Friday, September 10, 2010

Going Postal. Again.

I was going to write about me turning up for a recruitment session an hour's drive away from home today and feeling a tit because I'd left half the required paperwork on my table and being told to bugger off home and ring the office because there was no point in me being there. But I won't, it's far too embarrassing, especially as you're all higher rate tax-payers so paying for me to lounge around all day on my arse doing bugger all. But I'm not going to.

I'm so angry about this. It is not often the sainted Vince gets it wrong, but he has this time. I'm not angry through sentimentality or sympathy with the employees but because this is yet another fantastic business being sacrificed to the all-powerful sacred gods of profit and competition.

In 1985 The Royal Mail handled roughly 42 million items a day and made a profit. Today, despite increasing competition from the new media and the vast section of the population who wouldn't know one end of a pen from the other and even if they could get it to work the only word they could spell correctly most of the time would be LOL, it still manages to handle 71 million items daily and still turns a profit. Admittedly, this is down on a couple of years ago but it still rather gives the lie to the oft-quoted reason that Royal Mail is facing competition from email or social networking.

I send lots of stuff through the mail because I sell a few bits and pieces on ebay. The town centre Post Office is rammed most days with people like me and Steptoe, especially around month-end because folk still like to tax their cars via a human, and you can only usually do that in the big offices (or the sub PO at Stubb's Cross near my Mum and Dad's, which doesn't even have a grill or a window because the post office is just one end of the counter and they're always dead friendly). They've already shut down half the sub-post offices on profit grounds (no post office locally? Bugger it, I'll send an email because I'm not driving ten miles to buy the right bloody stamp. Come on, it's not difficult) and they're in the process of centralising sorting offices. They've just closed down ours in Crewe and moved it to Warrington. The sorting office in Crewe is right next door to one of the country's most important rail hubs (Crewe only exists because of the railways, look at it on a map, it has 6 lines coming out of it) where you can connect easily to anywhere in the country. So obviously the sensible thing to do would be to close that and shift it a place with connections only to Crewe and Liverpool. People are complaining here that it takes 6 days for a first class letter to be delivered from one side of a town of 60,000 souls to the other. Of course it does, it has to go 30 miles up the M6 and back down again instead of to Weston Road and then it has to be sorted by an illiterate who doesn't realise that there are two Mount Pleasants in CW1 but three miles apart. The person responsible for this wonder of efficiency? Adam Crozier. Ran the FA before, now runs ITV. And the only sack he's had on his shoulder all his life didn't have Royal Mail on the side, I bet. Yes, deliberately cheap and I'm not sorry, he's a career twat.

I'm fed up with hearing that it can't compete. Complete crap. It can't compete solely on account of it having pointless competition. Where does it have competition? In the parcels sector where it's easy to cram a lorry or van full of stuff and send it up the motorway. Most of your stuff will be broken because it's been processed by zombies and when it does arrive you'll probably have to drive to their depot to pick it up anyway because their driver has to make 86 stops an hour or he doesn't get paid. I'm not saying Parcelforce are any better but...

Please, someone with half a brain explain to me - why does a postal service need competition? What's in it for us, the consumer? We are only actually interested in getting our letter or parcel to its intended address as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Now, I didn't do economics at school but I don't need an MBA to work out that the best way to do this on a national scale is use the provider where all the profits go towards making the biggest and best infrastructure, not paying off shareholders, ergo The Royal Mail. Even the RM's letterpost competitors realise this and use the the Royal Mail to deliver their stuff for them. Just cheaper. This is like me taking your food out of your shopping trolley and then selling it back to you before you've got to the checkout. Besides, if there were no competition, the RM would always be the cheapest. Competition invariably only means confusion for the consumer (how many of you really chop and change energy suppliers or really shop around for your car insurance? I mean really put loads of time and effort into it. I thought not). And just like the dot com boom, where the only people making any real money were the software designers and hardware suppliers, the only sure-fire winners out of the total break-up of the postal service will be the equipment suppliers and several hundred wanky consultants with pretend qualifications from the University of Mull Business College dipping their filthy snouts in the trough and then making it all up. And the government, who will no-doubt auction licences to the highest bidder. Kill the competition, pay a bloke 100 grand a year to make sure nobody's bowling dodgy no-balls and you're sorted. And please stop looking at Belgium and Holland for examples of how to run efficient mail services. These are countries the size of doormats, completely covered in roads and railways, flat and with a combined population 12 all of whom live in the same town. Look at a map of the British Isles; a clue's in the second part of the name for a start.

If it's the pension shortfall that's really the problem, then look at those who are ripping pension funds off. There is no way anyone needs a pension of a million a year. It's obscene. If I can get by on ten grand a year, so can you. And most super pensions are due to huge bonuses or pay-offs from the company, not personal contributions, that would have been better used shared amongst the staff at large. If a fund has to work itself to death to pay out sums like that then it's on a hiding to nothing, especially as the investment bankers have already stolen half the funds for their bonuses. Sorry I've come over all pink.

Come on Vince, don't be a Tory otherwise I will have to kill you.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

World Gone Mad Pt 94

It is heartening to see that in the land of brave and home of the free it is possible for even the least complex of lifeforms to lead a valuable and fulfilling life. All you need do apparently is paint a cross on the side of your shed and shit through your mouth. They'll come running.

Let's start World War III on Saturday!