outgoing mail- there are plenty of post boxes or a local post office if I need to send a parcel. If we get parcels or something that does not fit through the letter box, we get a card through the door saying it’s been left in the shed/with a neighbour or taken back to the mail sorting office to be collected (or you can rearrange delivery rather than collect it).
    I’ve never known anything other than self service petrol pumps- though the one I usually use still has the cashier in a little shop, rather than paying at the pump; I like self service at the library/supermarket etc as usually it seems quicker- possibly because lots of people don’t want to use it so queue up for cashiers/staff 😉

    • Rom always had 6-day-a-week service to the door when he lived in the UK as well. The mail service there is super-prompt. The UK geographically is a lot smaller than Canada…but by using house names instead of numbers in so many places, it must slow things down phenomenally! When a parcel has an “attempted delivery” (as they call it) here and no one is home, the notice asks if you want it re-delivered, if you want to pick it up at the post office, or have it left on your own property (e.g. back deck) or with a neighbour. I use self-service in a lot of places when there are line-ups and I like having the option.

    • Yeah I’m puzzled by the US/Canadian system that picks up from home letterboxes, as the Australian model mimics the UK with central places to mail letters.

      • I don’t think there is any pickup from home letterboxes, only from superboxes, which have a slot to post envelopes (you have to send packages from a post office so they can be weighed).

  7. I live in an apartment building, in the USA. Our mail is delivered to a “superbox” in the lobby.

    I have two friends who work as letter carriers for the Post Office. They’ve been instructed to alert the police if someone’s mail has been uncollected for too many days. Even without front door delivery, our Post Office is able to provide some social services.

    I am a hypocrite when it comes to self-service. I rant about the loss of video rental stores, and the personal touch they provided. I refuse to rent DVDs from a vending machine. I use Netflix as the least of the bad options. I refuse to stream movies. I’ll wait for a human check-out person at the grocery store, rather than use the self-checkout. And yet, I haven’t been inside a bank in years. I have no problem using the self-checkout at the library.

    • Yes, I do know that mail carriers are required to alert someone if mail is not picked up for too long. I think they mainly watch out for the home delivery clients deemed to be at-risk. I do think it’s rather grisly that they are sometimes the only ones to notice a (potential) death. It seems to me that if someone has no home help whatsoever, to the point that no one even knows if they are alive or not, it is far too late for a mail carrier to have an effect! Do you use the Netflix DVD by mail service? (If so, that makes two readers of this post!) That never caught on in Canada because our mail service is too slow!

      • We use the DVD by mail. The DVDs won’t fit in our apartment mailbox, so I have to walk a block or two to nearest outdoor mailbox, so a least it feels somewhat like having to walk to a video store. 😉 Besides, we have a terrible internet. so streaming is problematic.

  8. cheryl

    I absolutely LOVE self service. It will not bother me at all when our mail is put in a box at the end of the road. I am old enough to remember (and survive the loss of)…. Saturday mail delivery, milk delivered (by a horse and cart no less!), bread delivery…the list goes on and on
    Change makes for great “Remember when….” stories. Another perfect opportunity to bore our grandkids!!!

    • I would find it hard to do without self-service. Imagine having to stand in line for a bank teller to pay a bill or withdraw cash! Let alone having to get an actual, physical paycheque and have to go to the bank to deposit it! When I joke about the “bad old days,” I say when I was a kid, if you didn’t see a new movie at the theatre, you had to wait 7 years for it to appear on TV. A lot of progress is indeed good.

  9. Sally

    I live in the US. My mailbox is on the corner of my cul-de-sac, clustered with the boxes for the 3 other houses in the cul-de-sac. It’s not a far distance, but it was one of the things that was a negative in my mind when I bought the house. When it is raining or snowing or we’re having 60+ mph winds or the ice is bad, I don’t want to walk out to the corner for mail. It’s unpleasant. Not earth-shatteringly unpleasant, but it would be a lot nicer if the mail was no farther than the end of my driveway.

    Regarding the mobility issues… don’t be so quick to dismiss them as a factor for some people. I have a relative who can barely navigate her own house who is also very resistant to the idea of a nursing home. She would not be able to make it down the street to get her own mail. I’m not saying that keeping her in her own home is the best thing for her… but it’s what she wants, and I could easily see not receiving mail to her home as being something that would push things over the edge. She never interacts with the mail carrier (it takes her a minimum of 15 minutes to get to the door if you ring the bell), but she can at least get her mail and deal with bills and things. Mail delivery seems like a small thing, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s a critical part of what’s enabling her to remain in her own home.

    • If your relative is able to deal with bills, no matter how they arrive, that is a good thing. My thinking is that if someone has difficulty getting out for the mail, then they would also have difficulty getting out for groceries, going to doctor’s appointments, picking up prescriptions and so on. Therefore, they probably have some help to do things, but not always daily. Unless they do online shopping, most people get a low volume of mail. A once-a-week pickup would probably do as part of the errands. That being said, there are a lot of factors that make people feel secure in their own homes. I suspect that home mail delivery is largely symbolic for most, just like every town feels more complete with a post office, school and hospital. It also depends on what you’re used to – no one likes to have their services downgraded!

  10. When I first heard about this upcoming change a few years back I honestly thought that ‘Canada post’ was a newspaper, and that people were upset about having to go to their post office to pick up their copy instead of having it delivered by a paper boy. In my hometown we have one post office that everyone uses (I think?!?), so I hadn’t even known that in other places people got their mail delivered to their door! My aunt, who lives in Toronto, uses one of those boxes like you, which I thought was pretty cool – they didn’t even have to drive to the post office to pick up their mail!
    In terms of self-service, I’m all for it! Especially since coming to the UK where everything is self-serve – there are self-checkouts everywhere from the grocery store to the pharmacy to the library – I can appreciate how efficient and quick it is. Also I can imagine those with social anxiety find it really helpful 🙂 I’ve yet to see self-service be the only option, so those who prefer being served and dealing with a human being rather than a machine always have that option too!

    • Hi Simone, well, if the National Post is a newspaper, why not the Canada Post!? Your comment does show that the majority of Canadians have never had home delivery to begin with, so they don’t feel it’s being taken away. I have no problem with self-service, either. I suppose the one thing most people hate is to reach an automated phone system when they are looking for service – and it is so hard to connect with a real person on those systems. Once I had a problem with a credit card and the phone system had no appropriate options so eventually I pressed the key for “lost card” and got to actually speak with someone!

      • Exactly! And I agree with you about phone services. I guess some automated phone services are helpful for people who don’t have easy access to the internet or to walk-in shops, but most want to talk to a real person!

  11. I’m with Fiona. The super boxes do look ugly. But I suppose we’d get used to them.

    Post service here faces the same quandary as Canada. Large spaces, few people. Sending a package has become too expensive. My family and I no longer mail each other gifts. Plus as they have sub-contracted out the parcel delivery, we’ve had delays, missing/stolen and damaged items. Most online sales use private delivery. And I’ve had Monty Pythonesque conversations about mis-delivered packages with the local post staff.

    A regular letter cost 70c. It has gone up markedly in recent years. Of course people, especially the elderly who rely on snail mail (and yes, snails have nibbled on our mail too though thankfully not a regular occurrence) rather than online statements etc. So pensioners can buy stamps at a discounted rate. But still sending a letter from Some outback town in the far north-west to Sydney for 70c is good value. Subsidised by my letter between suburbs costing the same, of course.

    Australia Post is losing money too. One suggestion is 3 days a week delivery. I’d rather that than super boxes at the end of my street. Though our country folk have faced similar, ie the same as Canandians. A bank of letter boxes at the end of a road.

    As to self serve, my only concerns are the loss of jobs for young people in supermarkets. And the loss of the ability to make small talk with strangers. Some people now prefer self service, not for the speed but so they don’t have to talk with someone.

    • I think the self-serves at the library are a good option for keeping your borrowing private. Not everyone wants to face the thought of library staff chit-chat about their choices (50 Shades of Grey, Stone Butch Blues, Easy Way to Stop Gambling, Anxiety and Phobias Workbook, etc. etc.)

      In Sydney, are public utilities hidden? We have mailboxes, access boxes for the power company, utility poles, bus stops, signage and so on everywhere. It would never occur to me that superboxes don’t look good.

      • Totally agree about the benefit of self serve to encourage borrowing.

        Good point about other utilities. But I still don’t want those big boxes on every street.

      • I would have been fine with 3-day-a-week delivery. But our neighbourhood has always had superboxes, so it wasn’t a change for us. If I were being cynical, I would say they were going to switch us all to superboxes, THEN cut us back to 3 days a week 🙂

  12. In the US, we still get mail 6 days a week, plus some packages will be delivered on Sundays. Personally I hope they reduce the number of days when they need to save money – there are plenty of days when we get nothing, or just unsolicited advertisements. I’m glad to hear they’ve considered how to accommodate the elderly or disabled! I do hope their predictions are correct and they’re able to save money this way 🙂

    • We get large packages delivered to the door, and at the end of December the mail carriers work overtime (or sub-contract to local courier firms) and do extra deliveries to get caught up for the holidays. I am sure they will save money because they will not be replacing their employees who are at retirement age.

  13. My Mom has door to door service. I am in an apartment so I get my mail from the common box in the lobby. I like the self check outs at the library but not at the grocery store.

  14. And after reading all the comments – I’d be a postie. Either exercise on a walk or bike route, or the fun of a little step through bike!

    it’s weird that couriers are rising, whilst postal services are seeing their demise – when they seem like the same thing!?

    • True about the couriers – Canada Post has an overnight service to compete with couriers, and a 2-3 day express service (normal mail can take up to 10 days to get from coast to coast). When I order online, I usually get stuff via UPS. I check in advance, because they charge high customs clearance fees! I don’t think there were any bike routes here, but there are bike couriers in bigger cities. I had to look up “step through bike” – way back when, they were the default for “women’s bikes”!

  15. Wow what a can of worms you opened with this one.:-) First I live in the US where our mail is constantly in the red and is funded through the government. Like most government programs it doesn’t do a good job of using its money wisely and there is a lot of waste that could be cut, but you didn’t ask about that. I don’t like super boxes for one reason, I am disabled and getting my mail would be difficult if that’s what I had. Because I want to live alone I do have to take into consideration things like how hard will it be to collect my mail, can I take the trash out myself and other accessibility issues. But here’s the thing, I structured my life so that I rarely get mail and seldom need to take the trash out. At my home the mailbox is currently next to the deck in my drive but as most in this neighborhood have their mailbox on their house I’ve already discussed it with my mail carrier and am moving the mailbox up on to the house. This way when we have bad weather conditions I won’t have to ask another person to come check my mail when I am expecting some.

    The subject of both super boxes and eliminating Saturday mail delivery have come up. There has been a lot of outrage about it. As I see it eliminating a delivery day is no big deal. Heck they can deliver only a couple of times a week and I wouldn’t care. If they would put a super box in my neighborhood I could get a waiver and have my mail still delivered to my house because of my disability or I could have a neighbor pick mine up with they get theirs. I’d manage.

    As for self-service check outs I don’t like them. At one time I worked as a bank teller. My job was being eliminated by the ATM and many other tellers lost their job as a result. With self-service check out it’s another job lost in an economy that can’t afford to have automation replace human workers. My answer is to just not use them. I also like contact with people when I go out, often the only person you talk to in the store is the cashier checking you out. With all the self-service options we are eliminating one at a time another type of human contact so that we are becoming isolated and I see younger people who don’t know social etiquette partly as a result. I get angry when I see a person gabbing away on their phones while a cashier goes about ringing up their purchases. They don’t say thank you or have a nice day because the person on the other end of the phone is more important at the moment. They have forgotten, or never learned, that this is a person who is doing them a service and should be acknowledged as such in a polite and friendly manner.

    Sorry for the long response,

    • That is one of my pet peeves, too – people talking on their phones when they are being served by a real person. I do think a lot of people, especially isolated people, rely on interactions at the grocery store, post office, bank, pharmacy and doctor’s office, as sometimes the only social exchanges they have. Whether all these places “owe” in-person service, I couldn’t say. Just as many people are happy to skip the lines and go to a machine. When I go to the bank, I am glad I can use the ATM and not stand in line behind someone who is buying Euros or depositing coins! So I am grateful they have both options.

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