Friday, July 06, 2007


David Cuthbertson at the ASI writes about the difference between the Post Office and the banks:

I had two errands to run at lunchtime yesterday. One was to take a parcel to the Post Office and the second was to pay a cheque into the bank.

The Post Office was packed and the queue snaked all around the building. The room was cluttered and the shelves were full of all sorts of detritus. When, after 30 minutes of waiting I arrived at the counter, I was greeted by a sheet of shatter-proof glass and an ancient 2-way intercom. The lady behind the counter was helpful enough and my package was weighed and paid for in a few seconds. Thirty minutes wait for about 30 seconds of service and I was on my way.

Then I went to the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was a revelation. The difference was incredible. The building was open and uncluttered, and it had been recently decorated. The staff sat behind desks instead of screens. The queue was two people long, but even that was too much for the staff. A helpful teller popped up and asked us if anyone was just paying in cheques. She took my card and my cheque and reappeared a few moments later with my receipt.
He points out that the difference is accounted for by the fact that the banks are private companies and have to compete for customers, whereas the Post Office is a State institution and expects to be bailed out by the government if it experiences any financial shorrtfalls while operating as a monopoly supplier to its customers.

What he doesn't go on to point out is the social difference in the composition of the customers. State involvement in the Post Office acts as a guarantee that the poorest people in society have to endure the worst service, the longest delays and the most depressing surroundings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At my branch of Nationwide I pay cheques in through a machine which prints out a receipt with a photo of the cheque on it. When the machine is working, that is.