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Friday, 9 October 2009

Why Postman Pat Has Fallen Flat

Perhaps I should not be penning this piece as my lovely next-door neighbours have senior positions at the Royal Mail  Delivery Office in Wellington Street, Bury.

Indeed, Brian and I know probably better than many other people just what early and lengthy hours post-people keep. It was in the early hours of an horrendous day about 20 years ago that the sharp-eyed postie spotted our car being stolen while on his way to work. It turned up at Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast some days later, complete with a jemmy hidden in the boot. But that is the stuff of another tale …

However, odd hours and eccentric pay-scales aside, I wonder if people working in the public sector realise just how much bored and sullen resentment they cause with regular strikes?

I was wholly unsympathetic some weeks ago when after waiting 15 minutes for my regular bus into Bury town centre  I was forced to take a 40 minute walk there carrying a heavy bag. The day was the first of staggered strike action by bus drivers in North West Manchester but I was unaware of it as it had not been sufficiently publicised in advance.

I’m sure the exercise did me a power of good but as I was fuelled mostly by foul temper I’m not convinced that it was an entirely healthful episode.

Again, when postal workers organise a strike, I do not hear of other people warming to their cause. The result is invariably irritable dismissal of their arguments and the general view that the service is so poor that a few days without it simply prolongs the agony.

As a couple running two home-based businesses and doing some volunteer work, we have noticed how the postal service seems to be rotting away as though eaten by some insidious and un-diagnosable disease. Customers are paying far more for much less in every possible way:

It now costs almost 40p to post a basic 1st class letter. The sender is very lucky if it is received the following day while 2nd class letters may take almost a week to reach their destinations.

I always place return labels on the back of  envelopes as the Royal Mail insists that it the only way it may guarantee that it is ‘returned to sender’, should it go astray. Well boyz’n’girlz, I’ve lost count of the number of letters franked and posted back to me because the automated system isn’t clever enough to distinguish between the front and back of an an envelope. Even under-scoring my post—code in biro, as I’ve been advised, doesn’t always do the trick.

Very often – and this is very much in our favour – letters arrive with un-franked stamps. So these are carefully prized from their moorings and recycled. Whoever said that postage couldn’t become a green issue? (Hey, howzabout a ‘First Day Green Issue’ – ha, ha!).

Last year, a cheque sent to me from London took six months to arrive. Meanwhile, the relevant company had sent me another cheque and of course had had to bear the banking charge of cancelling the original.

I could go on ad nauseam but as we’re all sick to death with the subject, I’ll simply sign off for now, thanking heaven for the invention of the Internet. This ‘missive’ will reach hundreds of people within a few minutes using a simple click of a button.

I wonder how fare the US, Israeli and Indian postal systems, places where I know some of this site’s readers reside. If anyone fancies dropping me a line, I’d love to hear your views.



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