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LAST POST FOR JUNK MAIL

31-08-2006

Dave Woodhall celebrates hero postie Roger Annies who's been suspended for halting the tide of junk mail swampingcustomers on his round...

One of the things I love about this country is our reaction to overbearing authority.

Whether it be the Chartists demanding the vote or the classic Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico, British history is full of little men saying enough's enough and making a stand for what they believe in.

Sometimes it might appear that society is growing ever more intolerant and insular, but then someone comes along to make you realise that this is a country built on eccentricity and downright cussedness.

Step forward postman Roger Annies, from Barry, in South Wales.

Faced with increasing complaints from his customers about what the Royal Mail innocuously describes as door-to-door items and the rest of us call junk mail, Roger attempted to resolve the problem.

He didn't ignore them, he didn't just mention to his bosses that the good citizens of Barry were annoyed; he took action.

Roger organised a form to be sent to anyone who complained, and this proved so popular that within days more than seventy of his regular householders had contacted Barry sorting office, demanding that they receive no more unsolicited items.

Anyone with an iota of sense would have seen that this was an indication of how junk mail is becoming a growing problem and resolve to cut down on its usage. They might even have congratulated Roger, and rewarded him for his initiative and for improving customer relations. Instead, he was suspended from work “following an alleged misconduct issue.”

Royal Mail defended their action by saying that many people receive vital council and utility information as a result of junk mail, but the real reason why they are so determined to keep this practise is plain to see.

Last year they delivered 3.3 billion such items, a rise of 12.1% over 2004. The UK junk mail, sorry, door-to-door, industry is worth more than £17 billion a year. Small wonder that Royal Mail recently scrapped their self-imposed limit of three such items per household per week - with electronic communication increasing in popularity, they need to generate all the paper deliveries they can get.

As has been seen, junk mail is unpopular. It's environmentally unfriendly. It's time consuming for delivery staff and recipient. It adds to the nation's debt problem - banks and financial institutions are the biggest culprits, regularly pushing the promise of loans and credit cards directly into the hands of those least able to refuse such temptations. Yet the people who bear the brunt of unpopularity for this explosion in waste paper seem reluctant to halt its increase.

Royal Mail has an identity crisis. People don't like it, and its services remain a national joke, however outdated this perception may be. The company is often seen as an uncompetitive, inefficient nationalised industry, even though it's one of the most effective mail delivery services in the world and last year their letter delivery arm made an operating profit of £344 million. Maybe it's time Royal Mail realised that for a company who make such profits yet have such dissatisfied customers, there are more important things than income generation.

Which is why someone should have a quiet word with the management at Barry sorting office, tell them what fools they're making of themselves and instruct them give Roger Annies his job back.

If they had any sense they'd promote him, give him a pay rise, present him to the world as an example of how even a huge conglomerate such as Royal Mail can still find room for staff who listen to their customers.

Then maybe they can do something about the tide of pizza delivery leaflets, invitations to take out personal loans, mini cab cards and clothing catalogues that spill through my letterbox every day.

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