July Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News
~ Post newspaper publication comment: This Op-ed created some conflict in the small, remote town where I live and I learned some important things, including: It’s important for the writer to be tested occasionally; is your skin thick enough to bear the effects of your words; even after writing for decades, the writer is still learning the craft; best to offer a direct and sincere apology to those who felt they were wronged; if you believe your words to be fair and accurate, then let go; those who object are fewer than those who thank you for speaking up.~
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Gratitude is the back door into positivity so I’m reminding myself how many years I’ve enjoyed great postal service, especially all those years when my letters and postcards arrived safely from far flung locales such as Australia, Nepal, and China. When you think of the transportation logistics, all the mail handlers involved, and the pittance it costs, postal service is miraculous.
But recently my package disappeared. A clerk admitted the notification card had been put in the wrong mail box. She checked the tracking number in the computer and later she apparently called the person who picked up my package, only to be told they had not. I asked for the person’s name so I could follow-up and verify but the clerk declined, assuring me that the person was honest.
I was offered Canada Post’s customer service number. Turns out the customer service department doesn’t have tracking numbers on their computers. When I started to protest I was put on a time-out hold. Several minutes later she tried to convince me that I could recoup the loss by going through the sender’s insurance.
Why on earth would the sender’s insurance reimburse me when there was documentation to prove the package was sent and received? The contents were worth a few hundred dollars and I didn’t buy insurance but if I had, more money would have been wasted and the process would have been just as frustrating.
Good customer service isn’t only smiles and pleasantries when things are going right, it’s measured when something goes wrong. I got the distinct impression that a missing package wasn’t important and was somebody else’s problem.
Of course honest mistakes are made. But when a package isn’t signed for, where’s the check and balance against employee error? And how is knowing a person, or believing in their honesty, good enough postal practice? Packages can be worth a lot of money.
Which is the larger point to be made here. Parcel post is way, way up these days—200 parcels per day are processed here alone—and that begs some questions. How many others are losing their packages? Does the increased parcel volume mean Canada Post is struggling to maintain sufficient oversight?
And the worst case scenario: are parcels disappearing due to internal fraud? If and when a bad apple is hired, it won’t take long before they figure out how to game a bureaucracy that has built-in dead ends and a systemic lack of accountability. Given my experience, I can see this being a possibility.
I have a large, old stamp collection containing many beautiful stamps from countries that no longer exist. I keep meaning to take the collection in and see if any are rare and valuable—maybe now is the time, I’d be grateful if they could defray the cost of replacing the contents of my disappeared package. And maybe that would be my back door into a more positive feeling about what’s going on with the nation’s postal service.