I hate writing letters. I hate the effort involved in buying stamps and envelopes (they are never around when I need them), finding out peoples addresses, folding, licking, affixing, finding a suitable post box and dropping off the letter. When I discovered email many years ago, my heart momentarily lept with joy that all this might become a thing of the past, only to gradually realise that letters have not yet gone the way of the camera film or the black and white telly. The lead-up to Christmas does my head in for that reason alone! (Bah, humbug).
It gets worse. In the town in Ireland where I live, the local post-office opens late, closes for an hour-and-a-half at lunchtime and closes early too. Long queues are de-rigeur, with the officials hiding behind a thick barrier of bullet-proof glass. You can’t buy stamps over the counter at any shop in the town, and there is no letter box on the outside of the post-office. If you want to deliver a letter you have to find a public letter box. If it’s a parcel you have to get it weighed in a post-office first unless you have the luxury of a franking machine on your premises. It’s a crap service and we put up with it because they have a monopoly in this country. Nothing much has changed in thirty years. It’s a third-world service in a first-world country.
Why oh why do we still need to affix stamps to our letters in this day and age? Why can’t the postmen and postwomen collect letters from our houses instead of us having to traipse all the way to the bloody post-office to send them?
Here’s what I would love to see from a modern postal service. You write a letter, pop it into an envelope, write on the address or just give a name and post-code. (For familiar addressees, maybe all you need to do is to write their name). You then put this into a mailbox outside your door – the same one as where the letters are delivered – and the postal service does the rest. They stamp each envelope with an electronic barcode and then debit an account that you have set up with the post-office previously. You have many different ways of paying, from a pay-as-you-go option to a flat fee, all paid via direct debit or online or even a good old fashioned cheque, a bit like how mobile phone accounts work. The letters and parcels are delivered efficiently and quickly, and you can do all this without the need for stamps or even opening your front door. Maybe for a small extra fee, they would drop some replacement envelopes into your mailbox every so often so you don’t even have to buy these either?
Is this rocket-science? I don’t think so. Could it be done without too much effort? I think it could. Do I think An Post will do anything like this in my lifetime? Ha! Don’t make me laugh.