There are only about 5 Post Offices around the world that run at a profit. South Africa’s Post Office is one of them. In terms of delivery, technology, services and functionality, SA’s Post Office is also rapdily moving up through the rankings, and headed for the Global Top 10 Post Offices in the very near future. Of course, everyone has some story of lost mail, or a grubby local PO (and these isolated incidents must be resolved), but in general the PO deserves serious praise for the past 5 years of turn around.
PO’s around the world should be quaking in their boots. If they understand the impact of the Internet, email, VOIP, cell phones, digital cameras, MMS and the like, they must realise that their days are numbered. I wonder how many PO’s around the world have active strategies to: (1) deal with the digital revolution; (2) bring their services in line with modern technology standards; (3) improve delivery times (how can an international “airmail” article take 6-8 weeks in shipping, for example?) and (4) connect with new generations of potential consumers who have no romantic attachments to snail mail?
With those strategic thoughts out the way, let me tell you one amazing story of service I just experienced at the Bedfordview Post Office, Gauteng, SA…

Last year, in early December, I sent out about 250 letters from the PO at Bedfordview. These were journals of an Association I belong to, the IASYM. In 23 of these, I included two copies. I checked with the counter staff, and they said the price was the same (R 14.15) for international airmail delivery, whether there were one or two journals in each envelope. Anyway, I paid the cash (how I wish the PO would accept credit cards!) and the letters were sent. A week or so later I received a note in my mailbox saying that the central postal clearing house (WITSPOS) would not send the 23 letters, as they did not have enough postage on them. The price for these thick and heavy items, I was told was R 79.50 each! Of couse, that didn’t make sense to me – R 14.15 for one, but R 79.50 for two? Why not just unpack them, and send them as 46 singles @ R 14.15 each?
So, I went to the Bedfordview PO ready for a fight. What I got was superior service of note.
Japie, the Postmaster himself, listened to my case, and said that he would personally help me (unbelievable). He would drive to WITSPOS himself and get the 23 items, so I could repack and repost them. Great. He even gave me his personal cellphone number so we could keep in touch!
Bad news followed. A day later, Japie informed me that WITSPOS would not release any articles already in their system. At first I was tense, then I realised that this is exactly the type of security you need in a postal system. But Japie had made a plan on my behalf. He had persuaded WITSPOS to let me come to their depot and physically repack the 23 items into separate envelopes, and post from there. Excellent! Japie would take me, and bring me back, he said. Wow. I couldn’t do it that day, so we agreed I’d phone him the following week to make a plan. All of this was happening in and around the December Christmas postal rush (and summer holidays), don’t forget.
When I eventually did phone him to make a plan to go and repack the items, he told me that he had convinced WITSPOS to send the envelopes at just the small incremental cost. All I need do is come into the PO branch and pay the minimal difference.
Above and beyond the call of duty.
And, as far as I know in 2005, not one of my letters – incoming or outgoing – got lost.
Way to go, guys!
Now, there’s just that problem of the digital revolution….

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