Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Dispatches (a work related rant)

I sat up a bit late last night to watch the Dispatches programme about Royal Mail (available on Channel 4 On Demand). This was a follow up to programmes that they produced in 2004 and 2005, with two reporters going undercover to see the inside workings of the postal system. Last time they uncovered an organised gang of agency workers stealing credit cards, which caused quite a stir. This time focussed mainly on really bad mismanagement and poor training. I feel quite angry really because in spite of these reporters claiming that it was objective because they had not chosen the offices but had been sent there by an agency, the mere fact that they used an agency to gain employment was putting them in what was inevitably going to be a poor situation. So they were sent to offices with staffing problems, which always means poor staff morale, and also where there was plainly incredibly poor management of a restructuring of the working schedule and a history of industrial relations conflict.

But if they had arrived as a new recruit in my office it would have made really dull television. When I popped in this morning to prepare my door-to-door (advertising crap) items for tomorrow there were no piles of delayed parcels lying around, no frames half full of undelivered mail, no postmen slouching in the cafeteria or skiving off home early because they thought the pavements were too slippery. When we had a foot of snow we struggled through it; some places went without deliveries for 4 or 5 days, but we are rural and many farms are very remote and inaccessible, but everyone in our office worked hard to try and make sure that as much mail went out as humanly possible. I have never encountered the kind of 'don't really give a damn' attitude that some postmen in the programme displayed. Their disregard for people's post was astounding and the management's attitude to problems was terrible. We go out of our way to make sure that even the badly addressed items get where they are supposed to go. The local knowledge of most of the blokes is incredible, many have been in the office for over 20 years. I am proud to work with them and know without a shadow of doubt that not one of them has ever interfered with anyone's post (we might occasionally play 'pass the parcel' with intriguingly shaped packets, or ones that make a noise ... and I do consider reading people's post cards to be a perk of the job.) You do tend to know a lot of personal stuff about people in this job; you know when people split up, when they die, when they get married, when they go on holiday, if they get letters from the county court or the police, but that's the kind of thing that is no one's business but theirs and I signed the Official Secrets Act when I started to say that I do not pass information to anyone about either the business or it's customers.

So to anyone who watched the programme I would like to back up the bosses here, and say that it is not a true and complete picture of Royal Mail and the service it provides for people. I am going to blow my own trumpet a bit here to give the other side of the coin:
Two Christmases ago a woman phoned our office about a parcel she had sent. It turned out she had put half of an old address mixed up with half of a new address on the parcel (people do the stupidest things at Christmas). So I took all the details from her including the correct address for the parcel. I then phoned the local office that it would be arriving at, explained to the bloke there what she had done and asked him to look out for it. A day or two later he called me back to say it had been found and sent on to the correct address. I then called the woman to assure her that it should make it to it's intended destination. Now I am sure that I am not the only person who does this kind of thing. Just the other day Brian had a letter, a returned item to one of his calls, and the postman from the other end of the system had written on the back, "I am sorry to have to tell you that this lady passed away some time ago last year", and I thought how nice that was, he could have just put a red sticker on and thought nothing more of it but he chose to go to the trouble. To me that is what Royal Mail still does at a local level, Posties who treat their customers like real people.

5 comments:

  1. I often wonder what an investigative journalist would make of an investigative journalist's production company.

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  2. I'm sure it has got to be frustrating to watch a show that paints such a negative and inaccurate picture of your workplace!!! I'm sure most people have a good relationship with their mail people and think highly of the whole system ... and I'm sure there are a few bad apples that make trouble for everyone.

    I love the comment about reading postcards is a perk of the job! And my husband's father was a postal work here in the U.S. for years and he said the same thing about how you form relationships with people and learn so much about their lives.

    Interesting post. I enjoyed it.

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  3. That's such an interesting post Merenia. We have so much post go missing in Oxford that it is difficult to be frustrated with the service and not to know about the people who work hard behind the scenes to keep it going and go out of their way with favours. I reckon I'd enjoy reading the postcards too :)

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  4. I didn't see the programme - I don't tend to watch that sort of stuff. But I have to say that one of the things I regretted last time I moved house was that I was losing my wonderful postman. No worries. My new regular guy is just as good, just as thoughful, helpul and dedicated to his job - rain or shine. Being disabled I do a lot of postal internet shopping so he has lot of small but heavy parcels to carry for me. Not only does he do so uncomplainingly but I once caught him explaining to a private parcel delivery guy where to leave parcels so they wouldn't get wet if I was out. I could go on for ages extolling his virtues. Keep up the good work and don't let the B**** grind you down.

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  5. A good antidote to the everything's terrible stories!

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