Returned to sender

Karin Eriksson, Kreupelbosch, Constantia

On Monday March 4 this year, I was notified that a package I had ordered from America had been dispatched.

After waiting in vain for three-and-a-half months, I finally received the collection notices in my postbox at my home on Thursday June 20.

The following day, Friday June 21, I presented myself at Plumstead post office to attempt to collect my long-awaited package.

I first paid a call to the branch manager, who was courteous, polite and obviously embarrassed. She took note of my complaint and photocopied the collection notifications, promising to follow up. She mentioned the delivery depot was “short staffed” and they had many similar complaints. I felt for her – what else could she do?

I then handed my slips to the clerk at the service window. As I fully expected, he came back looking very embarrassed, my parcel had been returned to sender. What good would it do to rant at him? He was not responsible.

So I returned to the branch manager, who promised to find out if the parcel had left the country. If not, she would do her best to get it back. She kept her word and phoned me later that day – it was on its way back to America. I was not surprised.

I have no idea where I could possibly write to the post office to express my… what? Not even anger any more – I am past that. Just sadness and disappointment – that this is what we, the public, have come to expect of what can no longer be called a postal “service”.

In our neighbourhood, we get mail deliveries extremely sporadically, sometimes once a week, sometimes once a fortnight. One never knows.

My husband is Swedish, and our mail from overseas will usually come in a batch, about three months’ worth of mail all at once, and all of it by that time completely overdue, outdated, useless.

For example, since living here, he has been unable to vote in his country’s elections as anything the voter registration office sends him reaches us after the election has taken place. Same with tax returns, bank correspondence, everything.

Mark Barnes has been CEO since January 15 2016, according to the post office website. Yet what has changed?

Martie Gilchrist, Western Cape Post Office spokesperson, responds:

In the normal course of events, a notification slip requesting the customer to collect a parcel is placed into the customer’s postbox in good time, followed by a reminder a week later. It is unfortunate that in the instance of the reader, the notification slips were delayed and the parcel subsequently returned to sender.

The SA Post Office apologises unreservedly for the return of the parcel.

We have also made the employees concerned aware of the consequences that any failure of service has on our customers and requested them to take every possible step to inform the customer that the item is ready for collection.

The post office understands that customers do not always check for items in their postboxes and has therefore introduced an SMS system to notify customers when a postal item is ready for collection.

When a postal item is scanned as ready for collection and the customer’s cellphone number is captured on the system, the post office system automatically sends an SMS to the customer requesting him or her to collect the item. It is therefore advisable to ask the sender to put your cellphone number on the parcel particularly when ordering items from abroad.

That way you will be notified by SMS when the parcel is ready for collection.

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Our delivery team will monitor the reader’s mail delivery for three months to make sure that deliveries are consistent.

We trust the above will ensure that the readers have a much better experience when they use the postal service in the future.

It should be noted that during the tenure of Mr Barnes, the delivery standards of the Post Office rose from around 45% to close to 70%. This improvement in service standards has been gradual, but remains consistent and continuous.

During a recent test of courier service providers, the Post Office’s Speed Services courier service performed the best.