Saturday, 12 March 2011

customer service - the post office

For three weeks now I have been trying to post a parcel. Travelling umpteen miles across the UK hasn't helped but neither has the lack of post office facilities. Which still apparently close on Wednesday afternoons [who can keep those kind of hours?] and stop doing any actual post office type work at random times like 4pm, the only times I actually had free last week. So, this morning I got up earlier than I usually do on a Saturday to catch the post office down the road because it shuts at 11.30am - go figure], housed as part of the local co-op.

I needed something to post the birthday present to my sister in - nowadays unless you go to an out-of-town Staples or big supermarket it is quite a challenge to track down items like brown paper or the larger size of jiffy bag. Train stations [which I spend a scary amount of time in] used to often have post boxes and stationery shops that sold postage items beyond stamps. Not Euston's WH Smith, though, I discovered.

Anyway, I had my presents wrapped and strolled down the road. I perused the stationery section and saw one large size of build-it-yourself box. I asked the post office woman if she had any smaller boxes - no. I showed her what I was sending and asked if there was anything that suited - again, no.

So I had to choose between a flimsy, tiny envelope you could spit through or a massive box that ran the risk of ramping up my sister's expectations as to the size of her gift. So I decided to go with the box and asked how much it was. I was told I had to go and purchase at the co-op till and then come back to pay for the postage. I thought this was a bit daft but couldn't be bothered arguing.

I paid for my oversized box, went back to the post office bit of the shop and spent a good five minutes figuring out how to get the box from flat to box-shaped while Ms Post Office looked on through the plexi glass. Finally I managed it [thanks for the help there] and filled it about a quarter full [sorry Alice!] and started to fill out the address section.

As I did so, another customer came up and asked for a large Jiffy envelope 'the ones you do for a pound' and the post office woman reaches under the counter and produces a padded enevelope of the type that has a gusset [eugh - weird term but that is what they call it!] so you can fit larger items than flat paper/cards in. Just the perfect size and type for what I am sending!

I looked on in disbelief - and after the guy had bought it I asked the post office woman why when I asked she hadn't suggested it - her response was that I was asking about the stationery on display, not what she had behind the counter, and had asked about 'boxes' not 'envelopes'. But I didn't know there WAS anything 'behind the counter' [and, by the way, what else is she hiding back there...] or that precision terminology was required! How can you ask if you don't know? I pointed this out, along with the fact I had shown her what I was attempting to send so surely she could have put two and two together and suggested something that was more suitable and cost less - the box being 3.59. I got a blank stare and a 'do you want to send it First Class?

I did want to send it First Class [4.50!!! - but then you could say its my own fault for being late with it in the first place]. I asked if it would get there on Monday or possibly Tuesday given the weekend. I was promptly told that the post had already been picked up [at 10am - this was now, after all the box gubbins, about 10.45] and it wouldn't go in the post until pick up on Monday and so probably wouldn't arrive until Wednesday or Thursday and, in fact, it probably would have been better to just send it Second Class! So why did she ask if I wanted to send it First Class?!?!

So, dear sister of mine, you will recieve a large not-even-half-full box that cost the best part of a tenner - a tenner I would much rather have handed straight to you [or given to a good cause] - and gave me a customer-service aneurism.

I try my best to support local shops and businesses. I signed the Post Office petitions and emailed my MP to say they shoudln't be closed down. I am always nice to shop staff and waiting staff [having been there myself]. And I know it was 10.30 on a cold and miserable Saturday morning. But seriously, work tends to go by much faster and easier if you actually try and help your customers.

And now I understand why my husband uses e-gift cards...

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