Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Delivery Denied

I am trying very hard to not take it personally that my postal code happens to be one of the first ones in the country to lose home mail delivery this year. You see, some local blogger might have gotten a bit incensed when Canada Post decided to institute an arbitrary and capricious $5 surcharge on parcels coming into this community, and they might have kicked up a bit of a fuss over the whole idea. They might have written a couple of blog posts about it, and done some interviews, and helped to create a little pitchfork-and-torch movement designed to make Canada Post back down from this approach to revenue generation - and then this local blogger might have learned that her home mail delivery was going to disappear as her postal code happened to fall into the ones that CP has decided will be the first to lose this service. And while I am assuming this is sheer coincidence some may be surprised to learn that I am not going to kick up a fuss over this decision at all - because I believe it is what CP must do to survive.

I was actually surprised when I moved into my new house in the summer and learned that the rusty, dented mailbox on the side of my house wasn't merely decorative. This is the first place I have lived in Fort McMurray with home delivery,  and while I appreciate the convenience of stepping outside my door to collect my mail I also recognize that the costs of home mail delivery are just not sustainable given the current status of business at Canada Post.

There is no doubt that the advent of the internet has hurt mail services. I don't receive magazines by mail any more, and most of my bills come to me electronically. And while I still love to get mail I know that CP is facing some real financial challenges to continue delivering mail at all, let alone providing mail delivery to every house - and so the move to community mailboxes doesn't trouble me. I think, rather, that it is a sound business decision.

Now, don't get me wrong, as I have tremendous empathy for those who will lose their jobs in this transition. Regrettably though things change, and as they do businesses have to make difficult decisions in order to sustain themselves, and this is one of those decisions - and CP is, and should be, a business.

I objected to the CP $5 parcel surcharge because it was not being evenly applied, affecting only our community and no others. However, the discontinuation of home mail delivery will be evenly applied, phasing it out over time until all Canadians collect their mail at community mailboxes (which do have some advantages, including generally being more secure than home mailboxes which are not locked and thus prime pickings for identity thieves).

I recognize that there is concern about how this will impact those with mobility issues, and I share those as I have had some experience with elderly parents with mobility issues. In that experience, though, I learned that most with mobility issues who live in their own homes do so with some degree of assistance (eg. having people to shovel snow, mow lawns, etc) and collecting the mail may just become another chore to which these caretakers, friends or family attend. I am also hopeful that in some cases Canada Post may be able to make some sort of arrangements, including perhaps directed weekly delivery specifically to those individuals who are able to show that collecting their mail at a community mailbox would involve unnecessary hardship or difficulty.

My main point is this: if phasing out home mail delivery means that they will be able to provide better service, with emphasis on quality of service, speed of delivery, and customer satisfaction then I am all for it. I do have some concerns, as Canada Post service in our community has been woefully lacking in the last few months, but I also believe that is because they are being stretched beyond their capacity at this point. Perhaps the phasing out of home delivery will help to them to maintain a sustainable business model, improve their service and give them some ability to be competitive in a market that has significantly changed since the old days when home delivery was a standard. The world has changed, and now is the time when our institutions, like Canada Post, must change as well. Change is often difficult, and it can be painful, but at times it is necessary. I believe this is one of those times.

And besides, it's time for me to take that rusty old mailbox down anyhow.

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