I couldn't quite believe it when I read it on Facebook, and so I went on an independent search in the hopes of learning it wasn't true. You see, someone had posted a status indicating that Canada Post was going to implement a new area service area "adjustment" on parcels coming into Fort McMurray, and given our current postal woes I thought they surely must be incorrect and this was all some nefarious rumour. And then I found this:
Parcel Services Price and Service Overview of Changes
A service-area adjustment of $5.00 will be applied to parcels shipped to areas Canada Post has identified as having a particularly high cost to serve (i.e.: Fort McMurray, Alberta).
That would be about when I felt my blood pressure rising. I realized I was about to go postal, but not in the good way where I go to the local post office (staffed by some lovely employees, incidentally). No, I was going to go postal over what appears to be another attempt to make some coin off our community.
What I found even more intriguing is when I went on Twitter a local journalist indicated that a spokesperson for Canada Post had denied this change, and yet I had found a document through a 30-second web search clearly showing this change is not only planned, but imminent. I'm not sure when, or if, they planned to let this cat out of the bag, but it is out there now, and it is worthy of discussion.
Look, I know Canada Post is experiencing some financial woes, and I am sorry to hear it because I support them, both as an organization and their employees. I believe in the beauty of mail, and as a writer I know nothing means more than the written word clutched in your hand on a piece of paper. I actually think the local employees are trying, but I also suspect they are overworked, underpaid and frustrated. What I do know is that in recent months postal service in Fort McMurray has been sub-par, and I and many others have experienced delayed and lost parcels, erratic delivery service, and seen worrisome things like parcels requiring signatures left on doorsteps. I found one parcel that was listed as delivered hidden in a bin of gardening equipment, where it might have stayed all winter had I not checked (as it is it sat there for a week in freezing temperatures as while CP insisted it was delivered I had no idea where it was). I have seen photos of delivery vehicles left with doors wide open and no employee in sight, parcels ripe for the picking by those who wandered by, and I have seen photos of mail delivery boxes left completely unlocked with the mail for dozens of houses in full view and again ripe for any thief (and for the record your mail likely includes enough for a clever con to stage a successful identity theft). What I have been seeing is a decline in service standards locally - and what I saw last night was evidence of some attempt to increase prices but not necessarily to address those service issues.
To be clear I am seeking some clarification on all this. I am currently trying to ascertain how many parcels are shipped into Fort McMurray on an annual basis. If each parcel being shipped in has an additional $5 surcharge tacked on I would like to know what that will total to on an annual basis as well, and then I would like to learn how that extra money will be used to address current service issues and improve local delivery. Will it go to increase the salaries of the local employees and increase employee retention? Will it go to hire more employees locally to address erratic delivery? And how will this affect those who ship to us, whether it is family or online retailers? What is the potential impact on businesses, both locally and those who do business with us? And finally will this actually drive those shipping to us away from Canada Post and into the arms of other delivery services who will not implement such surcharges? And what is this "high cost to serve" they mention as the justification for this increase?
I have contacted Canada Post to ask them to confirm if the document above is accurate and for clarification, and if so I would like to see some answers to my questions. If this is not an attempt to simply make some cash off our community (the Fort McMurray money grab is all too common a phenomenon) then I would like to see the plans to address our current service woes clearly explained, and how this surcharge will in fact benefit those of us who use Canada Post and who do our best to support them as an organization. And while they are at it perhaps they can answer some of the dozens of questions and concerns I have seen from local people asking about delayed and lost parcels and mail, as there has been trouble brewing with Canada Post here for some time, and this new strategy of actually making it cost more to ship to us is likely to be seen with very little enthusiasm until those issues are addressed. I eagerly await further information to be released on this matter, because frankly I suspect that if the answers provided are not satisfactory I won't be the only person in Fort McMurray to go postal in 2014.