Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This Granny Smith loves her postie but ....

Earlier this year I found myself running to catch up with my postie to give him some Divine Easter Eggs, the dark chocolate ones. He accepted those with a great smile on his face.

Then I realized that that was the second time I'd given him Easter eggs. I've had the same postie for TWO years. That is quite a record around here.

Every time I get used to one face he/she goes on another walk.

The impending postal strike is very frustrating. Last week someone from Business Link rang to find out how my business was doing.

Well, apart from the fact that:
  • they closed the sub-post office which means I have to drive to the next nearest post office, thus having to limit my despatch to twice a week
  • the unabated rise of postage costs without a corresponding rise in customer service
  • I could weigh and buy the correct postage online and stick it on my parcels but I still have to queue to get proof of posting just in case my parcels get lost*
  • Royal Mail losing my orders and sending me at least five letters with a ludicrous list of excuses (you haven't done this, you haven't done that -- when I had) before they would agree to pay me compensation, and not paying the cost of replacing the lost goods which has gone up 20% in price
  • the economic downturn
  • the sterling exchange rate going against me
  • my suppliers putting their prices up 20%
  • swine flu and the government telling people not to use handkerchiefs
  • and intermittent, random, unannounced regional postal strikes
I am doing alright. Am I? The business suffered a 50% drop in sales in one month and is just picking up again, and then this strike.

Every time I get news of a strike I run out to talk to my postie: you're not going on strike, are you?

No, he says, it's central London post offices.

I haven't seen him for weeks now. Where has he gone?

I have been going: where do I go to demonstrate against these useless striking postal workers?

Then by chance, thanks to Twitter, I read this written by a postal worker.

He/She details how Royal Mail has been piling more and more work on them; that the 10% drop in the volume of mail is not reflected in their actual workload; that there is a disparity between the ethos of the traditional postal worker and that of management; that there is clearly a lack of skill in their negotiation of contracts such that the postal worker on the walks have to bear the brunt while the likes of A. Crozier gets the bonus.

(NB: I've been there before as a junior rank management consultant when the partners promised the clients the heaven and worked us like hell.)

What I like most is the statement that "[T]here’s a feeling that we are being provoked, and that this isn’t coming from the managers in our office – who aren’t all that bright, and who don’t have all that much powerbut from somewhere higher up". (Emphasis is mine.)

Why on earth, for example, are postal workers not allowed to leave their sorting offices before 8am (or is it 9am?) in our local sorting office? My mail does not get delivered till after 12 noon these days.

So if this write-up is true then the problem, as I have suspected for some time, reading between the lines of what the different parties are saying in the media, and from my own (ill-)treatment by the Royal Mail, it is the management (middle? senior?) that needs our attention.

Time to send in the corporate anthropologist.

There is something very wrong with the set-up. There is a lot left unsaid or "unsayable" (is there such a word? If not, I just made it up. It is different from "unspeakable".) People are not seeing the whole picture, or are simply refusing to do so.

The result of these strikes is everyone: the Granny Smiths, home-based self-employed folk like myself, the postal workers and the Royal Mail as a business, suffer.

Send in the social anthropologists, I say. They will lurk, observe, participate and breathe in the same air. They will smell the antagonism and ask the relevant questions. They will be able to delineate where the invisible (sub)cultural boundaries are. And they will be able to suss out the issues. They have the knack of seeing just below the surface, in a holistic manner.

Trust me. I am a social anthropologist.

We may not have the solutions, but we can ascertain the real issues. Maybe (maybe not?) beginning with Adam Crozier's pay packet.

*Today I saw that they have installed two new machines at a post office where I could weigh, buy the correct postage for a parcel, get a receipt for the postage (paying by cash or card), and drop it into a special box. (Previously at this post office you have to queue just to get someone to open the hatch to drop off a parcel.) But I would still need to queue up just to get a proof of posting. Why can't they design a machine that could issue a proof of posting as well? How stupid is that?

Back to Organic-Ally. Become our fan on Facebook.

No comments: