It’s a mad, mad world…

I am boiling mad, because some people I’ve never met didn’t get to have the cup of tea I wanted them to have on the other side of the globe. And I feel I’ve let them down.

I’ve just looked back over the tweets where I’ve got stuck into any organisation for a lack of service. And whilst not a big percentage of my 23,000 tweets (on 6 accounts) fall into that category – less than 10 in fact – half of them are about Australia Post.

Australia Post grew out of the old Post Master General office in Australia. It used to be a government department, formed in 1809 on the basis that it handled parcels and mail. It took on responsibility for telegraphy and telephony as they arose and continued to innovate with many world firsts. In 1975 the PMG was broken up and the bit that was responsible for letters and parcels was the Australian Postal Commission,  corporatised in the 80’s and rebranded Australia Post.

I remember Post Offices as a child in the 1970’s, and they were fusty mementoes of a bygone era. The staff were very proper and seemed to take pride in the uniform.

Over my lifetime, Australia Post has evolved. At some point, they decided that they needed to become a stationary shop, and so stuffed the Post Offices with pens, paper, accounts books and the lot. They then decided to add souvenirs, toys, DVDs. Want a cheap CD of the BeeGees greatest hits or a Frankie Avalon retrospective? Your search is over!

Then they invented BillPay. Before the Internet had really taken hold, they decided to become the place where you could pay all your bills. And even though that is an outdated idea, it persists to this day.

It became obvious perhaps 15-20 years ago that they had morphed into just another shop, except with very little customer service; where, if you went and lined up behind 30 people buying stationary and /or paying bills, you could post a letter or parcel.

I can’t count the number of times they have let me down. I recently ordered two DVD’s via eBay on the same day. They were both despatched the next day. The one from London (free delivery, I might add) via courier took 4 days. The one from Brisbane did not appear until Day 12, two days after I started posting on twitter about how annoyed I was. Australia Post helpfully informed me that this was “within their terms of service”, which makes me want to send them a dictionary with the word “service” highlighted.

So, back to this tea, and these people.

“These people” are Ken, Jackie and Pete. On Twitter, Ken is @lahikmajoe  and Jackie and Pete are both @leafboxtea and @teatrade. You can read about their meeting on Ken’s blog here.

Ken told me 6 weeks ago that the meeting was to happen, and I decided to send some tea for them to share. It was the closest I could come to being there.

What to send?

Firstly, some Daintree. Flying the Aussie flag and all that. I was really excited when, a week after I’d sent it, Jackie told me during the on-line tea party how much she wanted to try it. I gave nothing away.

Secondly, I wanted something unique.

I steep my black teas several times. I’ve had various conversations with Jackie and Ken about whether this was possible or even preferable.

I’d been experimentating with a quick-steep infusion using two different, reasonable quality CTC teas. But the quality I wanted wasn’t there. So I added a few other, better quality, longer steeping teas.

What I found was that I has a tea with a robust and hearty first steep, with a more refined second steep. Two really different cups.

By the time I got to that point in my experimenting I had a small pile left, and I’d completely lost track of what proportions I had put in.

So I decided to send that to the forthcoming tea event. I made up label, called it “International Friendship Tea” as I was feeling particularly corny and posted the tea to Ken in Germany about four weeks ago.

It has not arrived so far. Who knows if it ever will?

Like Canada Posts’s documented recent troubles, postal services around the world are struggling in a new world.  When Canada post workers demonstrated how little they care for their customers, it started a chain of events that will see many of them lose their jobs.

Last week I received a parcel of tea from a town in rural India in four days via FedEx. AND I got pleasant and freindly service on top.

The value of the tea is in cents. The value of these particular online friendships are immeasurable.

And now I’ve let down those friends, by trusting a service that I know to be antiquated in its thinking and incompetent in its delivery.

Like low grade tea, the bitterness of this experience will remain with me for a long time to come.

11 thoughts on “It’s a mad, mad world…

  1. You haven’t let down anyone, and the fact that you went to the trouble to send tea to Germany won’t be forgotten.

    Although I understand your frustration, please don’t even begin to think this is a reflection on you. It’s absolutely not the case.

    1. I could so easily have sent it via courier. I need to change my thinking. Trusting any parcel to Australia Post is like trusting an alcoholic with the keys to you liquor cabinet.

  2. It’s the same here in the states. Our P.O. has a lot of crap for sale … hats, tee shirts, tote bags, etc. They’re talking about stopping Saturday deliveries and they’ve started shutting down post offices in surrounding smaller towns.

    I used to take pride in our post offices. I could mail something across the country and they’d get it in 3 days.

    Now when I look at post dates I see they’ve decided to take the scenic route. When that started happening I started buying postal insurance and entertained the notion that things will get there faster if their money was on the line. If reality is different, then I don’t want to know about it.

    Years ago I sent a last minute Christmas gift to my sister 1000 miles away and she got it Christmas eve day. Things like that don’t happen anymore. I guess that’s why I watch A Christmas Story over & over during the season. So that I can take a trip back in time when the holidays were merry and magical. At least for a little while.

    I don’t care if it’s too early. I’m popping It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story in the player to watch this weekend, just to make reality go away for awhile. I wonder what kind of tea one drinks for that? ;D

  3. Wow what an amazing gesture with a great deal of thought put into it! I’m with Ken, in no way have you let anyone down. Seems the post office let you all down.

  4. Just came across this, wish I had seen it sooner. As you know we are traveling, yesterday it was to get a close up of the Alps – so we are a bit behind.
    This was such a wonderful idea, incredibly thoughtful and kind. What a pity it didn’t work out. @lahikmajoe repeatedly told us he had a surprise for us, and as much as I badgered him, he wouldn’t let on. Now I realize what it had been. It would have been so nice to have you with us, if not in person, then in tea.
    I did actually find myself – for a fleeting second – fantasizing about you yourself being the big surprise. Of course I knew it couldn’t really be. But having tea from you, yes that would have been truly something.
    Thank you so much for doing this for us. We will be thinking of you regardless.
    We’ll be missing you for sure!

  5. When we had tea with @lahikmajoe on Friday he continued to allude to that he had a surprise, but his original one didn’t work out. He did mention that he would tell us what the original one was but the conversation never happened because there was so much to talk about and our chat moved on to many other interesting things and gossip.

    Anyhow, I have to say that this is a tremendously awesome gesture. What a special treat this would have been (especially since we’ve been trying to get some Daintree for months now!)

    I’m sorry that this didn’t work out because it was a fantastic thought. I do, however, imagine that you might consider taking a fiery torch and protesting outside the offices of the Postmaster while waving a china tea cup – “We demand better service!”

    Thank you Robert for the energy and effort you put into this gift!

  6. In my excitement to respond to this post, I forgot to log Jackie off the computer we are sharing while we travel. The comment above this is from me.

  7. You didn’t let us down. You did your best and the Post let all of us down.

    Thanks for everything and perhaps, it will show in Munich in a few weeks and I will be able to drink a cup of it.

  8. Australia Post have sent me a series of tweets related to this post. I have reproduced them here:

    Morning Robert. I have had a look at your post, and there may be a few things causing the delay from what I can see.

    First up, I am sorry that you have been disappointed in our service, this is not something I enjoy reading about

    Secondly, with the info in the blog post, it is possible that the tea has been held up in Customs. A courier company may get

    their articles through customs with an agreement in place, especially for something like Tea.

    There may also be import restrictions for Tea as it may be considered to be part of a plant in relation to imports.

    Specific details on restrictions can be obtained from the countries consulate.

  9. I thought the same thing. It could easily (sadly) be sitting in some customs office just a few kilometres away here in Munich. Or Frankfurt.

    Am scheming about how I’ll share this tea with other tea lovers when it finally arrives.

    It’s the best answer I know to the whole fiasco.

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