The Swedish postal service was once a model of
customer service. They had efficient, next-day
delivery (weekdays at least), pleasant post offices
with stationery, office supplies and even nice music
CDs for sale, and most interestingly—for an American at least—
they also had simple bank services. You could have a savings
account, called Postal Giro, with the post office for paying your
bills. You just tore off the payment stubs on your bills and took
them to the post office. The money was conveniently transferred
from your Postal Giro account to all of the recipients.
Then the postal service decided to jump on the internet band-
wagon. They created a very efficient Internet bank for Postal
Giro accounts and began making huge plans for Internet portals and
e-mail service. Much of which never materialized, looking back now.
The first thing to go was the efficient mail delivery. The post office decided that if the letter
carriers finish their deliveries early, they have to go and sort mail for the rest of the day
instead of just going home. Suddenly, we started getting our mail much later in the day.
Next up were the rural letter carriers—too much hassle. Then they started closing down
small local post offices. Then they sold the Postal Giro to one of the nation’s major banks.
By the late 90s, the post office realized that what it really wanted to do was to stop having
to deal with all those pesky letters and post cards from mere mortals. Business mail was
where the big money was.
So they closed down most of the remaining post offices and farmed out all those tasks to
places like grocery stores and gas stations. Where staff are generally poorly trained in
postal regulations and it always feels hit-or-miss sending things to family in other countries.
One guy thought “Switzerland” on my package was Swaziland!
(See part 2 of Going Postal for a very funny story!)