Yes, I promised a whinge.
See that smug git? He's called Adam Crozier. Since 2003 he has been running what used to be the world's best mail service. Last year he was paid around £1 million, including a bonus of around 15 times what the average worker takes home in this country. Before he took over it was pretty much a given that one could put a first class stamp on a letter or card, put it in a pillar box before last collection and it would get to the addressee first post next morning, virtually anywhere in the 100,000 sq miles or so of these islands. It was almost certainly the cheapest and most efficient mail service in the world. Inevitably it had problems and the odd strike but I can't ever remember a time when it actually let me down (even if I have occasionally
Yesterday it was a special person's birthday. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have needed the services of the Royal Mail to deliver a card to her but things have been different this year. On Tuesday, I posted two letters in the same letter box at exactly the same time. Both with first class stamps on. One was a card to Sharon, the other was a note to her daughter so, both were sent to the same address. I missed the last post so I assumed they would arrive on Thursday. I was right, in part. The note did, the card didn't. As I write this the card still hasn't arrived. Sharon's birthday has been and gone.
Why hasn't it arrived? I can only assume it was too big. Nobody knows yet, as far as we know it's been lost as there's been nothing to suggest otherwise. About a year ago, in their infinite wisdom the Royal Mail decided to introduce two different letter sizes for first class, large and small. There is also a thickness limit. Common sense? Well, yes. In theory. In practice, it stinks. The sizes are ridiculous, they're not easy to remember and anyway, the prices only differ by a few pence. The inconvenience is pathetic. It's short-sighted and also grossly environmentally unfriendly. It's totally counter to everything espoused in this, their Corporate Social Responsibility Report.
A couple of weeks ago I received a "slip" from the postman telling me I had £1.26 to pay on something. I would also have to collect it from the sorting office in town, fully four miles away. It turned out to be my son Dan's school report, sent by my ex-wife. She'd put it in an A4 envelope and put a first class stamp on it, probably without thinking. When I told her she told me that the same £1.26 charge had happened to her when my Mum sent Dan a birthday card containing a badge. It was too thick by a couple of millimetres. The envelope had also been ripped open by the sorting machinery but luckily the tenners hadn't fallen out. It was also two weeks late. How many of you, my massive readership, actually take the trouble to measure the size of your letters? How many of you realise that a large letter isn't actually that big? How many of you have a large letter stamp on you? Did you realise that some card companies (Carlton particularly) print a symbol on the back of the card denoting its postage rate? You can't actually buy single large letter stamps where I bought the card in Tescos and I don't want to spend a fortune buying half a dozen when I know I'm going to lose 5 before I need another one. I don't mind buying a book of standard 1st class stamps because I know I'll use them all. What really irks me is that I have to get these single stamps at the post office and that's miles away in a pedestrianised area of town so not only do I have to drive, I've got to pay an extortionate rate for parking. There used to be two Post Offices near here within walking distance. Not now. OK, that's a bit disingenuous because they were closed down by the time I was in my mid-teens but with 2500 post office closures in the pipeline I'm sure you get my point. Sharon will have now to drive to the sorting office to pick up her card as it's right across the other side of Crewe and it would take her a couple of hours by bus and as she has a few mobility issues, the journey would exhaust her. As she would say, it's a take-on.
There are actually two stupid ironies in this. Earlier today I found the cellophane sleeve wrap from the card and compared it to the size chart that my mum has bothered to keep. The card was too long by less than three-quarters of an inch. But it was far narrower than the width limit.I could argue that that's just as much a pass as a fail. Also yesterday I posted a parcel off to Sharon. It was quite large, about the size of half a dozen DVD cases and wrapped in a Jiffy bag. Weighed about a pound. It went first class LETTER post even though it was quite obviously a parcel. The Royal Mail introduced the size thing for first class letters because they thought "customers" were taking the piss. Oh, come on.
Crozier's idea of an efficient company is one that makes a profit and he doesn't give a shit how he makes that profit hence the closures. He'll strip out the bits that don't produce a profit (the Post Offices (yes, the are still owned by Royal Mail) ) even though their worth cannot be measured in financial terms. He came to the Royal Mail from the Football Association. Unbelievably, people say he turned that organisation around. He actually turned it into a vast money-making industry but has ripped the guts out of the game. His actions helped to produce anodyne and soulless teams with interchangeable players whining every time they stub their toes. Football is boring. But it makes loads of money. Before that he was with Saatchi and Saatchi. Advertising. Enough said. He was brought in to make the Royal Mail more competitive in the face of privately owned competition (the same kind of competition that delivers one concert ticket to one house in a street using a van). The government has allowed private companies to compete with a state owned monopoly that actually worked well even though it may not have always turned a profit. If the Royal Mail can't then it stands to reason that the competitors won't be able to either (competitors that bizarrely sub contract to the Royal Mail to deliver some of their post. Work that one out). It's state owned, its value is in customer satisfaction, not profit. We all still need mail delivered, it's not hard. I'm a tax-payer so, Crozier, you work for me. I'm a "stakeholder" because I use your services and I want satisfaction, not profit.