Caring goes both ways with Balboa Island post office worker
Next-door neighbor Pat Beek, manager of the adjacent J.P. Maxwell clothing store, visits the Balboa Island post office on a daily basis — and not just for business.
Beek has developed a warm friendship with Tiffany Nguyen, the post office clerk who runs the island location. “She’s an asset to the island, and I think she goes above and beyond,” she said. “She’s very caring, helps people fill out forms, passport applications, international package, declaration forms — and unlike some post offices, she gets to know all of us.”
“She works all day by herself, and I always go over and say good morning,” Beek said. “She’s someone you want to care about and enjoy making her day better by stopping in.”
Other local customers also take the time to stop and stick their head in to say “hello.” The camaraderie goes both ways, as customers say Tiffany’s welcoming demeanor equally brightens the day of post office patrons.
“A lot of seniors live on the island and get their exercise by going down to the post office to mail a letter or check their post office box,” said Beek, adding the social benefit. “It’s like the way people feel when you go into Starbucks, you get the same feeling when someone recognizes you.”
Tiffany Nguyen has been an employee of the Newport Beach office for 27 years and began her role at the Balboa Island station in September 2020.
“Every time I raise the flag I pray for this country,” said Nguyen, who moved to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam in 1991. “Now I have the freedom and appreciate all America. I love America, people are very kind, I wish I could hug everyone.”
“The reason I’m here is we didn’t have freedom, my mom saw that we didn’t have a chance to go to school, we had ability but no chance,” said Nguyen. “ I am very honored and appreciate this country to give me a chance to come here as a refugee.”
“She’s never been angry or frustrated and I’ve never seen her complain about how bad interactions have been with any customer,” said Beek. “She’s always smiling for all of us.”
Balboa Island residents, Balboa Island Improvement Assn. president Terry Janssen and his wife, Patti, concurred that Tiffany is always professional when handling complaints, such as the ongoing issue of reduced lobby hours as a result of vandalism.
The Janssens, who also have a post office box, are part of the local community affected by the inconvenience. “Tiffany is lovely, and I feel bad for her, she doesn’t make that decision, and she’s taking the brunt of it,” said Patti Janssen, who has observed Nguyen dealing with customers. “She’s the fall guy, which is really unfair, and I’ve told her this no reflection on you, whenever I bring it up.”
There’s no question the limited hours between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. have caused hardships for everyone who depends on the Balboa Island location.
The Janssens and other residents have called the postmaster but have received no follow through or resolution.
“Every day customers are really mad, and I try to calm them down,” explained Nguyen. “I tell them I don’t have the authority to do that and give them the postmaster number to call.” Last June she asked the postmaster to allow her to open the lobby on a Saturday so she could help her customers, but Monday morning when she arrived a box had been opened and contents stolen. To date Nguyen has reported four break-ins at the location.
Nguyen said she loves working on the island. “The people are very nice, and I want to help the older ones who have trouble with addresses, so I look up for them,” she said. She’ll even track down customers who have left wallets behind. “It’s a very good town and customers who don’t need anything want to come and say, ‘hi.’”
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