Postal Dept hits back

shantha.jpg (11421 bytes)By Namini Wijedasa
The Sri Lankan public urgently needs a refresher course in basic letter addressing, an aggrieved official of the Postal Department said last week.

While the department is habitually swamped with public complaints about late letter delivery — and doesn’t think it completely unjustified — it so happens that the customer is not always right. A little public education is imperative to right at least part of the dilemma.

Standards are dropping with regards to elementary tasks like addressing and stamping letters, said K.A.S. Senadheera, deputy post master general (operations). There is also disregard for the use of standard sized envelopes.

Meanwhile, the re-direction section of the Postal Department receives about 5,000 to 6,000 letters daily: all channelled there because addresses are either incomplete or incorrect. "The sorters there use their experience and intelligence to figure out the correct address," Senadheera marvelled. "Naturally, this causes a delay... and we get blamed."

Senadheera said that the Central Mail Exchange in Colombo gets about 1.8 million letters a day to be sent to all parts of the country. It would help, therefore, if the public did their part.

First, correct, legible addresses are the norm, he stressed. Insert PO box numbers where available. If the PO box number is written, don’t insert the city code — for instance, Colombo 6, Colombo 10. Also, place the sender’s address at the left bottom corner on the face of the envelope, and not on the back (the latter forces the sorter to turn the envelope over).

A new problem has surfaced in the use of elaborate computer fonts to address letters. "Some-times, it’s very difficult to read them!" lamented Senadheera. "Simple, straightforward writing is preferred."

Senadheera suggested to letter writers that they stick to standard-sized envelopes instead of shoving their communication into anything that’s available. "If the letters are in envelopes of sizes recommended by us, we simply insert them into the machine to cancel the stamp," he explained. "Other envelope sizes cannot be accommodated in the machine. So we set them aside and take them up only later to hand-cancel the stamp."

Stamps themselves appear in a variety of spots on the envelope: the most exasperating being on the reverse. "Some people paste it on the flap thinking that we may rip the letter open," Senadheera said. "But they need not fear that." Stamps should be placed on the top right hand corner in order to facilitate the cancellation process.

The Postal Department is now studying its operations to speed delivery to Colombo and the suburbs. The project is a result of complaints that letters sometimes take up to three days to reach their destination while in extreme cases this period exceeds a month. The aim is to complete delivery in a day, Senadheera said. He claimed that the problem was not so pronounced in outstation areas but it was not possible to independently verify this.