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Thursday, April 30

Post Off.

I know one postal worker who seems very happy to work for the Royal Mail. However, it's possible that what happens in the sorting office is a very different, and hopefully better, world to that which I experienced in the town-centre post office this lunchtime. It was a total emotional journey in its own right, and I'll tell you about it.

Firstly, there was the bit where I joined a queue. A man asked me if I was doing road tax. They had set up a special till where people who wanted road tax could go. The idea was that the road tax would be more quickly dealt with if people went to the dedicated till and also the other tills would move more quickly if there were not people doing road tax at them. Instinctively, this doesn't make sense to me. There were approximately 6 staff present and one of them was the "expediter" in the queue. My view is that they would have benefitted more greatly from an additional 20% of people to process the queue, then from splitting the queue. You might think that the car tax people wouldn't get to slow down everyone else, but the misappropriation of resources into a person to boss you around seemed to slow everyone down by one missing till.

Just a thought.

Anyway, a new experience for me today. I was offered stamps by a ticket tout. Well, a stamps tout. He had a book of 5 first class stamps and he wanted to trade them in for money. They're worth just under £2. It wasn't a complete book of stamps, but his stamp requirements were lower than his desire to buy ciggies. He tried to push his stamps on me and the guy behind me in the queue. This was weird. I was amused by it. The guy behind started to discuss it, but wasn't buying. The stamp-seller dropped the price to £1.40. Then man behind started to buy. I outbid him and bought them at £1.50, the original price that the selling chap had been after.

That was a new experience for me. Mini eBay. In a post office. Stamp touting. It could be the new iPod.

Then there was a depressingly long wait. During this, I observed a member of the post staff explaining how deliveries aren't made on Saturdays. This is, of couse, not true, though I suspect a certain subset of deliveries are not made on Saturdays - the ones you want, probably. I would later visit this member of the staff and pay her more than I liked for a delivery on a Friday.

Then there was Jabba-the-postal worker. She was first working behind the road tax till, where she bullied someone into going for a car insurance quote with the other chap on the floor, who was doing insurance quotes. She basically hard-sold the quote. Then she wobbled from behind the counter to take the role of the expediter so that the guy doing it could swap.

As she prepared people in the car tax queue, she checked their documents to make sure that they had everything. This actually makes sense from a process point of view, excepting the fact that the whole resourcing thing is probably wrong. Anyway, she looked at the next person's insurance and feigned concern - "Oooh. Have you not shopped around for your car insurance. Oooh, you should... oooh, guess what." More hard sell of the post office's car insurance product. I don't think they should abuse their position as the place you HAVE to go for your car insurance to lay on the hard sell with as thick a trowel as she clearly uses to shovel M&Ms down her bloated throat.

Then I got to the person who served me for my package delivery. After she'd told me that I should have no expectations of getting a parcel somewhere in a day (it's only 80 miles away - I could cycle it there before Saturday if I had to!) - and after she'd finally clarified that I could pay less than her first offer, I agreed to a price and she did the necessary paperwork. She was softly spoken to the point of being almost impossible to hear - she also had an accent which made this worse.

Then she started mumbling at me. This is what happens when the hard sell meets someone who hasn't the social skills or the commitment to pull it off. I was trapped - I couldn't just walk away. I needed to be sure that the transaction was complete. I also wanted my change - which she'd given me in five one pound coins, rather than a note - genius. So, I had to guess what she was selling so I could tell her to sod off politely. Awful.

I think I prefer her sotto voce approach to Jabba-the-oscar-winning-oh...my...god...we...can...help...you woman. This latter woman was patronising, smug, grim and annoying all at the same time. She was just doing her job, but that argument didn't work for the Nazis and it doesn't work for her either. If I want to send a parcel, I don't want to be forced into discussing savings, house insurance, or the rising price of pies with anyone, thank you very much.

Rant over.

I just feel it's insulting enough that they work slowly, don't have a proper queue management system (i.e. more tills to move the queue quickly), for them to slow the queue behind you and slow you down by wasting your time with hard sell. If I want travel insurance, I'll buy some of my own volition. I spend long enough in the queue waiting to be served to see which products you have on offer.

Now the rant is definitely over.

One more thing.

I like stripey shirts.

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