Going Postal

in a nice way

Spent a couple of days at the post office trying to trace a large parcel for the Kuweni Serious program.

It took several trips to the post office over about two weeks, e-mails to the sender, checking with the US postal service tracking system, and finally after a third visit to the local post office tracking department it was eventually traced in a cage where it had sat for almost a month.

The parcel had been addressed properly with name and physical address of the recipient, but the American sender had not written the Kenyan post office box number – and this omission triggered this long process to locate the package at Posta

Once it was found and tagged, with a (newly printed)ticket stub this paper, the carton and a sample item removed from the carton after it was opened for inspection, were probably handled by about a dozen employees, in the space of a few feet who all inspected & counted the goods, assessed them for taxation, and then signed off on the movement from one station to the next.

It also entailed another trip to a bank down an adjacent street to pay taxes which are arbitrarily calculated – based on the invoice (if enclosed), shipping slip or the estimated insurance value declared on the package by the shipper.

Still the staff were helpful courteous and honest. They are largely older people working in a system that does not seem to appreciate initiative. In another company, there would be a way to knock off lost or suspense items – and if a carton sat in a wrong office for a month, with a physical address on it, someone would use Google, and make a call to try and alert the proper recipient. And the office could probably run with a quarter of the staff

Still the post office has so much potential to move packages from overseas, around the country etc. With computers you can only exchange words, images, sound, picture’s but to get actual goods & equipment, you need physical shipments. The 500 post offices around the country handle about 200,000 parcel items a quarter and moved 31.7 million letters in 2009 (via CCK stats ) – and while there are competitors like DHL, UPS and local variants are faster, but much more expensive.

In short, the Post Office works when it’s open (the international parcels department is closed for lunch at 12:30 to 2 PM) and if your packages are properly addressed in a way they understand. But if you have a mule (not the drug kind, but known passenger able to fly with your goods) have them carry it for you, and pay the extra baggage cost, especially if its a valuable or fragile item.

One thought on “Going Postal

  1. Empower Kenya

    Post offices have been government/federal institutions but I think its time government abandons these parastatals and let the market provide the services. There are plenty of local and international couriers that can perform all the roles of a post office in a profitable manner.
    To make matters worse, the CEO is a military man who is not concerned about self-sustenance.

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