I used to be a fan of the post office.  On a Junior School trip we were taken to see how the main post office in my home town worked.  Even this length of time afterwards I remember being ushered into a basement and the excitement of seeing tens of thousands of letters whizzing through machines being sorted and franked.  When I was a student, back in the early eighties (we're talking 1980s, by the way, not my age) I saw another aspect of the post office when I became a temporary Christmas postman.  THAT was hard work!

Such 'back stage' views created a fondness for the post office which has lasted up until very recently.

Unfortunately the post office itself has killed the respect I've had for it for decades.

I'll give give you an example.  On 3 April a regular customer ordered one of our books.  We sent it out the same day.  On 3 June the book was returned to us, still with its original paperwork.  The recipient's UK address was correct.  The postage was correct.  Why then did it come back?

We went to our local post office and politely pointed out the problem.  The girl behind the counter said 'well, it's not my fault'.  That was probably true, but she was representing the firm, so the response could perhaps have been a little more constructive.

We were given a complaint form.  It's one of the best 'fob off' forms I've ever seen.  The whole form is arranged to make it difficult to claim for damaged or lost items.  The post office is only interested in posted items which are tracked or registered, and not interested if the package went into the ordinary mail, as most of ours do - postage is expensive enough without paying extra for a tracking system which is often less than useful.  And they won't refund the postage at all, merely the cost of the item.  This effectively means that they are taking money for a service they themselves have acknowledged (by the compensation payment) they have not provided.

I didn't bother to fill in the form.  It would have taken far too long to wade through the officious stonewalling with far too little recompense at the end of it.  And I had a customer to pacify who had been waiting two months for a book he'd ordered and paid for, and which we thought he'd received.  As it happens he was extremely patient and understanding (thank you John).

Yet wouldn't it be in the post office's interest to learn where their own systems might be going wrong?  I wasn't actually interested in being compensated, but I did want some reassurance that this sort of inexcusable delay wouldn't happen again.  In other words I wanted to be reassured that they could and would do the job for which I'm paying them.  The monetary cost to us in this instance was relatively small, but the possible loss of good will could have been serious - he was a regular customer who had been badly let down.

And don't get me started on letters taking ten days to go twenty miles, birthday cards taking three weeks to arrive (or, when I've allowed three weeks, two days thus making me look foolish).  I'd be boring if I rambled on about parcels arriving soaked because they've obviously been standing in a puddle, or letters and cards folded in half to be shoved through the letterbox and thereby damaged (that wouldn't have been tolerated in my day).

Recently the post office (lack of) service has forced us into researching couriers to send many of our packages.

I used to be a fan of the post office.


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