Monday, 26 October 2015

Is Shepherd's Bush Post Office Really "The Portal Between Earth and Hades"?

The Worst Place on Earth?
I was recently forced to actually go in to Shepherd's Bush Post Office, and was quickly reminded why I avoid it. Richard Herring memorably described our local post office as "the portal between Earth and Hades".

Last Saturday, as my toddler and her grandmother waited patiently outside (well, one of them waited patiently, the other one shrieked her head off), my twenty minute wait in line to buy a stamp felt like an eternity.

So is Herring right? Is Shepherd's Bush Post Office really the worst place on Earth?

Like Herring, I can't really blame the staff. There aren't enough of them, and the automatic stamp machines seem to be perpetually lit up with the red "out of order sign".

And last Saturday it also wasn't the fault of the staff that the people queuing in front of me seemed to have very, very complex problems which required time and patience to explain, let alone solve.

the portal between Earth and Hades?
But still, the least they could do is agree that having just two staff members working on a busy Saturday before Christmas (yes, there were people mailing Christmas presents) really isn't enough.

And they could also agree that having not one but both automatic stamp machines out of order isn't exactly impressive. Don't blame me, they could say, blame the Post Office.

"I own you!", I wanted to say, referring to my feeble share ownership in this once-great public corporation. But, as Merryn Somerset-Webb points out in her excellent blog, share ownership isn't really ownership at all. At least, not in the sense that you own normal things like, say an umbrella.  Owning shares in a company doesn't even really buy you the right to complain - unless of course you happen to own 51% of the company.

Now that the Post Office has been privatised, we might expect things to work better.  After all, BT works a lot better now than it did in the days when installing a telephone meant a three month wait - if you were lucky.  Trouble is, even post-privatisation, where else can you go to post a letter?  The Post Office still has a monopoly.  Our choice is Hobson's Choice - you can wait your turn, stand in line and put up with it, or, well....that's it.  There is no choice.

But not quite. Like Richard Herring, you can make fun of them. And hope that things may one day improve.


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