Gripes & Graplings

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's With The Post Office?

Once upon a time I could take a leisurely ten minute stroll to a local post office, or sub post office as they're officially called.

Apart from doing the usual post officely things like selling stamps and postal orders, cashing social security giros, and taking care of bill payments, they sold all sorts of weird and wonderful things, some useful, others not so.

Milk, cans of baked beans, sewing needles, tights, sweets, cheap watches, ornaments and greeting cards were all there, as were stuffed toys, porcelain dolls, candles and light bulbs. Of course, they also had a reasonable selection of the things you'd expect to find in a post office such as brown paper, envelopes, string, cellotape and writing pads.

But that was then.

Even though there are around 17,000 local post offices in the UK, over the past year or so most of those in our part of Crewe have been closed down deeming it necessary for us to jump into our cars and head for town instead. Yes, there is a bus that goes there too, but buying a stamp might take a while being as you'll have to wait about half an hour after you've finished your errand before you can get a bus back again. Mind you, by the time you've messed around trying to find a parking space, it might be just as well to wait for the bus. Unfortunately, for those on a low income, the bus fare to and from town in order to buy a 30 pence first-class stamp can make a nasty dent in their disposable funds. But then again, so can the 70p parking charge. Whatever way you look at it, a visit to the post office isn't going to be cheap.

Anyway, yesterday I needed a greeting card and as Richard already had an errand at the post office, I decided to pop along with him as the main post office has always had a nice selection.

But that was then.

It isn't that long since I was last in the post office but my how it's changed. Gone are the racks of greeting cards, the selection of envelopes and other post related merchandise and in their place are... wait for it... hair straightening irons, electric toasters, satellite digi boxes, dvd players and more. There are also lots of films and computer games. Greeting cards? A pitiful selection. I needed a "Congratulations on the Birth of Your Baby Boy" card. There were three. Ok, at least I got one but even our tiny old local post office would have carried a bigger selection.

Now I realise that businesses have to branch out in order to keep up with competition but I wonder how many people think "I need an electric food chopper so I'll pop along to the post office". Not many. But does it matter? According to the counter assistant, most of their sales are spontaneous; people come in for a stamp and go out with curling tongs.

Oh well. Times are obviously changing.

Must dash. We're having fish and chips for tea so I'm off to the newsagents to get it.

Related links:
The Post Office
The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters



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