This is in spite of chief executive Mark Barnes’s grandiose pronouncements in the press and on social media about its wonderful improved services.
Last year, on November 29, the post office claimed it had cleared its backlog in its depots, that domestic deliveries have been “normalised” to fall within regulated standards and the services were back to “predictable daily conveyances to their destinations”.
Barnes, a former banker who took over three years ago on a promise to overhaul the beleaguered service, praised the work done to resolve the factors causing the backlog.
“It is pleasing to report that these issues have now been addressed and the backlog is resolved,” he said.
Then, on December 4, many South Africans were stunned to hear that it had auctioned thousands of unclaimed parcels, ranging from kitchenware to watches, books and clothing. Nice, easy revenue stream, many thought.
The post office said it was unable to deliver the goods for various reasons (often said to be due to unknown, wrong and illegible addresses). At the “return letter office”, they were catalogued and auctioned after a year to make space.
It told eNCA at the time that it made between R300 000 and R600 000 a year from its two annual auctions at its single return letter office in Epping in Cape Town. The proceeds were pumped into the organisation.
It’s certainly a nice money-spinner.
MyBroadband tested its claims to have cleared its backlog, finding it had either not cleared said backlog - or had lost the goods.
It asked the post office for comment about its poor service levels and received no response. Yet Barnes told the media that every email he or the post office received was followed up on. This is untrue as most readers who mail me copy him in on the complaints never receive a response.
With such a poor track record, would you trust the post office to deliver? Its licence conditions, as set by the Independent Communications Authority of SA, requires it to have a 92% rate of delivering ordinary mail within five days.
When Capetonian Mike Broomberg, a renowned foley and sound-effects artist who worked for decades in Hollywood, heard he had won a Golden Reel award for the latest Spider-Man instalment (Into the Spider-Verse) - the Oscars of the sound editors industry - he was concerned that that, too, would get lost in the black hole that’s become the post office.
Broomberg, whose body of work includes all three Spuds, Ghostbusters, Five Fingers for Marseilles, and the City of Angels, was working at the time on a project in Cape Town and was unable to attend the awards. He wanted to courier the award, but it would have cost him more than $500 (R7 000).
Not prepared to spend so much on its delivery, he opted for the post office but he wasn’t taking a chance: he tracked the parcel from the moment it was sent in the US, via its international tracking number.
But once it arrived at the “black hole” at OR Tambo Airport, it received a new tracking number which is when he became concerned.
He spent hours on the phone, calling every number he could find - most of which went unanswered - until he found a helpful soul at the Epping depot who, once he heard the story about how this celebrated foley artist won (yet another) major award in Hollywood, went beyond to ensure Broomberg would be united with his coveted trophy.
Broomberg has the trophy on the mantelpiece at home but believes it’s only because of his persistence.
Which doesn’t say much for the service, if the post office’s reluctant customers have so little faith in its ability to do its job that they feel compelled to keep tabs on it until they find a staff member with an interest in delivery.
* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected], tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.