That great nineteenth century invention, the universal postal service, is slowly dying.
Canada Post is phasing out delivery to the home, the New Zealand postal service is reducing deliveries to three days a week in urban areas. In the UK, the newly privatised postal service is getting rid of posties bikes while AustraliaPost soldiers on with five day a week deliveries for the moment, albeit by charging an arm and a leg for a fairly basic service.
And of course, it’s all due to email. Not online shopping, email. In fact most postal services are keeping themselves alive by delivering packages for the various online shopping service. Everything from second hand books and laser toner to running shoes and business shirts.
It’s truly staggering the amount, and variety, of stuff we buy online, and it all needs to be delivered, and in the main it’s the postal service that does the delivering.
The fact that the UK is getting rid of the red post office bike is a symptom - fewer letters and more parcels and packets means that the bike is not as useful as a trolley,
Here in Canberra we still get a postie on a moped, but with Australia Post encouraging people to collect their own parcels from a mail centre one wonders for how much longer it will be economic to provide a mail delivery service.
Certainly the amount of standard mail we get has fallen off a cliff. All our bills come electronically, all our bank and credit card statements. No one much writes to us anymore, it’s all email. About the only mail we get, other than junk mail, is a postcard from our dentist reminding us about checkups, plus an annual letter from the vet about the cat’s vaccinations.
In fact, we don’t get our mail delivered, we have a private post office box and have our mail delivered there, simply because we get a lot of books and other small packets and it was simply easier to have it delivered somewhere we could collect it from easily, rather than have to trek to some post shop in some nameless suburb and line up to collect our mail.
At the same time we send very few letters. Christmas cards and the occasional official document and that’s it. Even though I write to my elderly father, who despite trying valiantly, has never come to grips with email, I use a service that takes my letter, prints it out, and posts it overseas, for a dollar less than it would cost me to do the same at home.
So, like bookstores, the postal service will gradually wither away. Delivery services in the cities and country towns will probably disappear, and the postal service will be part of history …
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