Hope and Kenneth Lovell of New Carrollton got married on Jan. 13, which is also this column's anniversary. They have been District Liners as long as there has been a District Line.
There aren't too many of us "founders" left any more.Gretchen Hood, God bless her, found everlasting peace a few days ago, and the ranks are thinning rapidly.
Mrs. Powell chose to go through all these years without sending me and item for the column, but this week she finally broke her silence. She had just received a note from her Washington Post carriers, and wanted to share it with me. The note said:
"We are your paperboys. We deliver The Washington Post each and every morning. We try to get the paper to you by 6:30 a.m. on weekdays and by 7 a.m. on weekends. When it rains, most of the time we will have your paper in a plastic bag. Customers, if you do not get your paper in the morning, please call either of us at the following number." The names John Kucyk and Jay Boyer were signed, with a phone number for each.
"I can attest that they have delivered the goods as advertised," Hope writes. "They have provided the best service we have had in the metropolitan area."
As one who has invested his money as well as decades of his life in this newspaper, I am grateful to John and Jay. They are helping me prosper, and I hope that when they are old enough to rise in our organization they, too, will be rewarded for their awareness that service to the customer is the name of the game.
Unfortunately, the good news about John and Jay was quickly obliterated by a letter from a carrier's mother. "If any portion of my letter is printed," she wrote, "please do not use our name or tell where we live. Things are tough enough for my son already.
"My son is a Washington Post carrier. He is out working every morning when most of his customers are still in dreamland. Seven mornings a week, he trudges through snow, torrential downpours, heat or whatever comes our way - sometimes when he's really too sick to get out of bed. Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, they're all the same to him. He has a responsibility to get his papers delivered, seven days a week. And he meets that responsibility - dependably and on time.
"But every four weeks it is also my son's responsibility to collect for the papers he had delivered and, from this money, to pay his route manager. What's left is my son's 'salary' for his work. However, when my son goes out to collect he is often told to 'come back' - sometimes as many as five or six times, even by people who owe only $2.40 for Sunday-only delivery. Some people -visible from the outside - don't bother to answer the door if they know it's just the paper boy.'
"Is this fair? Is this the decent way to treat a young man who works so hard to serve?
"What would the route manager say if my son asked him to 'come back' six times for payment of what is due? I have on several occasions paid the route manager's bill from my own funds because my son had not yet collected enough to meet his obligations.
"Many people who fail to pay their bills on time, or who move away and fail to pay at all, think they're cheating a rich corporation so it doesn't make any difference. They don't realize that anything they fail to pay is the carrier's personal loss.
"The carrier is an independent businessman. He buys at wholesale, sells his product and his service at retail, and hopes that the difference between what he pays and what he collects will give him a decent reward for his work. Those who tell the carrier to 'come back another day' would be the first to complain if he told them he'd deliver today's paper some other day. Bill, please ask your readers to play fair."
I have a financial interest in this matter, so I guess I ought to refrain from comment. Perhaps you'll forgive me if I do make one suggestion, however: Put yourself in the carrier's shoe and be as concerned about his needs as he is about yours.