While our comments on this page are not occasioned or influenced by the fact that the Barbados Postal Service today began a productivity seminar for many of its workers, it is a most appropriate coincidence.
Anyone who follows the international news would recognise that postal services in the United States are under tremendous financial pressure, and the prospect of further significant jobs losses continues to loom large, especially in the United States.
Our view is that since many of the factors affecting these two jurisdictions are also impacting on the Barbadian society, it is only a matter of time before the scale of that impact begins to equate with that of our larger neighbours.
We recognise that in the case of the US, some parties are suggesting that while the growth of electronic communications has been hurting traditional methods of corresponding, other “political decisions”, such as the siphoning off of funds from the US Postal Service is also a major contributor.
We are in no position to speak on that matter, but what we do know is that in Barbados, just as in the United States, there has grown up a generation of young people who would probably have never written a letter to be dropped into a mailbox or addressed a greeting card for a birthday or some other occasion.
Electronic cards are the rave — and if one only remembers that important other as the midnight hour is about to expire, if your fingers and Internet connectivity are fast enough you can still deliver the card before the clock strikes midnight.
By the same token, today’s digital population is so accustomed to tweeting each other all day long, sending emails and text messages that there is really no reason to write a letter. And in any event, is there any message that an individual would want to send today that they can afford to wait three days to a week for delivery and another week for a response, when the technology allows for instant contact and response?
Like it or not, traditional mail is destined to go the route of the dinosaur. It may not be next year or the next ten years, but the young and not so young who can’t live without electronic communications today are going to be the elderly of tomorrow, and we hardly think they will get hooked on pen and paper and licking stamps in their old age.
Today the US Postal Service is reviewing the need for 3,700 post offices across that country. That has implications for thousands of jobs.
In fact, even where persons are still using traditional postal services, the district post office is still in trouble. Consumers, it would appear, prefer to undertake “mail” services when they visit the supermarket or convenience store at all hours of the day and night for other purposes, rather than between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the post office.
In Barbados, if we are monitoring trends and desires elsewhere then we ought to be in a position to remain on the cutting edge by adopting and adapting from others. We talk of our young people being a fast food generation, and if we want to cater to their needs then we have to make sure our menu reflects their taste.
Perhaps our postal administrators have to begin now to see how they can remain relevant for this new generation; how the Post Office can expand its range of services to ensure its workers remain relevant.
For while we have concentrated in this article on the personal services, it is quite clear that an increasing number of commercial customers are also going electronic to cut costs. It is only a matter of time before the vast majority of telephone, electricity and maybe water bill are delivered electronically; and monthly financial statements in the mailbox become extinct.
Retooling for relevance is critical for survival.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds — the unofficial creed of the US Postal Service and mail carriers around the world has stood the test of time. That was, until we all started to go digital!