Thursday, March 07, 2013

Post Mortem

This hasn't been the best of weeks. The postal company that handles my book orders appears to have gone bankrupt. I didn't get any warning. One day they simply stopped coming. I have also discovered that for the last three weeks, they collected my post and kept it in a corner of a warehouse.

I am now dealing with a growing number of emails that range from the politely titled 'Delivery enquiry' to the rather more direct 'Where's my bloody book?!' Luckily, my business is small enough for me to respond to each email personally and most people have been very sympathetic. However, I doubt whether I'll survive this without getting some negative feedback on Amazon.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this whole business has been having to take all of the orders to the local post office. The UK ones are easy enough, but trying to send 15 packages to the USA is the nearest I've come to be being beaten to death by an angry mob. I've walked through the notorious Tenderloin district of San Francsico at night and felt uncomfortable, but I've never known fear like the Lewes Post Office queue. I can't go back.

For some relaxation, I watched 'Gideon of Scotland Yard' with my mother. Filmed in 1958 and starring Jack Hawkins, it is a relentlessly frank expose of how brutal the British police were in the 1950s:

No wonder the crime rate was so low.

I also enjoyed this scene, in which Jack Hawkins manages to juggle two telephones and light a pipe at the same time. But watch the buses in the background - they look suspiciously like models to me:

Superficially, 'Gideon of Scotland Yard' is a standard 1950s police procedural film, but unusually it is filmed in Technicolor and directed by John Ford, who rated Jack Hawkins as "the finest dramatic actor with whom I have worked." 55 years on, the film seems very dated, but in a good way. I particularly loved the street scenes and a garish, 'thoroughly modern' 1950s flat.

Without fail, my mother always turns to me and says "D'you know these old films are good aren't they? There's no swearing or anything." By anything, I presume that she means sex.

My mother often asks me how I find these films, blissfully unaware that I spend ages scouring a website for obscure British 'B movies' made between 1940 and 1960. I know her better than she'll ever know me, so choosing the films is easy. Also, I've found that as long as the star is called Jack - either Hawkins or Warner - she'll be happy.

An email box has just popped up in the corner of the screen: "Non-delivery of By a Silver Stream".

It's going to be a long week.


Rog said...

I feel your Post Office pain....I have to wear a flak jacket on pension days.

We use a service called MyHermes for most UK deliveries. That will soon be "all" as the Royal Mail are very foolishly implementing ludicrous 100% and more increases from April on certain parcels sizes.

Steerforth said...

I'm trying CityLink, but I'll set up another account as back-up this time.

One of my colleagues, who has a much larger business, thinks he's lost £20,000 as a result of this debacle. I'm glad this has happened now rather than later.

Canadian Chickadee said...

Oh dear, definitely not what you needed just now. (See, it's not just the English who understand understatement!)

The post office can be a colossal pain. I send a lot of stuff the other way -- from the US to England, and try to have all the forms and everything done in advance, so that all the clerk has to do is weigh and tell me how much. But it still seems to take ages.

Fed Ex and UPS ("What can brown do for you?") are okay for domestic stuff, but sending anything overseas by either of them requires MILES of forms for customs, etc. I've only sent stuff to England by UPS once, and it was such a hassle I never did it again. And worst of all, they had the nerve to charge my sister-in-law duty on my paltry little present!!

And while we're on the subject of the GPO: the other day, I had an email from a friend in England to whom I'd sent a package. I'd addressed it with his correct address, and the word "England." Some busy little minion at the US post office had crossed out "England" and written GB. But I guess I shouldn't complain, at least the pkg. got to its destination. Maybe in future I should write: England/GB/UK to satisfy them! Though sarcasm is a weak blade at best ...

Good luck with your shipping dilemmas...were you ever able to get your pkgs. back from the warehouse where they'd been stored?

Steerforth said...

No and to make things more confusing, some of them appear to have arrived, so I can't tell what's going on.

I find post offices frustrating, but I really feel for the people who work behind the counter - I wouldn't last five minutes in that environment, with its winning combination of tedium and stress.

Lucille said...

What you need is a nice little Post Office in somewhere like, oh I don't know, Winchelsea. Too far?

Steerforth said...

Ridiculously, Winchelsea is the best part of an hour away. I forget how big Sussex is.

I'll see if Alfriston has one.

lucy joy said...

I'm sorry to read you've had business problems which are out of your control. I think I'd find composing the emails more stressful than visiting the P.O.
Some of the bloggers I follow have eBay shops, and their stories about postal issues put me right off doing something similar (as well as general laziness).
Perhaps you should offer British customers the promise of a Lewes tour and cup of tea/slice of cake if they collect their order in person. Or if they live in a nice area, pretend you're going to be nearby soon and see how many interesting lunches you can set up. Imagine the blog posts!

I think my mother would like you to be her son, she spends ages looking at film from the 50's and 60's. I've recently enjoyed some of her suggestions, I particularly enjoy the flagrant sexism.

Lucy R. Fisher said...

Royal Mail website for printing postage online was brilliant (you just need kitchen scales for weighing) - UNTIL IT STOPPED WORKING. After many, many, many calls to customer service, it never worked again and I gave up.

Steerforth said...

Lucy, if they collected the books in person, the customers would be in for a rather unpleasant experience. As they opened their car doors (and they'd have to drive, as we're miles from anywhere), they would be confronted with a stench of rotting manure, a sheep's carcass and a dog that likes snapping at vistors' ankles. Once in my barn, they'd see that the tea making facilities were rather primitive, with mugs that probably needed a full cycle in the dishwasher.

I like the idea of visiting people though. On the few occasions I have visited customers, it has always been fascinating.

Richmonde - Yes, I've been doing a lot of weighing of packages recently. It's very time-consuming, compared to simply dropping them (carefully, of course) into a sack and sticking a label on the front. Fortunately, one unexpected consequence of sending packages from the local post office is that I'm now getting good feedback for delivery times, so that will help to make up for the negative reviews.

Desperate Reader said...

Good luck sorting everything out, I do feel for you on this.

Steerforth said...

Thanks. I think it's sorted now, but I'm not looking forward to the second wave of angry US customers.

Sandra Morris said...

As someone who sends packages in the post several times a week I absolutely empathise.
I've tried using SmartStamp, where you have to weigh your package, buy the postage online then queue up in the PO to have the staff sneer at you because they get no payback from the transaction. It's my experience that SmartStamp customers (who, by the way, pay a monthly amount for the privilege) are regarded as the scum of the earth by PO employees.
Don't even mention customers in the US. I wonder if they ever teach Geography in US schools. Either customers expect delivery from the UK within two days (?!) or I don't hear from them for weeks as they think that the UK is somewhere roughly south east of Azerbaijan.

Steerforth said...

Sandra - The PO staff should be grateful that you've done most of the work yourself!

So far, the staff at Lewes Post Office have been unfailingly polite and helpful, but their system doesn't make it easy for small traders to send more than a couple of packages without creating a queue that extends out into the street. Apparently some post offices have self-service machines for parcels - we need more of those.

Little Nell said...

I remember the P.O queues from my ebaying life a few years ago (trying to get rid of 'stuff' before we emigrated). Fitting it in with my job was murder. Thank goodness for the branch inside Waitrose, which had far friendlier hours and allowed me to wheel one of their trolleys full of my parcels through the store and into the queue.

Mums love old films; when my Mum was with me at Christmas, having lost Dad only three weeks earlier, it proved a very useful. Mum was in the ATS in WW2 and I found a copy (free to download from the web) of 'The Gentle Touch' made by Leslie Howard, and following the first few days of a mixed bunch of recruits. I even found myself quite caught up in it.