By TIM KELLY
In an age of cyber-deals, easy online shopping and other benefits, carrying packages and waiting in line at the post office might seem old-fashioned.
That’s exactly what customers seem to like about going to the Ocean City Post Office at Ninth Street and Ocean Avenue.
“I love that post office,” said Johanna Hoch, a resident at Gardens Plaza Condominium at Park Place and the Boardwalk.
“I look forward to going there. It’s a fun experience. I like the Art Deco architecture and the original brass post office boxes,” Hoch added. “What I really like are the people who work there. They’re helpful and they remember you.”
The Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce and the city named a marketing effort for its already popular Asbury Avenue and Boardwalk businesses “Old Fashioned Family Christmas.”
The local post office certainly fits into the theme and complements it.
Though technically not a business, the United States Post Office representing the 08226 zip code dovetails with the free carriage rides downtown, breakfast and photos with Santa, the Christmas tree lighting and the annual Holiday Parade, among other featured events and tourism incentives.
On Tuesday, the effort seemed to be doing a good job of luring more folks to Asbury Avenue and the Boardwalk, away from the malls and chain stores.
“I like to support local business and to keep my (holiday shopping dollars) here in town,” said Pat Garza, who lives in the Riviera section of the resort.
She said that she prefers wrapping and packing her mailed items herself rather than trusting it to an online retailer.
“Today, I sent off a package to Marlton, and I picked up a few large envelopes and packing supplies,” Garza said. “I’ll be back here when those items are ready to ship.”
Postal customer Kathleen Tully noted that Amazon and other online retailers and “Big Box” stores are convenient but impersonal.
Tully, who lives in the Gardens section of town, said, “I use Amazon for things that I bought (conventionally) and then can’t find in retail stores. I can usually find those items on Amazon for my repeat purchases. Everything else I buy locally and mail from here.”
Tully said she also enjoys buying Christmas stamps at the post office to dress up her holiday cards and letters.
Residents aren’t the only ones using the O.C. Post Office’s old-school methods to their advantage.
Savvy local businesses are doing it too, said Aimee Schultz, whose JASM Consulting company helps clients do just that.
One of them, Jilly’s, utilizes online ordering for its gift baskets, she said.
However, the baskets are personalized to fit the needs of each customer, which results in different shipping needs as well.
“The post office is great at that,” said Schultz.
She also mentioned Jon & Patty’s Coffee Bar and Bistro as a business in town that combines both high and low technology.
Schultz said the restaurant receives numerous online orders for gift cards and mails out individualized messages along with the cards.
“The post office allows them to (add value) to the gift card sales as an additional point of contact with customers,” she said.
An OCNJDaily.com reporter observed several other businesses in line Tuesday at the post office, but most were folks looking to mail packages and cards or to purchase supplies for mailing and packing holiday gifts.
Jack Devine, executive director of the Ocean City Arts Council, was mailing a card and talked about how he utilizes the post office for a gift he sends to Poland every year.
“One of the people who works there is (a native of) Poland and I enjoy speaking with her about where my package is headed,” Devine said. “It’s great because you can track the package and with the cost of postage, you receive an extremely well done (hard copy) record of what’s going to happen regarding delivery.”
A postal worker said Tuesday that employees were not permitted to do interviews when they work.
An off-duty employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the personal touch is what the postal service is hoping to capitalize on in the years ahead as technology continues to evolve.
“We have automated most of our operations as well,” the employee said. “The thing that sets us apart from the pack is that we can know our customers and sometimes anticipate their needs and help them to better meet them. People like doing business in this manner when many companies are so impersonal. It’s the old-fashioned way.”
Rita Boyle of Park Place, who also owns a home in Camden County, said there was nothing like mailing cards, letters and packages from Ocean City.
“The people here are so nice,” Boyle said. “They help you out and care about getting your packages there on time and for the least amount of cost.”