One of those inherent problems with government services
My mother-in-law left some books and papers at our house while visiting this past month, so this week I went to have them mailed back. The USPS has a cheaper rate for shipping any kind of media (be it books, papers, DVDs, old cassette tapes, etc.) so I told the nice man at the post office I wanted to ship it Media Mail. He cheerfully agreed to do so, but let me know about USPS’s new policy on Media Mail packages: they will be opening them up and carefully inspecting the contents.
I should note that these inspections will not be done out of a fear for public safety. They are not looking for bombs, or anthrax, or contraband. Because the rate for media is cheaper, some people tell the post office the packages they are shipping content is media when it isn’t. They way they decided to combat this, I guess, was to hire people to open up our sealed packages, rifle around and see what was inside, and then tape them back up again. Of all the choices they might have considered, including asking themselves why they even cared if that half-pound shoe box you are sending to your brother contained a few old Michael Creighton books or some new Air-Jordans, this was the one they came up with.
I asked the nice man at the post office if they didn’t think people would be really, really put off when they found out strangers were going to be going through their stuff, some of which might well have extremely personal and/or confidential information. No, he told me, the post office was sure that when people learned that some bad apples were cheating the system, everyone would be happy to have their packages gone through.