Like most people I don't like changes.
If I get used to a particular service,
like spares deliveries, it fits into the way I work. Without
parts to replace faulty ones I can't fix things, so spares and
their availability are pretty critical.
I used to get my VCR spares and i/cs
and suchlike for TVs from a small firm in London. Delivery was
60p and if I ordered before 6pm the postman brought the package
the next morning about 9am. This went on like clockwork for years
Business being so good, that firm decided
to expand and move into larger premises. Unfortunately, when
they moved they couldn't manage to have stuff delivered the next
day. It would take 2 days. The excuse was that the Post Office
was too far away. This delay may not seem important but if you
have a limited amount of room then partly dismantled TV sets
and VCRs soon mount up and affect productivity.
I switched to another supplier. They
too began to fall down on deliveries. To guarantee same day despatch,
the order had to be placed before mid-day. This usually meant
that no sooner had I got an order phoned through, then I would
find I needed another chip or whatever, as of course I continued
to fix things after 12 o'clock. This meant more postage costs
and their charge was £1 a time.
Because the routine had changed, and
because I'm getting older, I began to forget to order stuff and
the heaps of things around the workshop soon reached the ceiling.
Once firm "A" found that orders
started to fall (other people must have had the same experience?)
they started raising their prices so now I only go to them if
(a) no-one else stocks that particular bit and (b) if I can negotiate
a sensible price. Firm "B" often advertised stuff they
didn't have and sometimes couldn't even get hold of. During a
telephone call an order for six items would shrink to two items.
Bearing in mind I'd still have to get the parts from somewhere,
the goods/postage ratio began to get uneconomic.
Many years ago I'd opened an account
with a BIG company, not usually as cheap as the smaller firms.
Soon however their spares prices began to look reasonable. Availability
was normally ex-stock and if one ordered enough stuff, postage
was free. Delivery was always 1:30pm if I ordered before 6pm.
I got used to this and could plan ahead.
For the next 5 years customers' collections could be planned
to the half hour and workshop space was manageable. I had to
wait for an order to reach the required free-postage level and
that meant perhaps only one or two orders a week with the consequent
backlog of TVs waiting around in bits.
Then improvements began. One could order
up to 7pm. This was useful and had a bonus that the phone call
was cheaper after 6pm. Unfortunately though, there seemed to
be a grey area between 6pm and 7pm. For some reason things ordered
between these times would sometimes go missing for a day. Workshop
throughput started to get tricky.
I found that Parcel Force would be called
on for heavy items and they would turn up on the dot at 1:30pm
but lighter items would turn up at 9am the next day... or, more
likely two days later...by normal "first class" post.
Again planning got to be tricky. Sometimes I added a really heavy
item, like 2,500 sheets of printing paper, to an order just to
guarantee the parcel would arrive the next day.
For a while that worked and planning
became a science once again rather than an art, as it had gradually
Things changed one day out of the blue.
The Parcel Force chap said it was them that had ditched cut price
"bulk" customers as a strategy to concentrate on "premium"
The shipper said it was Parcel Force
I don't know which was true. Occasionally,
before the change, when chasing a missing order, I'd be told
that the P.F.man had gone before all the parcels for that day
had been handed over to him. I don't know whether that was an
excuse or not. It may have been that the Packing Department had
gone home before all the day's packing had been finished?
Anyway deliveries were via a new carrier.
A knock on the door just after 8am heralded the first delivery
from that company. Fantastic.. I could start work earlier and
clear away the TV sets and VCRs sitting around the bench. They'd
be collected before noon even.
After a few deliveries the early knock
ceased. Now that the delivery chap had got used to his new round
we had been put on the back burner. Deliveries were now around
3:30 or 4pm. Not very convenient.
As I write this a new Royal Mail service
has just got underway. For a few tens of pounds one can have
letters delivered before 9am. The R.M. spokesman was questioned
by the Radio 4 chap. "Not a very large take-up I understand?"
"Not what we'd hoped for was the response.. not a large
number of people have taken up the offer". "In fact",
the Radio 4 chap went on to say, with undisguised glee, "only
ONE CUSTOMER in the whole of the UK has paid up front!".
The R.M. spokesman went on to say that the new service wasn't
intended to be "profit making". Was this a way of stressing
the LOW COST of the service? I can't immediately think of another
reason. If it's non-profit making, R.M. are wasting their time
offering it! I thought I must have imagined what he said.
What if I stayed up all night fixing
TVs so I could guarantee that they'd be ready by 9am and not
make a profit. If anyone got to know they'd have me certified.
I think the public in this country are
being taken for a ride. What did we used to get for twopence
halfpenny (that's about one "P" in todays money). We
used to get two deliveries a day and more in big towns. You could
post a letter in the morning and it would be delivered in the
afternoon. One could post a Christmas card on Christmas Eve and
it would be delivered the next day. That is if the postman didn't
fall over because of the number of sherries he'd had before he
reached your address! The postman's visit was something to look
forward to as he used to deliver proper letters. Now the postman
delivers very few letters and tons of rubbish. I think there
ought to be special skips outside the sorting offices and the
first thing the postman should do is to dump all the junk mail
before he starts his round. Then maybe we'd all get our post
before 9am and the postmen could knock off early and put their
A young chap on Radio 4 the other day
said he'd worked in a Royal Mail sorting office during his vacation
and had been truly amazed at the goings on. It cost a lot of
effort to DELAY second class mail. In fact it seems that second
class mail, because of the extra handling it receives, should
be MORE EXPENSIVE than first class mail. Isn't this a nonsense!
The reason some first class mail deliveries take longer than
they should is that they sometimes inadvertently get sorted into
second class. The logic of first and second class mail escapes
me. Why not have a flat rate of 10p for letters and £1
for junk mail?
Anyway, not only are deliveries starting
to get delayed, the packing of the parcels is getting a bit slipshod.
A CD laser tray was squashed through the letter box in its jiffy
bag and dropped onto the doormat in pieces. A line output transformer
in a jiffy bag had its ferrite yoke in pieces. A BIG plastic
clock arrived in a SMALL box whose flaps weren't closed together
and there was a big scratch across its face. The number of "returns"
are rising. It doesn't cost me anything to post these, that is
in monetary terms.. but in terms of time it is unacceptable.
I have to gather the information; ring the supplier; wait while
details are entered on the computers; describe the problem; then
produce a covering letter and pack the item. Then I've got to
make sure I'm in when the carrier arrives or visit the Post Office
if it's a small item. Not to mention a re-order and the ensuing
The reason for most of these problems
may lie with the people employed to carry out the various tasks?
Today I heard a loud crash at the back
door. Unusually I was in the house and not the workshop. I went
to see what the noise was.
Lying on the gravel in pouring rain
was a parcel.
It was the "2003" CPC catalogue.
The plastic wrapper was split and there
was mud over the exposed paper. That is; the edges of all 2,500
I picked it up and tackled a pair of
delivery drivers sitting in their white van outside in the road.
"Look at this catalogue. It's wet
The driver said, "my mate didn't
want to get wet, here's another", handing me a slightly
dog-eared copy less wrapper, lying in the back of the van.
I took it and remarked it wasn't much
better than the first. "Have them both", he said.
"Do you realise these catalogues
are worth about £20?" I said. "We're delivering
them free", he said.
"It's got to last me a year",
I reurned to the house and started wiping
off the mud.
A knock on the door a few moments later,
and there was the driver holding a pristine shrink-wrapped copy.
"Have this one", he said,
removing the wrapper.
Then he noticed that there was an address
label on the back.
He borrowed a pair of scissors and cut
off the label.
"I'll report it as undeliverable",
he said, relieving me of both the muddy copy and the dog-eared
I now have a clean dry copy without
dog-ears but with a hole cut in the back cover.
You just can't get the staff nowadays!