Wednesday 8 December 2010

королевская почта (the Royal Mail)

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the postal service in my area has been hit hard by the weather, apparently unable to navigate the few roads from the local depot to my house. I should have been receiving some books before the snow hit, but even now, a week on, I am still without the books I paid to have delivered.

I paid for my books to be delivered in good time, yet they were not delivered in the post even today (although postal services did resume on Monday). So I decided to pay a visit to the local 'distribution centre' - on foot - to see if I could collect the parcels myself (one of the things I ordered was tracked to being there and 'available for collection'). Once I had entered the enquiries office, I was struck by how closely the room and the queue in front of us resembled the food queues of the USSR, with single parents and the elderly seeking their lost or missing parcels. Of course, you couldn't get anything unless you had received a red slip. The ration card.
No card, no parcel.
So, armed with a printout of my tracking details, I eventually stepped forward unto the breach and asked if I would be able to retrieve my parcels marked (by them) as available for collection. The woman behind the plexiglass responded by saying that all the parcels had been marked as such and without a red card, they would not even attempt to look for my missing parcels. I was given the phone number for depot manager and told to ring back in the morning to attempt to locate my missing books. I do not suppose handling such calls are of great help to the manager (if he is expected to answer customer queries, how will he have time to manage the depot?), even so, if that is how to locate my parcels, that is what I will do. What struck me was that an elderly gentleman in front of me was told that this manager (he also seems mythical) might be able to direct 'spare' employees to look for his urgent parcel. I cannot help but wonder, with such an apparent backlog, how there could possibly be anyone 'spare'.  In this situation, where so many customers are being let down, every employee should be on overtime to make up for the lost time (they all had days of anyway). Any private company in a free market would be seeking to do this, maybe looking to hire temps if the backlog is too severe (as an aside, neither City-Link nor Parcel Force listed Hull among their affected areas).

Now, I can really understand having snow delays (although I don't think the snow in most places was bad enough to warrant completely stopping services - especially as most other businesses are still open), but once the snow has cleared, or deemed 'safe' then the backlog should be cleared as soon as possible; this means multiple deliveries a day if need be. Multiple deliveries, hiring of temps or whatever means necessary should be utilised to ensure customers are kept happy (stopping them from claiming money back for late delivery and  getting repeat custom). Of course, Royal Mail care not for such things as customer satisfaction, whatever they do, they apparently expect to get bankrolled by the government. If any other deliveries company was to request the bailouts that Royal Mail get, they would be rejected, rightfully told that they need to either shape up or go under.

I sincerely hope that the news that Royal Mail is finally to be privatised will go through, although I expect a disorderly strike from the CWU despite Royal Mail, once again, failing to deliver on time. Sadly, for the time being, I still await my books, like so many other failed customers, let us just hope that by next winter the state sponsored monopoly will have been sold and there will be a chance for the post to come through on time.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Profit Motive

Today the post didn't come, it didn't come yesterday either. We did however get leaflets through from take-aways. The rubbish wasn't collected today (as it should have been). Shops are still open. The roads are not gritted but the pubs are still open. What is the difference? The profit motive. Those places that remain open, despite issues making it just as difficult as anywhere else to remain open do so precisely because they need the money. There is profit to be made (or loss to be avoided) in the private sector. Those in the public sector get their money whether they go the extra mile or not - so they never will.

At this time the snow has shown one thing more clearly than any other. The government is sub-par when it comes to the deliverance of services. It not only costs more (through taxation) than direct payment to a private company but it can easily be shown to be worse. I'm not suggesting that the private sector is perfect or that is is not affected (or that every public sector operation should be running as usual) - what I am saying is that because of the profit motive they have to go that extra mile and they do. I can go to Sainsburys and shop right now, I could have gone to Lidl earlier, I can go to Haworth Arms for a pint, I can rely on the majority of people who work in these places to drive or walk in. I cannot rely on the council's trucks to make it through the snow and collect the bins.

I certainly cannot rely on the council to ensure they have enough grit provided, that would just be silly.