diamond geezer

 Monday, August 25, 2014

So this appeared on my local post box this week.

At the moment the post is collected no earlier than 5.30pm each weekday and 11.30am on Saturdays. From mid-September it'll be collected no earlier than 9.00am each weekday and 7.00am on Saturdays. And this sounds plainly ludicrous. What's going on?
What changes are taking place and why?
We are improving the level of public access to postboxes in areas of under-provision, by adding around 2,000 boxes to the 115,000 we currently have. 45,000 to 50,000 low-use boxes will move to ‘collection on delivery’ with the postman or woman emptying the box on their round, rather than providing a dedicated collection by van. No postboxes will be removed from service as a result of this initiative.
Ah yes, the Royal Mail are planning to save money by not collecting mail from about half their post boxes at the end of the day. The postie in his van will only visit certain boxes, and all the rest will be collected by the delivery staff at some point during their round. Collecting could be at the end of the morning, if the delivery round is long, but it could be eight hours earlier than now if the acts of delivery and collection are combined.
Why has the collection time for my postbox been changed?
There has been a significant fall in the number of items posted in postboxes, leaving many now not covering their costs. Rather than decommission uneconomic ones, we’re improving the cost effectiveness of collections. Emptying these low-use boxes on delivery enables us to be much more efficient going forward.
We're not using postboxes so much any more, with email and other electronic communication long ago taking the place of the written word on paper. Parcels remain popular but tend to be sent via post offices, and a diet of greetings cards won't keep the Royal Mail in business. And OK, so many organisations still like to send us printed material, but they don't use postboxes, so maybe their days are numbered.
Why is the collection time from my local postbox now so early?
Because of the need to improve the efficiency of our collections and maintain collections from postboxes, your local box is now collected by our postmen and women whilst out on delivery. This means the box will be cleared earlier in the day. There will be no change to the ultimate delivery of the items you post, they will go through our system in exactly the same way. There should be a later collection from another nearby box, typically in the late afternoon.
Nothing arrives at its destination any later, sure, but you'll have to get out much earlier in the day to make sure your letter's in the box on time. And that's ridiculously earlier on a Saturday, which essentially means the weekend no longer has a collection service at all. What's disappearing here is the ability to turn round correspondence in one day. I remember when my letters arrived at breakfast time, and then I had the entire day to get my response into the box. Now I'm lucky if my mail's arrived by lunch, and by then the only collection of the day will most likely have gone.

Except it's not quite that bad yet.
Why's my box being cleared earlier and not the one down the road?
Not all postbox collection times are changing, the majority will keep a 4pm or later collection time. We’ve carefully considered the distribution of all our postboxes and their accessibility. Our plan is balanced, based on usage and the need for later collections in the area and we believe provides the best mix of earlier and later boxes for all our customers in the area. Your box receives fewer than 50 items a day and is within half a mile of another box which is keeping its later collection time.
Post box times will only be getting earlier in urban and suburban areas where the density of boxes is relatively high. There'll always be a box within half a mile with an end-of-the-afternoon collection time, so all you have to do is go to that instead. The Royal Mail saves tons of money on a pointless collection service, and you'll merely be mildly inconvenienced every time you post a letter. It sounds fine, except that's a round trip of up to a mile, which adds up over a year, and you might be old or disabled making the extra journey really quite impractical.
How do I find out where the nearest box with a later collection time is?
Call our dedicated Customer Service Team on 03456 011399 and they will be pleased to help you find your nearest box with a later collection time.
I tried ringing the number, and got an automated message urging me to check the Royal Mail website for more details about the changes. I'd already tried that, but all that's available is general advice and absolutely nothing geographically specific. You'd think a postcode query database cold be available online, but no, the only way to find specific details is to ring up, which is hardly a money-saving option. And when I tried on Friday the office was closed, as presumably it will be until tomorrow.
Isn't this just a cost-cutting excercise typical of a newly privatised business?
Every business needs to examine its costs and Royal Mail is no different. In order to protect the long term future of postbox collections, we need to improve our efficiency and become as cost-effective as possible. Moving these low-usage boxes to a ‘collection on delivery’ footing enables us to realise these savings and maintain service to customers.
We live in an age where efficiency has become more important than service. The modern mantra of "we simply can't afford it" means we're all enduring cutbacks these days, because cutting back is the default austerity option. A lot of decisions are being made in many public services to scale back, and services lost may never be recovered. And of course the Royal Mail is now a private company so can make decisions without public redress, and if that means a less good customer experience, so be it.
Has any consultation been entered into before deciding to do this?
We have communicated our plans to Ofcom, Citizen’s Advice, Citizen’s Advice Scotland and Consumer Council Northern Ireland. Research shows that postal users are positive about the idea of moving collections, particularly from low-use boxes, to link with delivery. 91% of users did not choose their box based on collection time. Users understand this approach is more efficient and fitted with their desire for a more efficient postal service. We will put a notice on every affected postbox four weeks ahead of the change to collection times. There will also be clear sign-posting for customers on the relevant postboxes as to where their nearest late posting box is.
This looks like bad research being twisted to fit a management narrative. Of course 91% of users don't choose their box based on collection time, and that's because collection times always been at teatime or later. But people will mind a lot more when they have the choice to post a birthday card either one day earlier or half a mile down the road. Plus I still have no idea where my nearest late posting box will be. No "clear sign-posting" has yet appeared, only existing guidance that a box a mile and a half away gets a collection after half past six, and no way am I walking that far.

Erosion of service begins on September 15th. It's not the end of the world, it may not even inconvenience you at all, but it is another small round in the death of a national service by a hundred cuts.

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