Stamp of disapproval for post office

Despite a pledge in a national daily last year from Mark Barnes, chief executive of the South African Post Office, to deliver the mail on time, a Long Beach resident had to wait from May 2018 to March 2019 for a refund on a parcel he sent to America, which reached its destination 33 days later instead of the promised four to five days.

So much for Mr Barnes’s assurance. The refund was R1 073, half of what the postage cost (R2 146), so not exactly a fortune.

Vince Conway said he sent the parcel containing a coffee machine and some linen to his doctor brother living at Vera Beach, Florida, on April 6, last year.

In September last year, Mr Conway told me: “On April 6 (2018) I went to the post office at Long Beach, Sun Valley, to send a parcel to my brother in America. It was sent via EMS (Expedited Mail Service) and I was told that it would take four to five days. Instead it took 33 days to reach its destination. I paid R2 146 for a service that did not happen.

“I have been in weekly contact with postmaster Malcolm Darvel at Long Beach and all I am told is that there is a backlog due to the postal strike which ended many weeks ago. The post office’s motto, ‘Delivery whatever it takes’ is the exact opposite of what happens. I submitted the claim on May 8 to Mr Darvel and it is over three months with no result.”

Mr Conway said that according to Mr Darvel the claim has been processed but it is waiting for sign-off in Pretoria. “Phoning the call centre is a complete waste of time and money as you are shoved from one person to another until you are cut off. I have another 20 emails about the issue that I could send you, if you need it,” Mr Conway said.

It appears that the post office’s communications division in Pretoria doesn’t deliver either.

I asked head office to respond to Mr Conway’s complaint.

Although they received it there was no acknowledgement from the staffer who I won’t name to save him embarrassment.

I wanted to know why Mr Conway thought he was entitled to a refund; is there anything that says if the parcel is not delivered within four to five days the customer will get a refund; if not why did Mr Darvel give him the impression that he would get some compensation; how long does a parcel normally take to get to America; and why has it taken 33 days. The staffer certainly took the parastatal’s motto seriously because he didn’t deliver anything, not even a one-line comment.

The only person who showed any willingness to help was Martie Gilchrist, Communications: Western and Eastern Cape.

Ms Gilchrist told me on October 18 (2018) that the post office “decided to refund the client the difference between EMS and Airmail”.

“They are waiting for managerial approval to make the payment. I have asked, but they have not said how much. I’m still mailing them regularly,” she said.

Later, Ms Gilchrist said that customer services told her Mr Conway would get 50% of the postage
(R2 146 X 50% = R1 073).

Eventually he received R1 835. But he waited and waited and waited. Mr Conway said his story would fill two pages of this newspaper.

One of the reasons for the delay is that no one in the organisation seemed to know who was responsible for signing off the refund.

Mr Gilchrist also didn’t know but she assured Mr Conway that it was on the agenda for the next meeting.

Tina Duarte, acting senior manager: call centre, also emailed Mr Conway, keeping him informed of the progress, or not, of his complaint.

She then failed to respond to any more queries. Eventually she told Mr Conway she was waiting for the documents from the Cape Town region.

“I need them signed off by the relevant managers before we can process the claim.”

She ignored Mr Conway’s offer to drive from Long Beach to the depot in Epping, Industria, “to get the person who needs to sign it off”.

Then Mr Darvel wrote: “Hi Mr Conway, I just received news from Lucia that your refund is on its way. The senior manager Cape Town is signing it off and we should get it soon. Keep you posted on more developments. Faith and love”

Well, Mr Conway certainly needed faith that the post office would show him some love by refunding him.

Finally, on March 22 (2019), Ms Duarte said: “Just a small note to let you know that your claim has been finalised, it will be sent to Sun Valley PO, you will be notified as soon as it gets there, no later than Wednesday next week. Once again apologies for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.”

Patience is an understatement.

“I received a refund of R1 835,” Mr Conway said. Thanks for all the help. It would never have happened without you.”

And Mr Conway’s persistence for 11 months. “The money was not an issue. It’s the service and the ducking and diving by the post office, hoping I would go away.”

Perhaps the R762 extra that Mr Conway got was the post office showing some love.