Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2nd Class Stamp

Before the commencement of work-based employment activities this morning I nipped across the road to the post office to collect a parcel that hadn’t been delivered yesterday (how I love receiving those big red “You Were Out” cards with the big offended tick placed in the “returned to post office” tick-box... how dare I not be at home when the postman calls).

As usual there was a small queue ahead of me and the guy at the front was plainly banging his head against a brick wall in his endeavours to get his parcel located.

“Can you not trace it from the barcode?” He asked. He had this nugget of information on a scrappy piece of paper that he kept waving at the white whiskered postal worker behind the counter.

Mr Postal Worker – who, if I’m honest looked like he’d been rejected from Last Of The Summer Wine for being too wintry and vinegary – scanned a glazed eyeball over the paper, grimaced like he was beholding a snot encrusted handkerchief and grumbled, ”No. It’s an international barcode.” He then harrumphed and sighed like he was explaining the concept of cause and effect to a brain damaged monkey.

Monkey fall from tree. Monkey hurt head.

“Yes but...” said the customer (doing a sterling job to keep his temper), “It’s been sent recorded delivery. You must be able to trace it surely?”

“I know it’s recorded.” Said Mr Evil Postal Worker and shifted on his feet like a bull about to charge down an injured matador. “But it’s an international bar code, isn’t it?” Cue another sigh and the stomping of hooves.

Meanwhile my queue colleagues and I were now beginning to shift uncomfortably on our feet. As I waited (silently praying that the man’s parcel could be located without bloodshed) my eyes couldn’t help noticing all the “abusive customers” warning posters that were plastered all over the small parcel collection office. You know the kind: the post office reserves the right to refuse to serve customers who are abusive and threatening...

A copy of this poster was glued to the wall, to the serving hatch window and to the counter top upon which the customer had thrown his piece of scrappy paper.

It made me wonder if perhaps the parcel collection office had a lot of trouble with disgruntled customers. Hmm.

In the end the customer had to ask outright that someone be telephoned to see if the barcode could be traced somehow so the location of his lost parcel could be identified.

At this point the postal worker flung down his mug of tea, flung up the telephone and proceeded to have a grumpy telephone conversation with the postal worker on the other end of the line. This involved the barcode number being repeated out loud, a little louder each time, in a tone of voice that suggested that the person on the other end of the telephone was... yes, you guessed it, a brain damaged monkey with a defective hearing aid.

MONKEY FALL FROM TREE! MONKEY HURT HEAD!

The telephone was then flung down so hard it bounced out of the cradle and onto the floor. The bull was not happy and stomped off to find customer no.2’s parcel.

The telephone rang. He belligerently ignored it until his business with customer no.2 was complete and then once again wrenched the telephone up to his white whiskered ear. He listened silently. Flung the telephone back down and told the exasperated customer with the scrappy piece of paper that his parcel was at “Jubilee Station” and “hasn’t yet moved from there”.

Where was Jubilee Station? A shrug of the shoulders answered that query followed by a gleeful “we can’t do anything about it until it reaches here (here being Leamington Post Office). Your best bet is to speak to someone at Jubilee Station.”

And that was it. Customer interaction complete. Scrappy paper man left shaking his head and muttering sundry imprecations to the deaf, brain damaged gods of the Great British postal service.

It was then my turn. I looked at the “abusive customers” poster on the counter and honestly thought about it for a moment but, in the end, decided it just wasn’t worth the hassle. Besides which, although Mr Grumpy Postal Worker had taken my red card my parcel was brought to me a by a nice female postal worker with an incredibly long, thin ponytail, a big smile on her face and a disposition to talk pleasantly about the weather.

Despite the wind, rain and grey clouds outside she was like a breath of fresh air.


29 comments:

Rol said...

Be grateful you can still queue. We've got a new priority ticketing system in our post office. It's like Argos. But less fun.

Steve said...

Rol: I bet the jewellery is of a better class though.

Gypsy said...

Methinks Mr Vinegar needs to reconsider his career choice. Boy it really says something when there are posters up warning you about being abusive.

Steve said...

Gypsy: all the posters did were put the idea into my head in the first place. It's like having a poster saying: "don't think about sex" on every wall. All you end up thinking about is sex.

Actually, the parcel collection is not like that at all. I feel the need to point that out.

French Fancy said...

*work-based employment activities*


I loved that phrase.

Expats over here grumble about the French customer service ethos, but I've got to say that our postie is lovely and the ladies at the local La Poste also kind, accomodating and friendly. Hurrah - we win!

Steve said...

FF: sadly the post office in Leamington Spa is nothing at all like the post office in Lark Rise To Candleford... otherwise I'd spend a helluva lot more time there...!

ArtSparker said...

Sounds like someone has reached retirement age. Little Hitlers...

Steve said...

ArtSparker: I believe I saw Private Ryan filed under the "unclaimed mail" section...

English Rider said...

You should have told her that you preferred to wait for her colleague's care and attention. Most of our post office counter-people speak English rendered unintelligible by their Asian pronunciation skills and our mail delivery person has continued to wear latex gloves and a face mask since the post 9-eleven anthrax scare.

Steve said...

English Rider: are you sure your mail delivery person isn't just a misplaced Michael Jackson fan...?

Completely Alienne said...

You need to move. Our collecting office is a novel experience and first thing in the morning there is often (I collect quite a lot of parcels as I too have the nerve to go to work instead of waiting in for my postie) a blitz spirit especially if it is raining. We all curl the queue round and round in the tiny lobby to keep as many of us as possible in the dry, and people in the queue actually chat to each other. And generally the staff in there are quite helpful really. But they never answer the phone.

Steve said...

Completely Alienne: grab your kids and run now. The people where you live are plainly aliens, possibly body snatchers and it is only a matter of time before they take you over... humans are just not supposed to be that friendly! Or is that just where I live? Maybe you're right. Time to give Pickfords a call.

Tenon_Saw said...

If I had been that man I'd certaily have written to the Postmaster about this. Some people think they are just too important.

Steve said...

Tenon_Saw: I doubt there'll be any come-back. The look on Mr Scrappy Paper's face wasn't exactly defeated but was certainly a placid acceptance that this was the best he should have expected... that in itself is a sad testament to the standards expected of the local postal service.

missbehaving said...

I think I might have to stop complaining about the PO here.

Suburbia said...

I've often gazed in boredom from the discomfort of a long queue at that poster, sort of gives you ideas doesn't it?!

Inchy said...

As an avid ebayer, I'm no stranger to the 'we can't be bothered to deliver your parcel at a time that most normal humans on planet Earth would find reasonable' queue, and my feeling is this:
If you have accepted a job that involves constant interaction with "the great unwashed", most of whom are disgruntled at having to drag their hard-working arses into the post office in the first place and if that job entails handing over or locating various items that your company was supposed to deliver to my dressing gown and slipper'd hands in the first place, then it behoves, yes behoves you to create a 'face' for the general public, accept that you'll be looked like the kind of person who has strolled round your living room with dog shit on their shoe and just do your bloody job!

Steve said...

MissBehaving: I'm sure the Leamo lot would be proud to know they are making their Japanese counterparts looks good.

Suburbia: yes, and displaying it in triplicate really hammers the idea home...

Inchy: that's the entire manifesto right there!

The Sagittarian said...

what a way to start the day!! Maybe your job ain't so bad eh? Our Posties are pretty good (but then again, no-one sends me anything....)

TheUndertaker said...

Haha I love the 'labels' you placed at the bottom of your post: Anal. Bad day. Bad mood.
It is quite amazing that postal worker is still alive, with 'skills' like that...

Steve said...

Amanda: given that our posties do nothing but push bills through my door I'd be more than happy for them to give me a miss occasionally!

TheUndertaker: I'm more surprised he isn't working for the rail service or even the buses... he'd blend right in, believe me.

Gina said...

Our collection place is OK once you get there. It's just on some horrid industrial estate that you have to drive to get to. But the people who work there seem efficient and courteous.

People with long thin pony tails are always nice in my opinion...

Steve said...

Gina: they are... it's people with tightly hair-gripped buns that you have to look out for...!

Nota Bene said...

Ha! I take the view that a. I won't start it, but b. Give as good as you get. So if they abuse me, I return the compliment. Not big, not clever, but it always seems fair and reasonable at the time...

Steve said...

Nota Bene: ain't nothing wrong with hitting the ball back into their corner...!

Clippy Mat said...

i woulda 'went postal' on him.
but then i have a short fuse.
and to be honest, i too would make a horrible public servant.
:-)

Steve said...

Clippy Mat: this guy has held down this job for a long time... you'd've thought he would have mastered the rudiments of being polite to the people paying his wages! I mean the guy was merely collecting a parcel which is the whole point of the parcel collection office being there in the first place!

Owen said...

I love it when you write like this ! And I'll bet the pony-tailed gal who brought you your package was a breath of fresh air ! You old sly dog you !

Steve said...

Owen: what can I say? She handled the box with great care before placing it into my warm hands. I opened it with great care and found the contents a wonderful delight. I'm pretty sure she had a fag afterwards but I'd left by that point. Delivery made, there was little point hanging around.