Jul 15

A day after US online retail giant Amazon announced that it was no longer offering South African customers standard postal delivery due to massive theft by SA Post Office employees, the Post Office has announced that it will sell cut-price books, DVDs and CDs direct to the public outside the back door of its branches nationwide.

According to a statement made by Post Office spokesman Gift Mkhize, the new retail outlets would operate on a cash-only, first-come first-served, don’t-ask-don’t-tell basis. He added that for those customers who did not feel like queuing there would be “mobile franchises” parked near most branches, where the public was welcome to buy goods out of the boots of Post Office employees’ cars.

Asked if the Post Office was ashamed at being the only postal service in Africa to be blacklisted by the US retail giant, Mkhize was defiant, saying that Amazon’s bold branding on its packaging was to blame for the rampant pilfering. “Those parcels have ‘Amazon’ written all over them,” he said. “Our employees find this very provocative.” “Most of our staff are functionally illiterate, but over the years, handling many printed items, some of them have developed a rudimentary sense of lettering, and that big A and big Z are unmistakable.”

He said that expecting Post Office staff not to pocket their clients’ packages was “as naive as expecting Members of Parliament not to fiddle their expense accounts”.

According to Mkhize, the decision to sell merchandise outside the back door of branches had been made at board level, after initial anti-theft measures proved ineffective. He said that a 2003 initiative to install metal detectors at staff entrances had been compromised when all the metal detectors were stolen by employees, who then sold them back to the Post Office, which subsequently lost them.

“It was very demoralizing,” he said. “At least this way our employees feel like stakeholders in the whole process.”

Meanwhile a police spokesman has admitted that postal theft is very difficult to tackle. Superintendent Magda Siff said that the problem was compounded by the fact that Post Offices clerks traditionally moved “incredibly slowly”. “Anyone who has ever used a Post Office in South Africa knows that it takes up to 20 minutes for the sullen lady at Counter 4 to get off her stool, waddle into a back room, have a cup of tea and packet of tennis biscuits, and waddle back with the wrong parcel. “During this time she has any number of opportunities to secret away DVDs and suchlike in her industrial-strength underwear.” She said new bras featuring heavy-duty underwires, high-tensile nylon straps and titanium clasps could cope with much greater loads. “We’re seeing small TVs, ant farms, box sets of Desperate Housewives. That kind of stuff.”

Compliments of The News Reporter – PRETORIA, 19 July 2008

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