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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The mail to nowhere: postal dept. in a bind

Often, postmen spend hours trying to figure out the wrong or incomplete addresses on letters — Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Daily, at least 500 letters cannot be delivered or sent back due to incomplete or wrong addresses

In this era of fast-paced life, the fine art of letter writing seems to have been forgotten.
But even in this scenario, the postal department is concerned about tackling the growing trend of sorting and delivering mails with incorrect or incomplete addresses.
Hundreds of mails lie gathering dust in post offices and are ultimately discarded for want of a proper address and pincode.
A peek into the discarded piles at post offices revealed some mails have wrong pincodes, some have vague street names and worse, some do not have either the sender’s or recipient’s address.
On an average, post offices in Chennai and its suburbs receive nearly 5.35 lakh letters (including registered posts and money orders) to be delivered daily. Of these, at least five to eight per cent may not be delivered at all because of incomplete address, says Mervin Alexander, postmaster general, Chennai city region.
Postmen are the worst affected as the lack of a proper address adds to their burden. There are over 1,800 postmen in the city.
“We have a person to sort mails with wrong or incomplete addresses. I then spend an extra hour finding out the address on the letters. I’ve even gone to the same street thrice in a day to check door numbers,” said K. Chandramohan, a postman in Anna Nagar.
The department’s returning letters office in the city handles a whopping 9,000 such mails from across the State, every day. Staff members go through bags of mails to check for any hint of an address.
Despite their diligent attempts, at least 500 letters, per day, cannot be delivered or sent back.
“We have the privilege to check the contents of letters in various languages. We even get unclaimed valuables like laptops and sarees that we finally e-auction through the Metal Scrap Trading Corporation Limited if addresses cannot be ascertained,” said Jayasree, a postal staff member.
Pointing out that such problems mostly occur in business mails, Mr. Alexander said simple steps like ensuring correct pincodes and complete addresses would solve the issue.
“If you do not know the pincode, it is better not to mention it at all, as wrong pincodes spell more trouble. Customers may revert to the old system of installing post boxes, informing the post office when they go out of town and getting to know the area postman through the ‘know your postman’ facility available on”
Business houses can also avail of the facility to hire a postbox number, said Mr. Alexander.
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