Thursday, October 15, 2009

Royal Mail part 2 - In the lion's den

This post carries on from yesterday's waffle about the Royal Mail, and my comments on how efficient, reliable and generally wonderful I find them*.

Parcel delivery
Parcels are, of course, only delivered when most people are at work, and the scrawled note that's shoved through my door afterwards appears to have been done so in frustration and surprise every time. "Why is nobody in?!" But I can cope with that- Royal Mail workers don't want to have to work when everyone else is in the pub or doing their weekly shopping any more than I do, and it's a clash of timescales that has processes in place to deal with it.

When delivery is attempted at one of the numerous households that are, surprisingly, unoccupied during working hours, there are a number of options that the diligent delivery person can take**:
  • The 'left with neighbour' box can be ticked.
Which neighbour is rarely noted or discussed, and many an evening has become a merry stroll up and down the road to see who has been the lucky recipient this time.
  • The 'left in a safe place' box can be ticked.
This is when the fun really starts: the final resting place of my package often has me wondering whether either my deliverer or I have a misprinted edition of the Oxford English dictionary with regards to the word 'safe'. Some true examples of 'safe' places that I have personally experienced:
 - The item has been left propped up against the front door.
 - The item has been left in one of the recycling bins.
 - The item has been flung with gusto over the garden wall, fence or gate***.
  • The 'returned to your local Post Office' box has been ticked.
This is where the fun takes a running jump, and the surreal back-end collection room of the post office comes into play.
Firstly, my local post office, which is inside a comfortable 8-minute stroll from my house, is shunned in favour of the one in Kettering, which is a 20-minute drive away.

Arriving at the more distant branch on a Saturday morning involves the following steps:
  1. Join the queue of disgruntled customers that is already snaking its way across the car park.
  2. Wait for around forty minutes as the queue continues to grow behind you at a much faster rate than it is shrinking in front of you, until you enter the tiny room with the reinforced glass partition.
  3. As you near the front of the queue, tempers begin to fray as there is one person behind the glass who quite clearly has just wandered in off the street and has not yet been told The System****. 
  4. When the next person in the queue hands over their 'sorry you were out' card, it is dropped in the bin, and the grubby notebook is consulted, presumably to find out if it makes any more sense than last time.
  5. The stranger behind the glass then proceeds to look under his coffee cup, behind the calendar, and in, under and around the bin before scratching his head and wandering out of the back door, where someone appears to be very noisily playing basketball with someone else's***** package.
  6. If you're lucky, the guy will return at some point. If you're extra lucky, he'll be holding a package. If you're luckier than a lottery winner with a blackjack, it'll be yours.
Sometimes the guy returns with a shrug and asks for your phone number so that you'll go away in the erroneous belief that they'll call you when (if) they find the package that they have so lovingly filed for you.

I've even been there when a particularly infuriated lady has enquired as to the possibility of a colleague stepping in to help out. The bewildered guy behind the glass stated, in all seriousness, that he's the only one there, evidently oblivious to the large and saggy man slurping on a large and saggy burger that everyone in the cramped, sweaty and pungent room can see through the glass.

In fairness...
It's not just the Royal Mail. Of the many delivery companies that I have had cause to deal with, not one has shone out above the rest as an example of good practise to be followed by all. I strain to recall a time when I haven't had to make a twenty minute drive to the back end of nowhere after an attempted package delivery. Even less easily recalled in my mind is an occasion in which I wasn't greeted by the sight of generic delivery company employees either engaged in an active sporting activity or otherwise just beating each other senseless with somebody's undelivered package.

* Not very.

** With none of these options, though, is there any indication as to who the parcel is actually for.

*** O.k, so this may well render the package 'safe' in some senses of the word, but has the added benefit of making sure that the parcel and/or contents are also 'broken'.

**** Another possibility is that there is no System.

***** You hope.