Being a growing community, still finding the balance between a traditional rural and contemporary urban population, North Grenville is losing some of that old fashioned small-town way of life. Here’s an example of that, one which is particularly upsetting to the NG Times.
Here’s the background. For the first seven years of our existence, one of the real advantages we had was the fact that Canada Post delivered the paper to everyone’s mailbox. We liked that, readers liked that, and advertisers really liked it. So, we were prepared to spend the roughly $60,000 a year that Canada Post charged for that service.
The routine was simple: our printers delivered the papers to the Kemptville Post Office on Tuesdays, and we would go in and pick up the 1,600 copies to bring to Merrickville Post Office so they could be delivered there. Then, after the papers were delivered on Wednesday, we would go back in and collect the remainder, usually a few hundred, and bring them to various places around Kemptville (restaurants, stores, etc.). We did the work, didn’t interfere with staff or the running of the place. It was a matter of five or ten minutes every week.
The Post Office staff were great and always worked hard to get the Times out as efficiently as possible. Then, before Christmas, things changed without warning. A new Postmistress arrived and said we couldn’t enter the back rooms of the Post Office anymore. We couldn’t pick up the Merrickville papers, nor could we get the leftovers after deliveries were finished. When we asked why, she told us that it was policy: no-one was allowed into the building who didn’t work there. What about all those papers we could no longer collect? They would go in the recycling bin, she said. Around 2,000 papers thrown away, papers we had paid Canada Post to deliver.
What could we do? We started to have long and unpleasant talks with the Postmistress, who was rude, arrogant, and told us we were wasting her “valuable time”. Our production manager was really upset by the talks and with the attitude and manner of the Postmistress, being reduced to tears after one call.
She referred the situation to the Canada Post Ombudsman, and, after a few months, that office told us that the Postmistress was within her rights to bar us as she had, as it was corporate policy. In fact, they said, we had been enjoying an improper benefit from the goodness of the previous Postmistress and staff. Nothing was said about the rude attitude of their new Postmistress to a valuable client and local business. Technically, that was legitimate: from the point of view of public relations and client management, it was appalling.
In the end, we rearranged our deliveries, but it costs us an extra $4,000 a year to do so. But we really have to question the money we give Canada Post. Their service delivery leaves a lot to be desired. But, still, the regular staff at the Kemptville Post Office remain professional, friendly and great to deal with. That hasn’t changed, even if the management has.
But this is more than a story about the trials and tribulations of running the North Grenville Times. If it were just that, you probably wouldn’t be interested. No, it’s also a reflection of how the small town approach to friends and neighbours can change as the municipality grows and adapts to new ways and behaviors.
The way things were for the first seven years of working with the local Post Office radically changed when a new Postmistress arrived, someone, obviously, who was not acquainted with the town and municipality, someone who didn’t take a friendly, yet businesslike approach to her clients. Instead, it was all about corporate policy and distant by-the-book relations.
It doesn’t have to be like this. As we grow as a community, we need people to hold onto that friendly and flexible way of doing things. It doesn’t stop us from being professional and efficient, and it makes life more pleasant and, I believe, more productive. We have seen from the way in which our municipal council and staff relate to us all that this is not only possible, but makes the quality of life in North Grenville better. The news this week that a highly experienced and qualified CAO has decided to stay here rather than move to a bigger job elsewhere is an example of how attractive this community is when we remember to treat each other, even in business, with respect and openness. Canada Post, as a corporation, has a great deal to learn in that respect.