I went to the Post Office in Crystal City to mail a single letter; at that Post Office, they have two vending machines and, of course, a desk where you can get the full range of services. Seeing that the line at the desk was rather long, and figuring I really only needed to buy a single stamp, I went to the vending machines. A single first class stamp costs $0.41, and because I didn't have exact change, I inserted a dollar bill into one of the machines. I selected my stamp (Option C1) which the machine promptly ejected; however, an error reading popped up on its digital readout saying something to the effect of "no change given, error has been recorded". Mind you, this is only $0.59, but its MY 59 cents, right?
I stepped over to the counter to report the machine. A post office employee, who--at the time--was already helping a customer had another employee hand me a form to fill out. I filled out all that I could on the form, but one line indicated that I had to enter the 6 digit identification number of the machine which ate my money and that the number would be found on the front of the machine. I went back to the machine and looked all over it and found no number. I returned to the desk to inquire about the number and was hollered at by the employee who had given me the form that I had to get at the end of the line. I said that the money wasn't worth it to me and tossed them back the form.
Observations: 1. the vending machines are provided as a convenience to both the public and to the P.O. employees; i.e. they are intended to remove some of the pressures of desk traffic by providing an alternative to standing in line to buy simple items like stamps.
2. the vending machine I used had no sign on it or any other kind of indication that it was not operating properly.
3. the P.O. employees, even after I had brought the issue of "no change dispensed" to their attention did NOTHING with regard to pulling the vending machine out of service or to putting up a sign indicating the machine did not give change.
4. the P.O. employee chastised me rather rudely for trying to jump the line.
It is an insignificant amount of money. What is not insignificant is the rude manner in which the P.O. employee handled this issue. It is the P.O.'s machine which cheated me, not me trying to work a system. The employee did not bother to ascertain why I had returned to the desk before yelling at me, nor did she do anything to prevent similar problems from popping up again (probably quite soon--that post office has heavy traffic at this time of the year). I realize there was a line of customers there and that they were all patiently waiting for service. However, like a modern greek siren, the vending machine sits waiting to lure the next customer so that it can cheat him/her. I will return tomorrow to file a formal complaint, not over the issue of 59 cents--let's face it, that paltry bit of money is gone--but over basic professionalism, courtesy and service.