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Home > Culture and Society

Bill kill, Grace and the death of the Royal Mail

28 May 2004

The Royal Mail is in a right royal shambles, wallowing in ‘thieving, laziness and utter chaos’, according to a sobbing Telegraph headline last month. Which was around the same time chief executive Adam Crozier vowed to sort the whole sorry mess out.

Meanwhile, all around the same period, a little experiment by Guardian journalists revealed a 57% on-time delivery target compared with the obligatory 92.5%; postal workers were forced to come to terms with a much higher chance of being threatened with violence on their rounds; shoddy implementation of the new single delivery system meant millions of undelivered letters; Channel Four’s Dispatches alleged that as well as mass dumpings of undelivered mail, there were also organised gangs of credit card thieves working within the organisation itself; and residents in Southwark were having to deal with what has been labelled a 'third world postal service'. Then last week, even MPs started having a go at them, accusing them of 'sacrificing service in pursuit of profit', which was frankly, a bit rich. But then this week, things started to go really badly.

On Wednesday in an effort to undo some of the damage done by Channel Four, the Post Office demanded an 'immediate apology; for their accusations of thievery within, pointing out, quite reasonably, that the credit cards in the case highlighted in the programme were in fact the responsibility of an independent courier company. But while Royal Mail secretary Jonathan Evans was prancing around on his high horse, frothing at the mouth at the very suggestion that they would employ crooks, another story was also doing the rounds.

This story concerned William and Grace Kill of Bicester, a sweet pair of pensioners who were due a little thank-you note in the mail. The thank-you note was from the local church, for whom Will and Grace had given a talk - a no-doubt charitable and morally informative talk, maybe about the personal pitfalls of theft.

But by the time the thank-you note arrived, it contained another note, this one from an employee within the Royal Mail. The second note said: 'Dear customer, We had to open this letter to check for money or credit cards, there were none, so you can have the fucker back!!! Next time, make sure there is some money!! Love, Royal Mail.'

Mr Kill was, in his own words, 'disgusted and upset' by the incident. 'When something goes into the hands of the Royal Mail, you trust them,' he said. 'But this is like having someone burgling the house.' Or worse. The couple have since received an apology and some flowers from the Royal Mail, who are making some unconvincing noises about taking 'appropriate action'.

So with everyone baying for the company’s blood, perhaps now was not the best time to declare a £200 million profit.

Thank God for email.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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