To a tea

As I walk into Valley Brook Tea to check in with owner Yunhan Zhang on a spring day brimming with the energy of a city waking up from its pandemic doldrums, I can’t help but smile at the message written on a sidewalk promotional sign:

“Be friends and get oolong.”

I’m Jonathan Padget, and the wordplay appeals to the writer in me. More importantly, though, it encapsulates the kindness and determination Zhang has shown since he opened his doors on Valentine’s Day 2020 on the block where I live in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood.

It hasn’t been easy for Zhang to persevere, but he’s still here, thanks in part to a recent shipping deal worth over $91,000 for the Postal Service.

Last year, when Zhang faced citywide pandemic business closures within a month, he focused on online sales for his Chinese family’s teamaking company.

Eventually he was allowed to reopen, at reduced capacity, but much of the foot traffic on the block had disappeared — without tourists in nearby hotels and with residents hunkered down at home.

Even more discouraging, by year’s end, he had shipping difficulties in the mix as well.

As a member of the Link team at postal headquarters, I knew from weekly stories that employees could make a difference for USPS and local businesses through lead generation programs.

That’s why I used Submit a Lead — the option for employees who aren’t eligible for Business Connect, Clerks Care, Customer Connect, Mail Handlers and Rural Reach — to pass on a sales tip.

Maryland District Business Development Specialist Andrea Burrows and Senior Field Sales Representative Jarvis Johnson followed up with Zhang, ultimately closing a deal that represents $91,680 in new estimated annualized revenue for the Postal Service.

“The referral worked out very well for us,” Zhang tells me during my latest visit. “I can see all of my shipments in one place, and it’s a convenient way to manage our shipping needs.”

He’s happy, too, to have his monthly fee waived because of the USPS referral, and to be getting more affordable rates for heavier packages.

“This is very important for an individual small business like us,” he says.

Lou DeRienzo, small-business senior sales specialist at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC, says Zhang’s success demonstrates the value of the employee lead programs.

“Our employees — in every role throughout the organization from coast to coast — know their communities and are eager to help their neighborhood businesses thrive with help from the Postal Service,” he says.

Zhang reports that foot traffic is increasing, giving him hope that the darkest days for Valley Brook Tea are behind him.

He anticipates continued online growth, and his eyes sparkle as he shares ideas — such as YouTube videos about using traditional teaware, live-streaming content about tea, perhaps even riffing on TED Talks with a series of “Tea Talks” — that will build a devoted customer base.

I’m thankful that Zhang is my neighbor, that he’s made it this far in trying times, and that Submit a Lead helped his business.

I believe in the Postal Service’s role to bind the nation, and I see that happening when Valley Brook Tea gets community support and encouragement to prosper.

“Be friends and get oolong,” indeed.

The sharper image

Appearances aren’t everything, but a polished look can help burnish the image of both you and the Postal Service.

Rosemary Onody, South Creek Station manager in Orlando, FL, is a case in point. Onody knew she wanted to be in management when she started as a letter carrier 26 years ago and made sure to project a shipshape image.

“I used to take a lot of pride when I wore my uniform, which was always nicely pressed, pleated and clean because we are representing the Postal Service as a whole,” she said.

Now that she’s reached her goal, keeping up appearances is just as important, in her view.

“When I walk through those doors, employees acknowledge me. I’m the manager of the office. I must set the tone and expectations for everyone to follow. Being dressed professionally goes a long way.”

According to Salary.com, 55 percent of workplaces have a dress code of some sort. This includes the Postal Service, whose standards are outlined in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual.

USPS also offers Postal Uniform Guidelines, a pictorial guidebook that managers and supervisors can use to help ensure employees always wear their uniforms properly.

“When a customer sees you, they should be able to identify you as the person they need to talk to. You look the part; you dress the part,” said Keith Perry, customer services manager at Orlando’s Sand Lake Station.

“You always want to distinguish yourself, and dressing the part makes you easily recognizable to customers,” said Perry, a retired Marine who has been with USPS for 22 years.

“You only have one time to make a first impression.”

Job fair

Retail and Delivery Operations will hold a virtual job fair on July 27.

There will be a morning session at 11 a.m. EDT and an afternoon session at 3 p.m. EDT.

The fair will allow Postal Service employees to explore retail and delivery career opportunities as the organization continues to align itself to achieve the goals of its new 10-year plan, Delivering for America.

During the fair, employees can watch video presentations from the Retail and Delivery Operations team on job opportunities within the organization. There will also be two interactive sessions where employees can speak with Retail and Delivery Operations executives.

“The new plan creates opportunity for change and growth. We have openings that will offer new career paths for employees in the Postal Service to do both,” said Joshua D. Colin, acting chief retail and delivery officer. “We are excited about this new chapter for the organization and those who want to join us.”

Retail and Delivery Operations has almost 463,000 employees and oversees more than 34,000 retail sites and a fleet of roughly 230,000 vehicles.

The virtual job fair’s website has more information. Employees must be logged into the USPS network to view the site.