Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Incivility at a Post Office in Huntly, 1891

If anyone thinks that customer service is at times somewhat lacking from today's government departments, spare a thought for the hierarchical attitude to service shown by some civil servants in late Victorian colonial New Zealand. This is a letter published by the NZ Herald, 31 March 1891.
"Sir, -

The incivility and abruptness of Government officials reaches an absurd point at times. To-day I went with a friend to the post office. After waiting ten minutes the head and chief, who is also station master, came forward to see what we wanted. My friend asked for a postal note, putting down the rerquired amount. He was informed that he could not get it as there was too much to do.

My friend then explained that he wanted to catch the mail leaving here at a quarter past two p.m., and it would put him to great inconvenience if he missed it.

"It cannot be helped," said the official; "I have too much to do."

We then asked for any letters and papers for ourselves, which we got. The head official left us, and a junior coming up to the counter, we asked him to attend to us. He coolly said, "Mr. Duncan has gone out, and you will have to wait until a quarter past two o'clock, and then he will attend to you." This was at half-past one p.m.

Fancy anyone being put off for an hour (for it was twenty minutes past one when we first arrived at the post office) to obtain a postal note and then miss the mail into the bargain. Mr friend immediately wrote to the Chief Postmaster at Auckland about the matter. It appears it is not the first time people have been put to inconvenience and trouble through the inattention of the post officials here.

I am, &c., L., Huntly, March 28th, 1891."

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