Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

Real People. Real Jobs. Real Adventures.

Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Where's the customer service? ...

Posted 6/02/15 (Tue)

When I was a kid, I delivered Grit, if you remember that newspaper, a general publication mostly about rural America.

The newest issue arrived on Tuesday and right after school, from 4-6 p.m., it got delivered, rain or shine, deep snow or strong wind or even angry dogs along the path.

It was also my job to “sell” Grit and in the two years I had that paper route, built it from 27 to 50 subscribers in Hazelton, a community of 250 people. People were sold on the fact that it would be delivered before they sat down for dinner on Tuesday evening. And it was!

There was also extra incentive to sell the paper and deliver it on time.

Grit promoted giveaway of several tiers of prizes for papers sold. And since I played baseball and had no other means of income, I worked hard to earn a new baseball glove.

I had been using a Moose Skowron glove from the early 1950s given to me by a neighbor who had grown up and left home. It was a glove my teammates affectionately called “the pancake.”

So when I found out Grit had a baseball glove promotion, that was incentive enough to beat the streets and sell papers.

I did that and won a Rawlings baseball glove with Rusty Staub’s  autograph. It was a win win. I got a $50 baseball glove and my readers  got Grit each week on schedule.

While I was a college student at UND, I had a friend who was a photographer at the Grand Forks Herald and I would often times visit him at work.

Sometimes on Friday night, I would wait for the Herald to come off the press right at midnight, snatch a copy, drive the 250 miles back to Hazelton for the weekend and before I went to bed at 5 o’clock in the morning, delivered that morning’s edition to our neighbors, Walter and Ruth Klein.

They lived in Hallock, Minn., for many years and faithfully read the Herald while he managed a grain elevator there.

When they moved to Hazelton, Grand Forks was too far away to get the Herald.

So imagine their surprise opening their front door on Saturday morning and the Grand Forks Herald was at their doorstep.

The Kleins were elderly when I knew them and they often talked favorably about the Herald, so I made sure I delivered it to them.

When I worked at the Cavalier County Republican in Langdon in the late ‘90s, the post office removed a sorting station in Devils Lake to be more cost effective. All mail on Friday and Saturday was routed through Fargo before coming back to Devils Lake to be distributed.

That meant delays in the Republican reaching its destination outside of Langdon.

We had a number of subscribers in Nekoma, 13 miles south of Langdon. And because the paper was printed Friday in Grafton, it was always sent to the regional post office in Devils Lake from Langdon.

With the new routing system, it passed through Devils Lake,  then went to Fargo, then back to Devils Lake and finally to Nekoma, 366 miles instead of 13. How in the world could that be timely or cost effective?

I realized the problem through  high school football. I wrote articles about the Langdon football team and discovered Nekoma readers were getting their most recent newspaper after another football game had been played. That made my reporting completely irrelevant  and that wasn’t acceptable.

To solve that problem,  each week I drove 60 copies of the Republican to the Nekoma post office so people could read their newspaper on the day it was published, instead of three or four days after the publish date, which is what happened with the new routing system.

So instead of paying the post office extra to delay delivery of the Republican, some of that money went into my gas tank and delivery was on time and consistent.

Now, we are faced with a similar situation at The Kenmare News. Postal truck routes have been cut and now, if the paper isn’t at the Minot post office by 6 p.m. on Tuesday, it waits another day to get sent to the Bismarck sorting center before coming back.

That’s why I have a hard time understanding why the Minot post office decided, without letting anyone know, they were cutting a nightly route to Bismarck.

It makes no sense, it defies logic and there isn’t a snowball’s chance in Tucson that it can be cost effective. That postal service decision sure blew the customer service boat out of the water.

It’s frustrating having to be dependent on another business like newspapers are with the postal service. It’s getting to a point in which we are going to have to start searching hard for alternatives.