The Peoples’ Post Office – NOT!

Earlier today, well 1749 hours to be precise (from the receipt) I had the unfortunate reason to visit a branch of the Post Office, London for my partner Alex. It was a case of necessity, rather than choice.

For a while now, I have been quite saddened at the expressed demise of this once Great British institution. I never thought I’d see myself write these words, but I can only see privatisation as the way forward for the Peoples’ Post Office and the sooner, the better!

My experience today was that which was similar to many of them I have had at branches of the ‘poey’ (as we say in Liverpool), as over the last 6 months for one reason or another, I’ve spent a lot of time throughout the UK at them for work. I’m not even a Postman or Post-person as we say now! At the branch today, I joined the queue and waited along with everybody else. My fashion sense however, had gone out the window a little bit. I had sandals on with jeans, yes ’sandals’ and I’ve not even been to Glastonbury. I was in a bit of a rush.

Having queued for a long time (like always) with my life passing me by, I got to the front and went to the counter as directed by that annoying automated voice you hear in every branch “Please go to counter..”. I approached the counter and the male member of staff said ’special delivery’. I was like, ‘what’? He said he was only doing special delivery. The automated voice didn’t say that. I heard people in the queue behind me say he was mumbling something, the bloke behind the counter that is, not the automated machine. This male member of staff was ‘trying’ to tell customers in the queue he was only doing special delivery before the last post. This is whilst he was sat ‘behind’ a sound-proof, bullet-proof reinforced screen!

Back to the queue I went, as I didn’t have anything special to deliver. I just had post for the Post Office, the core business it used to do. I got to the second counter after being directed once again and tried to explained to the female member of staff behind this screen that I wanted to send one of my A4 letters by ‘normal’ post .i.e. just put a stamp on it. My other A4 letter needed a signature upon arrival. I say tried to explain as whilst I was saying how I wanted the letters sent, the member of staff didn’t even acknowledge me, no eye contact. She was too busy finishing off the parcel of the person before me, so why call me forward if she wasn’t ready I ask?

This member of staff told me to place my first letter on the weighing scale and then asked me a number of questions, whilst still messing about with the previous person(s) parcel. She too hadn’t yet looked at me, I could have been 2 feet tall or wrapped in dynamite for all she knew. I was asked “do you want it going special delivery?”, I’d just had that conversation a few counters down, “do you want it guaranteed for tomorrow?” and “do you want a signature?”. If she wasn’t so rude, this woman would be amazing. She managed to ask me a series of questions without looking at me whilst dealing with a previous customer’s post. Oh, but just the small thing of NOT listening to me.

I said to her (again) “this one, just normal post please”. Now, I’d already started to lose my patience but to top it off whilst printing my post label she decided to call the branch cleaner over and have a conversation with him whilst serving me, about litter. I felt the ‘little’ blood vessels in my head rising… It wasn’t enough that the male cleaner stood right in front of me to talk to this female member of staff whilst I was at the counter, that her mobile phone rang at the same time and I could see her thinking ’shall I answer it?’. That was it for me, I popped…

I said to the female, “can you please serve me, so I can go, without messing with other post, talking to your colleague over me or answering your mobile phone”. The cleaner poor bloke moved away like lightning. The female member of staff told me not to speak to her like that or shout, ‘excuse me?’. That was it for me. I told her I was the customer and I wanted a simple task doing, my post posting. It was not good customer service she was giving me. The other 10 or so customers in the queue watching their own lives pass them by – now had some excitement to see them through their own queuing ordeals and I was playing a ‘major’ character!

This member of staff told me to ‘not’ tell her she couldn’t answer the mobile phone. This was embarrassing – for her. She hadn’t even dealt with the posting of my second letter yet! I said it was not the service I should be getting. For those of you who do know me, I don’t shout, I’m quite a passive person really. In my experience, her telling me ‘not to shout’ is something people say to detract attention away from themselves. Unfortunately for this lady, the spotlight had already been lit and I was determined for my character not to be killed off in the first scene!

I asked for the details of the Branch Manager, so I could voice my disappointment with him or her at a later date. I’m not one for moaning (seriously), but if we allow bad customer service, that’s all we are going to get! This is the best bit, she (the female member of staff serving me) ‘was’ the manager. My eyes rolled. I didn’t know if to laugh or cry. I thought Jeremy Beadle was going to jump out, if he were still alive that is. I’m sure I saw a customer in the queue now eating popcorn with a pair of 3D glasses, chair in-tow! I asked the manager to put her name on a piece of paper for me, she told me to write it myself. Oh, she didn’t I thought! What was I going to write it with, her blood? The nearest pen was ‘chained’ to a counter some windows away. She then threw one underneath the glass window into the tray.

I just had to tell the manager that her behaviour was unacceptable especially in front of those members of staff she ’supervises’ and I use this word loosely. I could now only see the dust off the cleaner in the distance. All eyes were on us and people in the queue were hoping for a blockbuster. The manager told me her name was ‘Dieva’ and I wrote this on the back of the proof of posting receipt she gave me, with the pen she had thrown. I’m not sure if it’s her real name or she was giving me a message? I picked up on the first 3 letters or maybe it was another way of saying ‘Diva’!

Stupidly, I asked to buy two A5 brown envelopes that I could see behind her. She was now clearly defensive. “Those are padded, do you want them?”, ‘No’ I said, just non-padded A5 envelopes. “Well we don’t do A5 in brown, we only do A5 in white”. This woman was cut-throat. “Listen” I said, it doesn’t matter to me if the envelope is brown or white, I just want an A5 envelope ‘without’ padding. She was trying to be smart, but she failed to see I don’t discriminate against envelopes.

Not believing the non-customer service I had just had and more worrying that she ‘was’ the branch manager, off I went with the vision of her face in my head and the prompt for a blog. The rest as they say is history.. seriously, this was ‘bad’ customer service. I don’t mind ‘not the best customer service’, but at least give me some. And your mobile phone, go in the back – don’t wind customers up using it whilst their aging in the queue. I know it’s ‘good to talk’, but do it somewhere else, have a little courtesy. I know she’ll say it was Post Office business and I’m Dame Edna (first name that came to me, is this a sign?).

It was only the other day that I tweeted another example of the Post Office incompetence.. I was standing behind a lady at another London branch who was not happy with the Post Office and Royal Mail and was vocally letting them know, albeit via the counter assistant. By the way, there was about four members of staff behind the screens and only two counters open, one of them being a Bureau De Change with no customers! This lady had returned to the branch with a parcel in tow. It was the same parcel she had ‘posted’ to her friend, the previous day. Royal Mail via the Post Office (they are part of the same group of companies remember) had decided to ‘post back’ this parcel to the sender, the lady in front of me. To say she was not impressed and fuming would be an understatement. I wanted to tap her on the shoulder and say ‘what did you expect?’, but I didn’t.

As I’ve said, I’ve spent hours in many branches of the Post Office including Manchester and London and I’m yet to see any form of good customer service. Don’t worry, I’m not a post-spotter. I’m yet to visit a branch in the other parts of the mainland UK, namely Scotland and Wales to check out their service, but I’m guessing if the English Post Office doesn’t pull its socks up or more so put them on, I will be soon joining their queues unless I’m given an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) by the Post Office not to send mail!

I don’t know if it’s just me, but the Post Office appears ‘badly’ run, standing for an hour like I have recently to post a parcel can’t be the way forward for sure, forgetting the bad customer service. I mean it is 2010 after all and we’re a ‘leading’ nation in communications – supposedly. I can see why the Post Office and Royal Mail have competition from independents. Like I said, I used to think nationalisation of the mail was good and important for the Country, but it just doesn’t work.

The Post Office and it’s mother ship Royal Mail have become so complacent and the operation of them from my experience as a customer, is a sham. I will try to avoid going to the Post Office if I can, but sometimes you cannot. It is the national postal service after all. Maybe I could pop to Ireland when I need to send mail, it might actually be easier, cheaper and quicker! Another thought, why are there always enough counters at the Post Office, but not enough staff! Are they playing with our minds? It doesn’t seem to matter which time of the day you go, as I have tried different times often and most branches, if you haven’t guessed.

Finally, the Post Office has drained me for today, so I’m off for a coffee with extra sugar and a rest. Alex says that the lady who served me today has probably set fire to the mail she took off me or something worst. Is there worse? So, if you’re expecting a letter from us (especially you utility companies) and you don’t get it, blame the Post Office and if you do get a letter that’s wet or dirty (in any way), make sure you put gloves on before you open it, you never know!

This has not been a moan, but just another ‘View from the Bottom’ on the state of Britain’s Public Services today, Max.

As always, to ensure transparency I have sent a copy of my blog to Customer Services at the Post Office (that’s what they call it anyway!).

© 2010 Kevin Maxwell Media & Performance – Published by My Mum