Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe
marypcb

Online postage and post office closures

The Post Office has decided to close all eight of the threatened branches in Putney and Wandsworth, despite the fact that the main post office is overloaded, the population is growing and they got thousands of responses from people wanting the post offices to stay open. In fact they were due to close by the end of June. Wandsworth Council is doing its usual good job (not ironic - yes, they're conservatives and I'm still surprised what what a really good job they do), slamming the Post Office - threatening to take them to court if the GLA judicial review doesn't force any changes - and looking at grants and partnerships with local churches to either keep the post office branches open or provide service through church buildings.

"The Post Office has said it will consider keeping branches open if they do not take trade away from other post offices and if they bear all the running costs themselves. They will no longer get any government subsidy and subpostmasters will not get a wage." http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/Home/MyWandsworth/Pressreleases/newspage_detail.htm?id=5806

The thing is, that's not the PO trying to run as a business; that's the PO wanting to have its cake and eat it. I talked to the sub-postmaster at our nearest branch when the threat came up and he said that six months ago he had 200 special delivery orders a day. Since the Royal Mail site let people buy postage for parcels and special delivery online, it went down to a handful. But you still have to take those parcels to a post office branch to post them and you still have to queue up and get the proof of postage stamped - so the branch is a vital part of that transaction, but it gets no credit for it. It doesn't count as revenue or traffic, so the Post Office can say the branch is under-used and close it. You can still buy the postage online - but now you have go miles further to use it. Isn't this a monopoly taking advantage of its position?

This is the other half of the online delivery problem. It isn't a transaction you can disintermediate; not every parcel is small enough to drop into the letter box and I don't trust the postal service not to lose parcels: I'm still waiting to have a lost parcel paid for many months after it just disappeared. The branch should get credit for being the drop-off point and enabling the online service - and suddenly it would look as profitable as it did six months ago.
Tags: politics, rant
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