I was dumbfounded to find , on my last trip to Hanley , that the Post Office I've always used (grand , large old building) has been closed down and "replaced". You would never guess where though!
I'm talking about post office facilities for a major , very busy town with a huge shopping precinct ; Hanley being the principle one of the so called "Five Towns" that make up The Potteries area .Every time I had to go there , I found that although the queues were long, it wasn't a problem because there were at least 11 cashier points , so there wasn't a tediously long wait , and anyway whose spirits could flag when listening to that voice endlessly announcing with auto-enthusiasm - primed to make you feel like you've won something in a game show - "Cashi-eeer number threeee !" I certainly felt I could get my parcels in to the post with confidence . Now I will have to go to W.H Smith.
Yes , that's right ; W.H Smith is where the new improved (?) Post Office resides . At the back of the store . One floor up in the shopping precinct ... so handy for the elderly or infirm ! Of course , it isn't even half the size of the old place ; now groaning under the weight of "For Sale" and "To Let" boards .
I only ever thought of W.H Smith as a trusted , if a little unimaginative , High Street store , where they sell ..er .. stuff . Stationery doodads and over-priced cards I could make better myself , magazines and a few ...um..pens . Maybe this is uber-rebranding ? I can't imagine how this hybridisation was arrived at , but the deeply cynical , enquiring part of me would like to know just how much of a symbiotic relationship this is intended to be.Perhaps during negotiations the fly on the wall would have heard :
P.O "Ah ! You know we can sell all the stamps for your cards "
W.H.S " Oh yes - a customer can purchase a CD then go to the window and post it
straight away "
P.O " Do you think they'll notice the hugely reduced floor space / lack of cashier points / fewer , depressed (as so many lost their jobs ) staff ?"
W.H.S " No , neither do I ... we have some other nice little stores for post office replacements in major cities if you're interested ?!"
Let's hope this won't spark a worrying trend : Combination Shopping - or some other nasty sound-bitey name . "Hey ! I need to pay the telephone bill ; just nipping to Marks and Spencer !" , or how about Council Offices tucked up behind the sweet counters in Woolworths ? Seems a nice fit .
I can't take my parcels to the super-efficient post office , that used to be a short walk away near my estate . It was shut down ... despite a long , long petition , and the anguished pleas of village residents ; some of whom , being elderly , must now be hard pressed to get to the other "local" one by bus.
I do hope , for their sake , the other purely W.H.Smith shoppers milling about on busy Saturdays , won't find all these people manoeuvring parcels tetchily along the aisles an inconvenience .
Next time I go , after my ride up the escalator , perhaps I'll find it's now called W.H.Office .....or maybe PostSmith ?
T.T.F.N Ruth xx