People Who Get Up Your Nose
#1 in a long series: The eBay Seller
Picture the scene. Your local post-office. There are people working behind four counters and a single queue system.
One of the people has a CLOSED sign and is mildly and slowly sorting out some paperwork. You’d think there’d be a back-office to do it, but no, do it behind a CLOSED sign with a line of people in the queue stretching out to the street. It has to be done, but not so annoyingly in view of the public, who are entitled to think, ‘Look at the queue! Do it later.’
The person behind the second counter has just put up the CLOSED sign to go for lunch. It’s 12.30 when everyone is trying to use the post-office in their lunch break. If you were starting post offices from scratch as a business, you might say “no staff lunch breaks between 12.00 and 1.30.” Harsh? People who work in catering live with it.
The third counter arouses our sympathy. An elderly lady has two Christmas cards to go to the United States. They’re explaining that the first card is 97p postage, but as the second is 61 grams, not 60 grams, it’s going to be a whopping £1.98. She hadn’t realized the difference in size (slight) and weight when she chose the card. She also wants to buy this year’s Christmas stamps for the UK. Wallace & Gromit. Cracking! Only the stamps and images are so tiny that she can’t see what they are. What’s the point of commissioning artwork, then printing it too small for people to enjoy?
Then we look at counter four. The cheerful eBay seller. He or she has two large square bottomed canvas bags, groaning with parcels. They’re going across the counter one at a time, and some have to be Recorded Delivery (Signed for), and all of them need a certificate of posting. Cheerful eBay seller is on friendly terms with the counter staff. Why not? They’re mainly used to paying out money to people, so taking money in is positive. Cheerful eBay seller spends 45 minutes in the post office twice or three times a week. Of course, Cheerful eBay seller could buy a home franking machine, and pay the post charges electronically, but then that leaves rather a large trail for the Inland Revenue, currently taking a long hard look at eBay businesses (as well as everything else). So Cheerful eBay seller simply “hogs” the post office and creates long queues. That IS the post office’s business, and Cheerful eBay seller is spending a fortune with them (without eBay and amazon and online business generally, the post office would have collapsed in terminal unprofitability five years ago), but it’s the “mixed use” which causes resentment. They have needed for years to separate out their businesses, which are (a) being an agency for government transactions and (b) helping people post letters and parcels. They’re not the same business. Within the “post office” business they need to sort out the “commercial user” (eBay seller) and ordinary user (elderly person buying a stamp). The first is important to their survival, and I saw one pay £140 in cash, but shouldn’t be mixed in with the second.
Far worse is Miserable eBay seller. I watched him last week for the whole twenty minutes I was in the queue. He was having a long mobile phone conversation, simply handing parcels and packets over when the counter person said “next one”. No eye contact, no conversation. The person serving him must have felt like a machine. I couldn’t cope with such customer rudeness. I’d have to say, “Either you’re posting stuff or making a phone call. Decide which!”