Monday, 20 May 2013

The attack on snail mail


Recently there have been all sorts of suggestions and plans for the future of the Royal Mail - most of them detrimental to the users of the service and those who value traditions like red pillar boxes and postmen on bikes. 

Our postman retired at the end of last year and his route has not been replaced. Don't misunderstand me,  we do still get a delivery but it is never the same postman twice and it can be any time between 10.30 a.m. and 4 p.m. as opposed to the old time of 11.30 to 12.30.  That is because our route is now done by people on overtime. There are various problems that this causes us. 

Firstly, small parcels, which are carried by the regular postman, may not always be small enough to fit through the letter box. Our old postie knew where to leave them. The irregular guys don't know offhand and some, it seems, are incapable of reading the note on the front door which tells people where to leave parcels. (Presumably requiring postmen and postwomen to be literate contravenes some Equality legislation).

Secondly, post which needs signing for is now returned to the post distribution office and has to be collected from there. One has to allow up to 70 hours before collecting it.  Presumably the postman must take it home with him for a couple of nights.  I just hope he sleeps with it by his bed; I'd hate to lose one of our parcels because of a burglary at a postman's house.   (I won't tell you what happened previously but suffice it to say we got it delivered to us and the signature may not have exactly matched mine! Our postman trusted us not to drop him in it if anything went wrong and because we knew him we trusted the postman not to pinch our mail.) 

Thirdly our address is 1a but as you walk long the road our house precedes the house numbered 1. This is unusual and therefore there is a certain brain-type that seems incapable of finding us. The Royal Mail (presumably as part of its Equal Opprotunities Policy) has employed a number of this brain-type. 

Fourthly, there is a 1a in the next road. It would appear it is easier for the brain-type mentioned above to post our letters at that house (ignoring the postcode and the road name) than to find our house. An alternative is to post the letters at number 1 on the basis that presumably they know where 1a is. 

However, all these can be considered minor irritations compared to the greater issues like the closure of post offices and the reduction in mail services generally, combined with increases in the cost of sending snail mail. There have been two increases since I started postcrossing last year.

Over the years the Post Office has seen many major reductions. In my grandmother's day, in urban areas, she could post a letter in the morning, get a reply in the afternoon and have her further response delivered by the evening delivery. Nowadays what is called First Class mail would take at least three days to accomplish that. Second class mail could take up to a couple of weeks.   I have a letter written by my great grandfather in Birkenhead (admittedly on the major rail network at the time) in the morning and delivered to Shipton-under-Wychwood (as rural as it's name implies) over 140 miles away later that day.

In my youth there was Sunday postal delivery and a Sunday collection from pillar boxes. We had two deliveries a day and things posted in the morning often arrived by 'the second delivery' as we called it. Nowadays there is one postal delivery a day and none on a Sunday. The time of postal deliveries can offcially vary from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.. The parcel office from which parcels that could not be delivered - for want of a signature, etc - is only open until lunchtime. There is no collection from pillar boxes between Saturday lunch time and Monday morning. 

It seems that the US mail is under equal attack and the following infographic comes from

Life without the United States Postal Service
Source: NumberSleuth


  1. I almost read the entire post before I stopped. Why? Well, the more I read, the more upset I grew. People who don't write mail cannot relate to the things you wrote. How sad.

    Blaming e-mail for low postal numbers is just plain wrong. Progress leaves dinosaurs in tar pits. Fewer people write letters. Not because more own computers. I know too many who do not own call phones or tablets too, so we must find something else to blame.

    It took eight years before we got decent mail carriers. We began with mail delivered in the late morning. Then it fell to 5 pm too often! It switched to noon-ish, then afternoon. Now we just don't expect it at any certain time, and lo! It's here before noon. Most days. LOL. Our mail comes in cluster boxes. No more door-to-door delivery.

    I still have a brand spanking new sheet of those bugs stamps. Somewhere.

    Nice post.

  2. When you mentioned that you have 1a in your address and there's also a 1 in your street I laughed a little.

    I live in Japan and have at least once a year received a piece of mail that wasn't for me at all, but was for another foreigner. I think the mail sorters can't be bothered to try to remember the English they learned in school to read the address and just decide to throw it in with the mail of whichever foreigner is receiving mail today.

    A couple of weeks ago I received a card from Luxembourg. As a postcrosser I was thrilled as it would be a new country for me, wasn't for me. It wasn't a postcrossing card at all! The hoped-for receiver didn't live anywhere near me, their name was nothing like mine and really it was just sloppy work on the Post Office's part.

    That said, USUALLY, the Japan Post service is excellent and things arrive very fast, but every once in a while I get another foreigner's mail! I hope they don't get mine!

  3. Canada Post is planning to close down several post offices over the next couple of months. They are saying that mail delivery is down a lot due to e-mail. They were even talking about bringing back junk mail! It's sad to see the end of an era. They are saying that they will make use of the smaller post offices in pharmacies. It seems that the mail has slowed down a lot all over the world.


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