Steve Adams shows off the collection of ties he has built over the last 10 years. Adams, a window clerk at the Soldotna Post Office, has built a reputation in the community for wearing colorful ties at work. Hw was told to stop wearing them because they violate the postal service dress code.
Photo by Mark Quiner
As people waited in line at the Soldotna Post Office on Thursday, there was a little more blue in the atmosphere and less other color.
Steve Adams, a window clerk at the Soldotna Post Office, was wearing a blue tie. This has not always been the case. In the 10 years he has worked for the U.S. Postal Service, Adams has built a repertoire of colorful, if not always coordinating, ties that he wore to work which he says delights the people he serves. Then one day recently, he was told to stop wearing them because they violated dress code.
Adams is not happy about it. He said the community is not happy about it, either.
"There's a huge uproar in Soldotna," Adams said standing in front of his home Thursday evening. "This is much more than a tie it's community flavor. What's the big deal?"
He said he loves his job and the ties just made it even more fun for him and postal service customers.
"People are talking to me about picket lines in front of the Soldotna Post Office," he said.
Of course, he said, he would never advocate for picketers.
Margaret Merrill, postmaster for the Soldotna Post Office, said his ties did not follow uniform requirements and she is simply enforcing the rules. In the five years Merrill has been postmaster, she said she has considered telling him to follow the dress code.
"He has been informed that sooner or later he is going to have to conform. It's later," she said in a telephone interview. She added that the move was not because of customer complaints.
Merrill would not specify if the order to stop wearing the ties came from her or from a person higher up in the postal service.
However, Adams said he suspects his new order is the result of the Mystery Shopper program. Mystery Shopper is a program where businesses, like grocery stores or the postal service, hires a company to act as a shopper to assess the quality of service. It is a nationwide program.
Merrill declined to answer any questions about this program or if this was the reason Adams was asked to only wear regulation ties.
Picket line or not, the move has generated some discussion around the community through letters to Adams, Merrill and the Clarion editorial page.
For example, Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, who also is known for colorful and sometimes goofy ties, wrote Adams a letter expressing his appreciation for the ties. Carey said he and Adams have always had a competition over their ties and Carey acknowledges that Adams has always won.
"In an age in which many bureaucrats try to make humans into robots, your care for customers is a most pleasant experience. While people are waiting in line to pick up packages, your ties are always uplifting," Carey wrote.
He said he has a list of people who are very unhappy about the situation and has received numerous telephone calls regarding this. In fact, the Postmaster General and CEO Jack Potter will be in town next week for the Kenai River Classic. Carey said he is planning on having a polite conversation with Potter expressing the concerns of local citizens on this matter.
"Steve is a wonderful addition to our community," Carey said.
Merrill acknowledged she has received feedback regarding the decision some from those who miss the ties but also some from people who are tired of hearing about them.
As for Adams, he said he understands that rules need to be enforced. If he was a new employee, he said he would have no problem following the regulations. But because he has been doing it for so long, "I should be the exception," he said.
Adams has not always had a fixation with ties, although it would not be obvious to somebody who visited his home.
These days, his living room is decorated with more than 100 ties displayed on racks on the walls. However, in the beginning Adams said he started off wearing a plain tie to work. One day, he forgot it. Seeing a tie with postage stamps printed on it for sale, he bought it so he could have something to wear, he said. Over the years, it just escalated into a fun thing, he said.
Now he is back to wearing a plain blue tie with the Postal Service logo of an eagle on it. But Adams said people have not forgotten about it. For example, the other day he returned from break and found a new tie waiting for him on the counter. Plus, he still has a license plate on his truck that says "TIE GUY".
"Maybe I need to change my license plate to X-TIEGUY," Adams said.
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