post office

Is it me?

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I was known in the office at one time as ‘Dr Doom’ – I had a rather negative approach to things apparently! That was a while ago and hopefully my outlook has changed in recent years….

There is one thing that still concerns me though – I do seem to find myself complaining rather a lot when dealing with people in this country. This has made me question myself – is it me or is service and customer care something that is sadly lacking in the UK now or do I expect too much of people?

20130823-160656.jpgMy recent run in with the Royal Mail is a classic case – I eventually got to speak to a manager, who to be fair was polite and tried to be helpful. His intervention didn’t produce my lost package, but at least he tried. I did have to chase him a couple of times, and he didn’t return calls that he had promised to do (not good in my books) – but he was at least helpful and polite.

Contrast that with the staff below him who were the day to day face of the sorting office – they really got quite defensive and in some cases abrupt and rude when challenged about a lost package. They obviously had no idea about how to deal with an issue – and the end feeling they gave was one of just not caring about their customers!

Now, that may or may not be the case – they would no doubt blame ‘the management’ and probably visa versa (that is a British disease) – but why do so many people in this country have no pride or interest in their work or company?

When I was a kid my parents always used to say that ‘good manners cost nothing’ – it annoyed me as a child, but how right they were. I know I have been ‘banging on’ recently about the USA and the way they treat customers, but we really do need to look closely at ourselves as a country – we really don’t come over as very nice people in my view!

A somewhat pointless system?

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I am enduring the joys of delivery companies at the moment – I have already blogged about the joy that is the Royal Mail. My package is still missing from them, although we now have ‘management’ involved in the search – I hold out little hope of seeing it again (and they don’t appear worried so I won’t use them again unless I have no option).

20130818-094353.jpgI did however receive a package from Yodel last week – it appeared at the second attempt so I suppose I should be grateful – and I am – but there is a problem….

The card they left after the first delivery attempt offers the ability to arrange collection from the depot – you can do it on-line – so I did, and all appeared efficient and easy. Except the parcel was delivered the next day!

Now it wasn’t clear on-line that this was the same parcel, so I needed to speak to someone. Now I am all for computer based systems if they work, but in this case it took me two calls to realise that the number on the card wouldn’t actually get me through to a human (and it’s an 0800 number so it isn’t free – unless you use this app). After some Googling I found a customer service number (0800 again – so I used the app) and spoke to a very helpful lady (well done). She confirmed that it was the parcel that I had arranged to collect that was delivered today. So all appears good, but there is an issue here.

The helpful lady informed me that the parcel would have stayed with the driver in his van for the 3 days that they try to deliver over – so when the online system suggested I could pick up the package at Loughborough from the Friday (day 3 of the delivery attempt) it was basically lying!

It appears that the online system is not actually ‘joined up’ with the delivery drivers – not helpful! I potentially would have made a wasted journey to Loughborough as the system also doesn’t update you to say the parcel has actually been delivered (even though they take your phone number)

And in case you are thinking I am a ‘bit dim’ as surely I would know if the package had been delivered – the reference on the package is different from the card – so it really isn’t obvious!

The good….. and the (very) bad

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It never ceases to amaze me how a visit to a foreign land can allow you to judge what you have (or don’t) in the way of services at home. My recent visit to the USA has provided one such moment of enlightenment…

20130818-093812.jpgWhile in Florida we needed to use the United States Postal Service – on the face of it a much less ‘obvious’ service to the one we have in the UK (split between Royal Mail and Post Office) – but a service covering the entire 50 States of America. Finding a post office wasn’t as easy as it is in the UK – they tend to be larger and fewer in number and designed for vehicle access. But, once inside we couldn’t have found them more helpful or polite. My son was looking to send some things to California with a self addressed envelope for their return back to the UK.

This wouldn’t be that straight forward to achieve in a UK post office, but for a foreigner in a US post office it was very daunting to say the least. The counter staff were however unbelievably helpful, and patient. We also had to fill in a customs form and they helped with that as well. While this was going on the queue in the post office was building, but no one had a problem – least of all the staff.

Contrast this with my recent Royal Mail and Post Office experiences in the UK;

1. Posting a package to my brother from the local post office. The staff were almost totally silent, the task was achieved swiftly, but with almost no eye contact or comment! – I felt as if I was ‘in the way’.

2. Collecting a package from the sorting office at Incinerator Road in Nottingham (with a ‘you were out’ card that had been left at my house 3 days before) – guess what – it wasn’t there, despite the card saying wait 24 hours. The staff informed me that this ‘wasn’t unusual’, but that the system was due to be changed which would make it ‘better’.

It is now 7 days since the card was left and the package still hasn’t appeared (although I have visited numerous times and they do have my number….) – I get the feeling the staff aren’t concerned – or is it that they don’t care? Consequently I now have no faith in the UK mail system – something that I find very sad for what was once a central part of the fabric of British society – but is now more of a joke.

What ever happened to customer care and service from the Royal Mail – can they really expect people to invest in them if they are privatised? Perhaps the US Postal Service could take them over and teach them a few basic lessons in customer care……

We are all working harder – well most of us….

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The general theme that comes across when I talk to people in business is that we all appear to be working harder than ever (generally for lower fees), this is not a complaint (that comes later) – it is a fact of life. The economy is in a bad way so we have to ‘dig in’ and work through it, or at least most of us do – but not it seems the Royal Mail…..

courtesy of Viz...
courtesy of Viz…

I will admit to not being one of the Royal Mails biggest fans, I have blogged various times before about them and can’t recall any of them being positive, and this one isn’t either!

I accept that if I am not in the Royal Mail can’t deliver packages to me, and I have asked them not to deliver them to my 85 year old neighbour. Previously the card left asks me to wait 24 hours for the package to return to the sorting office – around 2 miles away. That is fine, I really don’t have an issue with this.

However, it now appears that it takes 48 hours to do this – why?

All I can assume is that the package is placed back into the Royal Mails own post – as we all know everything (even first class post) takes at least 48 hours these days……

One of my least favourite place!

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Last week I had to visit one of my least favourite places in Nottingham – the post office sorting office on Clarke Rd – it is always a pleasure and something that I save up for ‘special occasions’ (not). This time it was especially exciting for two reasons;

Firstly I saw @harters34 (who was also collecting a package, he was aware of my ‘issue’ and asked when I would be doing this blog – and I don’t like disappointing people😄).

20130126-132141.jpgSecondly I was collecting the iPad mini case my son had ordered from the USA. Delivery had been fairly protracted (a few weeks) so he was keen to get hold of it to protect his pride and joy. The package had however attracted the attention of the UK Customs, any package is due to pay VAT on its value if it comes into the UK from outside of the EU – and it appears customs are particularly keen on US mail.

So there was 20% to pay – around £4 on the cost of the item (which is very cool and not available in the UK). I don’t have an issue with this, tax is tax, and we all have to pay it (well those of us who play by the rules).

What I do have an issue with is the Post Offices approach to collecting this tax on behalf of the revenue. It is done on a flat fee basis of £8, so in this case a rate of 200%!

So if I had imported a higher value item for let’s say £500 I would be due to pay £100 VAT and the collecting fee would still be £8 – or 8% – rather than the 200% paid in my case.

Surely there is something wrong here?

How the Post Office makes money

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I have now worked out what the Royal Mails plan is to pull it out of the state it currently finds itself in. It appears that their delivery quota is diminishing, they want to abandon your mail at your neighbours, and now it appears that they are charging exorbitant amounts for collecting VAT on imported goods!

Let me explain;

20120920-190957.jpgMy daughter has recently become the proud owner of a MacBook Pro, a lovely machine, but one that needs protecting whilst away from home. A case was required – not a straightforward matter it appears if you are 18 and like things to be a bit different! Consequently the case of choice was ordered from the USA. This is not a problem normally, in fact quite often deliveries from the US arrive quicker than UK ones!

No, the issue here was that the package required the payment of VAT on the purchase price, a service that the Royal Mail now appear to provide. However, the VAT sum that needed collecting was £4.42, not a huge amount, but, the “handling fee” taken by the Royal Mail at their sorting office (in cash only – no cards), was £8! – total £12.42!

Now I am happy to pay them a fee for collecting on behalf of the Inland Revenue – but twice the sum collected, that is really taking the mickey! Not a huge amount of “handling” involved as far as I can see!

So once again the Royal Mail have endeared themselves to me even more!

Another ‘winner’ from Royal Mail – the delivery to neighbour service!

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20120903-191002.jpgI received a card through my door from Royal Mail last week, not the usual ‘you weren’t in’ card that I love so much, but one relating to that service. Now correct me if I am wrong, but the Post Office is supposed to be a trustworthy service – part of the backbone of British Society. If you can’t trust your postman, who can you trust – or words to that effect.

I have been noting a decline in the post office over the last few years and have blogged to that effect on many occasions. Most recently it related to the failure to deliver a package and then losing it at the sorting office when I went to claim it! So, anything purporting to improve this service is a good thing in my opinion. This however is nothing of the sort…..

Their proposal – the delivery to neighbour service – is to get your agreement to allow the postman to leave your package with any of your neighbours if you aren’t in. Now in my view this allows the post office to side step one of their main responsibilities, and something we pay for – ensuring the post gets to the correct address. As a scheme it also has various large holes in it and appears poorly thought out;

  • You can’t state which neighbour to be used.
  • You can’t ask them to avoid troubling an old neighbour – we have one who is in her late 80’s
  • There is an option to opt out – but to do this you have to put up a sticker (they provide) which might as well say ‘I don’t trust my neighbours’!

We are forced to opt out due to the age of our neighbour, it would be wrong to have her disturbed for our post. I cannot believe we are alone in this and find it amazing that this hasn’t occured to the Post Office when they came up with this daft scheme. I believe this is yet another step towards the demise of our postal system as there is now no way of guaranteeing the delivery of ‘normal’ mail once this system starts.

If I was cynical I might think that they are just trying to force us to use the more expensive premium services that guarantee delivery? If so the couriers will step in and out price them.

Time for a re-think Royal Mail?