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Neither Rain nor Snow nor Common Sense. . .

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Herodotus

imagesCanada’s postal service announced a few months ago that it was ceasing door-to-door mail delivery. Instead, it would install neighbourhood mail boxes and people would be required to go to their assigned box to pick up their mail. Canada Post has been installing these mail boxes in newly built neighbourhoods for years and the Crown Corporation has indicated that it needs to make this change across the board in order to cut operation costs.

This isn’t an issue that I’ve been too concerned about to be honest. Maggie and I have been collecting our mail from a neighbourhood mail box for years and at the end of the day, it really isn’t all that big a deal to us. But it is a big deal for many Canadians.

There has been quite an outcry at the loss of daily door-to-door delivery and the roughshod manner in which Canada Post has overruled municipal governments and citizens about where the boxes will be installed.claire-marie-gagnon-sits-in-front-of-the-canada-post-communi

Many people are – well, to put it delicately – pissed.

Some have taken to protest by planting gardens on the site of a proposed mail box. Others have picketed and a few enterprising souls have laid down on the site of a new box and refused to move out of the way of the installers.

It isn’t quite the French Revolution but we’re Canadian and that’s how we do things here.

The Conservative government pretty much ignored the issue, most likely because there didn’t appear to be any niqab-wearing letter-carriers but the new incoming Liberal government has ordered a halt to the installation of the mail boxes until a full review has been conducted.

That caught my attention – not because I agree or disagree with any of the decisions taken before or since but rather because of the amount of political indecision triggered by a fundamental lack of business vision by all concerned.

Canada Post’s position is that it needs to cut operations cost and to do that, it can no longer afford daily door-to-door delivery. Putting aside the obvious idea that a mail service is supposed to service all citizens let’s consider their proposed solution.

We live in an era of instant communication with email, texting and instant messaging. Canada Post has stated in the past that the amount of personal mail has dropped fairly significantly as a result; so the obvious question is, why does it have to be delivered daily?

Clearly nobody is going to argue with the idea of a Crown corporation cutting costs to eliminate its operating deficit but it seems to me that government and its agencies always seem to grasp cutting services as the first response to that objective.

Sometimes that is the only available option I admit but is it really the only option available to Canada Post?images (2)

It seems to me that there are a number of other options including privatisation and reducing the number of days in which residential mail is delivered. Privatisation might be cost-efficient for a bit but it won’t be politically popular so it’s probably a non-starter but what about cutting back the number of days mail is delivered rather than how it is delivered?

I think that Canada Post could have cut daily delivery to a couple of times a week and still achieved significant cost savings while maintaining door-to-door delivery which is significantly more convenient for seniors and the disabled.

The single biggest cost to any organization, including Canada Post, is labour. Typically labour costs in an organization run about 70% of total operational costs. If you cut the number of days you deliver the mail, you don’t need as many people to deliver it because every letter carrier can have more than one route.  Even if some of them wear niqabs.

If you increase the number of days that mail is delivered from five to six (Monday through Saturday) but reduce the number of days each home has mail delivered to twice per week, it would mean that one letter-carrier could service three separate routes instead of one. That would cut labour cost by somewhere in the area of 60%.

images (1)Even better, there is no upfront capital cost required to procure and install the neighbourhood mail boxes; no cost required to maintain them or to clear snow away from them in the winter. In other words, you get instant savings by reducing the number of days you deliver the mail per household without any new costs added to that saving.

 Cutting daily delivery back to a couple of days a week is not a hardship for most people. Forcing them to go to a neighbourhood mail box isn’t either although it is somewhat inconvenient and sometimes a bit dangerous when the box is on a busy street or near a school like ours. Kids and traffic don’t mix very well.

I don’t know too many people that get personal mail every day. In fact, to be honest, I don’t know anyone who does. Maggie and I get and pay our bills online, 90% of our correspondence is also done online. If it wasn’t for junk mail and Maggie’s magazine subscriptions, we’d go a very long time waiting for a piece of mail to open.

So why maintain daily service? Nobody seems to know but Canada Post has turned itself inside out and annoyed the dickens out of a lot of people in the process as it struggles to implement a means to maintaining daily delivery without actually delivering it to anyone beyond a Canada Post mail box.stamps

I may be wrong – it wouldn’t be the first time but what irks me is the lack of vision and only a pretty small vision is required considering alternatives to either community mail boxes or subsidizing daily door-to-door delivery. There may even be other better ideas but they won’t be considered either. We’re led by people so caught up in being their important selves, they’ve lost sight of why they were elected or appointed. One thing is clear, however, we should all be thankful that Canada Post had nothing to do with the Pony Express or else our mail would still come by horse and rider while they pondered how to modernize delivery.

From corporate business leaders to unions, from politicians to bureaucrats and others who work in the public sector there is an incredible lack of basic common sense. Every problem is given an overly complex and usually absurdly expensive solution which takes a generation to fully implement. In the end we save nothing but lose service.

The leadership in this country be it corporate, union, public sector or political suffers from rectal-cranial inversion. I think we need a cleansing; an enema at the top of the food chain to allow those we have entrusted to provide leadership to get their heads out of their asses and lead.

And now that I have that off my chest, if you will excuse me, I have to drive over to our neighbourhood community mail box and check for mail.

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© 2015 Maggie’s Bear

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  • JoeFrmEdm

    It’s a Crown Corp, are the Lieberals going to give us the 2/3 of people who never had home delivery the same treatment with those complaining??

    • MaggiesBear

      You’ve just identified the issue with these half-baked measures. It breeds inequity and confusion when what is needed is something that works for everybody: the corporation and all customers.

    • Frances

      Grew up in a community with no mail delivery while the communities downstream (literally) had home delivery. We had an option of renting a box at the local post office (a mile uphill) or using general delivery. We survived. Still think though, that in communities where there was no door-to-door delivery, the mail boxes should have been free.

  • bobmontgomery

    Quit using your head. It’ll give you a headache. Seriously, you are a common-sense, normal person, with a functioning intellect. You probably spent about ten or fifteen minutes thinking about the issue and came up with a practical solution that would not only work, and save money, but probably satisfy the majority of people.
    Your complaint about ‘lack of vision’ by the people who get paid to sort this stuff out (including the mail) is spot on.
    Anyway, thanks for the heads up. We in the US will no doubt be facing the same issue soon. Cheers.

    • MaggiesBear

      It really isn’t all that complex when you put the ten minutes of thought into it that is required. It’s typical of public sector-think. If it isn’t complex, it isn’t a real solution. Other countries have dealt with mail service quite successfully. I did quite a bit of back and forth between Canada and Japan last year. When something was shipped to me via Japan Post, the first thing they did was send me an email thanking me, issuing a tracking number and providing an expected delivery date. I remember one parcel in particular left Japan and arrived in Canada within 4 days. It took 24 hours to clear customs which is normal but then it took 10 days to travel from Toronto to my place, a distance of about 400 kms. No tracking number, the expected Canada Post delivery date was wrong and at one point, they didn’t actually know where the parcel was. When I finally did receive it, I got another thank you emal from Japan Post — nothing from Canada Post. Like I said, some folks and institutions need an enema.

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