Look, I’m just as environmentally aware as the next person, and I appreciate the convenience of electronic communications. Killing fewer trees to make paper, not adding to the landfills, I get it.

But nothing beats opening the mailbox to find a personal note, or a birthday card, or even that rare Valentine. I’ve been going through old desk drawers and finding some treasures: The news is old, the birthday has long since passed, but someone took the time to put pen to paper, to address an envelope and lick a stamp, and the post office delivered it safely to my door.

Lately, however, I’m convinced that the U.S. Postal Service, at least in my community, is imploding. And I have very little sympathy. The service here has become so pathetic that I’m reconsidering the value of what once had been the most reliable-and cheapest- delivery system in the world.

Where I live, it’s not unusual to receive a neighbor’s mail. In fact, we get to know each other by redelivering letters. Bills? Several of mine have been delivered to a neighbor who’s a snowbird and whose daughter checks on the house every few weeks. Try explaining that when your payment is overdue.

A few weeks ago I received a note stating that a package could not be delivered, and it required my going to the post office to pick it up. I took time out of my day to drive there, to stand in line and to wait for someone to find it-and it turned out to be something I receive every month. Clearly printed label. No postage due. I asked why it couldn’t be delivered, and I received, in response, a shrug. So I asked again, and was told, “We have new carriers.”

No wonder the postal service is in trouble.

So if you’d like to go out of business, take a few tips from my local post office. You’re bound to lose customers.

  • Provide poor service
    Deliver to wrong address. Repeat ad nauseum. When asked why this keeps happening, shrug.
  • Consider rules and regulations more important than your customer
    When there are eight or nine people in line and it’s time for your break, by all means, take your break. The employee handbook says you can.
  • Skip the training
    It’s an easy job, right? The new guy will figure it out. Your customer will figure it out, too.
  • Make excuses
    “We have new carriers.” Can they read? “Of course.” “Then why can’t they deliver to the correct address?” “Um, we have new carriers.”
  • Ignore customer complaints
    Do not respond to repeated queries. Pretend you didn’t receive the letter/phone call/ e-mail, and your customer will go away.
  • Complain bitterly-and publicly-about your troubles
    Misery loves company, right? But your customer really doesn’t want to hear how hard your job is.
  • Increase your prices-but don’t improve
    Justify a cost increase by saying, “We’ve been cheap for a long time.” And your quality of service reflects that.
  • Ignore the competition
    When you’ve lost business to folks who can do your job better, complain and raise your prices. See above.

The formula is tried and true. Just ask my neighbors.