Monday, 20 May 2013

The attack on snail-mail


Recently there have been all sorts of suggestions and plans for the future of the Royal Mail - most of them detrimental to the users of the service and those who value traditions like red pillar boxes and postmen on bikes. 

Our postman retired at the end of last year and his route has not been replaced. Don't misunderstand me,  we do still get a delivery but it is never the same postman twice and it can be any time between 10.30 a.m. and 4 p.m. as opposed to the old time of 11.30 to 12.30.  That is because our route is now done by people on overtime. There are various problems that this causes us. 

Firstly, small parcels, which are carried by the regular postman, may not always be small enough to fit through the letter box. Our old postie knew where to leave them. The irregular guys don't know offhand and some, it seems, are incapable of reading the note on the front door which tells people where to leave parcels. (Presumably requiring postmen and postwomen to be literate contravenes some Equality legislation).

Secondly, post which needs signing for is now returned to the post distribution office and has to be collected from there. One has to allow up to 70 hours before collecting it.  Presumably the postman must take it home with him for a couple of nights.  I just hope he sleeps with it by his bed; I'd hate to lose one of our parcels because of a burglary at a postman's house.   (I won't tell you what happened previously but suffice it to say we got it delivered to us and the signature may not have exactly matched mine! Our postman trusted us not to drop him in it if anything went wrong and because we knew him we trusted the postman not to pinch our mail.) 

Thirdly our address is 1a but as you walk long the road our house precedes the house numbered 1. This is unusual and therefore there is a certain brain-type that seems incapable of finding us. The Royal Mail (presumably as part of its Equal Opprotunities Policy) has employed a number of this brain-type. 

Fourthly, there is a 1a in the next road. It would appear it is easier for the brain-type mentioned above to post our letters at that house (ignoring the postcode and the road name) than to find our house. An alternative is to post the letters at number 1 on the basis that presumably they know where 1a is. 

However, all these can be considered minor irritations compared to the greater issues like the closure of post offices and the reduction in mail services generally, combined with increases in the cost of sending snail mail. There have been two increases since I started postcrossing last year.

Over the years the Post Office has seen many major reductions. In my grandmother's day, in urban areas, she could post a letter in the morning, get a reply in the afternoon and have her further response delivered by the evening delivery. Nowadays what is called First Class mail would take at least three days to accomplish that. Second class mail could take up to a couple of weeks.   I have a letter written by my great grandfather in Birkenhead (admittedly on the major rail network at the time) in the morning and delivered to Shipton-under-Wychwood (as rural as it's name implies) over 140 miles away later that day.

In my youth there was Sunday postal delivery and a Sunday collection from pillar boxes. We had two deliveries a day and things posted in the morning often arrived by 'the second delivery' as we called it. Nowadays there is one postal delivery a day and none on a Sunday. The time of postal deliveries can offcially vary from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.. The parcel office from which parcels that could not be delivered - for want of a signature, etc - is only open until lunchtime. There is no collection from pillar boxes between Saturday lunch time and Monday morning. 

It seems that the US mail is under equal attack and the following infographic comes from

Life without the United States Postal Service
Source: NumberSleuth


  1. It's a sad state of affairs, isn't it? And here I thought it was just the USPS that was in such a dire predicament! My letter carrier just retired, too. It was not a good sign that on one of his first days the new gy brought me sodden mail--needless to say I was not pleased. And to think of those times of multiple deliveries in a day--it seems incomprehensible to me. I am not sure if things have changed--but the PO was threatening to drop Saturday delivery. I will go into withdrawal if there is no mail on weekends....hope your mail issues resolve themselves!

  2. And I always notice that in France there are loads of postoffices. I am definitely worried in case they shut our main post offide. the guys have been out on strike about it and we have signed petitions, but the lease is up and I honestly don't think they will look for another building. I am sorry for the people who work there.

  3. I agree with you -- it's very sad to think that the post office may vanish altogether. And as for their assertion that "no one mails anything any more" -- then why is there always a long line when I go to mail something or to buy stamps???

    The Canadian post office is equally unaccommodating. I sent a package to Vancouver, BC -- a three and a half hour drive. The mail carrier was new and didn't leave the package, just a note telling my nephew and his wife where to go to pick it up. Of course the local post office is open from 8 to 4, and since Mike and his wife leave for work at 7:30 and get home around 6:00, the package sat there for about three weeks before it could be collected. Fortunately the post office didn't throw it out so they did eventually get their package ....

  4. PS - while we were in New Mexico last week, I mailed some post least I think I did. I only have the word of the woman at the dept. store though that box where I put them would ever be emptied and the mail from it collected. So it will be interesting to see which -- if any -- of them turn up. xoxox

    1. Well, Canadian Chickadee, one of them has turned up this morning, 22nd May (twelve days). And much appreciated it was!

    2. There should be three more, floating around out there in the ethos somewhere....xoxox

  5. Your postal problems seem worse than ours here in the USA. There was talk about discontinuing Saturday delivery, but not to happen now. I felt that that was okay, hopefully preventing another raise in cost of stamps. Even though the post office here still is operating, our distribution center has been closed. So our mail goes first to Kokomo, Indiana, then is delivered here. Bureaucrats don't seem to use logic when they solve problems! It sounds like that may be true universally.

  6. Yes, we lost our Post Office in our small town in rural Eastern Washington State more than a year ago. It can be pretty inconvenient.

  7. The Royal Mail and other equivalents in many other countries are in the throes of demise. Cyberspace has taken issue providing better alternatives. We're the ones to decide their exit, not them. When we do away with them they fade into oblivion.
    Courier services serve the purpose of parcel deliveries so we're safe there though we invariably pay more. Only nostalgia of a pillar box is a bother, a minor one though.


  8. Yes, I believe we are right behind you all. A sad state of affairs, indeed.

  9. While I do understand (and not mind) about there not being any postal service on a Sunday, things would improve greatly if postmen and -women were all, under the Equal Opportunity Policy, taught to read and use their brains.

  10. Changes have been similar here. From my childhood I remember two deliveries per day (probably just one on Saturdays) except Sundays. Since decades only once a day Mon-Fri. Postboxes are emptied on workdays and Sunday, but not on Saturday. A change not to my liking a few years ago was that most postboxes (like the one closest to where I live) are now emptied at 10 am (instead of in the late afternoon), while post delivered usually arrives in the afternoon (instead of pre-noon); which makes it impossible to post a reply the same day.

    Parcels/big letters that might not fit in the letter box are not delivered but have to be collected. There are no post offices any more. I have to collect my parcels at the supermarket. The advantage is that I can do that any day of the week between 7-22.

    Well you're doing your bit in keeping the postal service going anyway, partaking in Postcrossing :)

  11. Living up here in the Outer Hebrides (really out in the back of beyond)- If we post a letter before 10.30am in the box 100yards from the house or by 2pm at the post office in the town - it will get down to the Sussex Coast in England by the next day. Are we lucky or just efficient from this part of the world? Love to you and Jo. x

  12. As a child growing up, we had two mail deliveries in a day....morning and afternoon. This did not include weekends. It then went to once per day. It has remained like this over the years.
    The only time we may receive weekend mail is during the Christmas holidays or during elections.

  13. It's a worldwide problem. New Zealand is looking at rural deliveries on perhaps three days a week. The irony is that rural communities (a huge proportion of NZ geographically) and places in the UK like Scotland's Highlands and Islands rely heavily on the postal service for many things but they are the least economically viable for the provision of postal services. If the day ever comes when postal services have to charge the real cost of rural deliveries (as many private carriage companies do) then the social and economic consequences could be considerable.


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