Two shortcomings of the new Post Office automated checkouts

By Dan Wilson June 7, 2017 - 7:34 pm

The Post Office is increasingly adopting self-service automated checkouts in branch as it seeks to modernise the service it offers. One of the branches down my way has introduced the robots and the queue to use them is inevitably shorter than that of the humans behind the jump.

I had small parcel that needed despatched on Wednesday afternoon, so I headed down to send it off and opted for the machines. Rather like in supermarkets, or coming through passport control, I don’t find the experience terribly gratifying. And indeed I’d rather be served by a human in general. And this visit to the Post Office highlighted why because of two things I discovered.

Firstly, I bought and paid for the wrong postage because I wasn’t concentrating. My mistake. But when I realised it, I asked the PO helper if I could get a refund and opt for the cheaper Large Letter tariff rather than Small Packet rate. He informed me that no refunds on the machines are possible. And that seems a little harsh.

And it was hardly the end of the world. But as I went pop my packet into the collection point the handy helper said that the last post for the day had already left and the goods were not to be collected until the morning. (It was 17:10.) I cheerfully said that this wasn’t a problem because I could pop by the sorting office, a few minute’s walk away, for a later collection. Oh no, he informed me. These particular labels couldn’t be processed there. My parcel had to go in the collection point in the branch.

So all in all, I paid over the odds for a late collection. I should’ve stood in line for a personal service and bought stamps for the despatch and strolled down to the sorting office.

Post Office modernisation is to be welcomed. The checkout machines aren’t the problem per se. But it seems like the service needs to be refined. And as to why the last Royal Mail collection from a city centre Post Office branch comes before it shuts at 17:30, I just don’t know. I’ve already written to my eBay buyer to expect a slight delay.

  • Andy R
    12 months ago

    Dan you’ve completely underestimated the seriousness of this.

    Your item will arrive late and the buyer will click No to the question about on time delivery.

    You will receive a defect as a result.

    This could tip you over and lose your top rated status.

    As a result your sales will fall.

    Consequently you will no longer be a power seller.

    Your sales will fall still further.

    Money worries will mount.

    Your home will be repossessed.

    Your wife and children will leave you.

    Even the dog will leave in disgust.

    You will end up sleeping on a park bench drinking barley wine.

  • JD
    12 months ago

    I have the option to use a town centre Post Office which doesn’t yet have machines.
    The Post Office closes at 17.30 with the last posting of the day at 17.15 when the RM collection is due. PO staff do have to ready all the items for collection, quite reasonable as long as you know, .

    BTW You didn’t really think that the new ‘service’machines are for the convenience of customers did you? LOL.

  • northumbrian
    12 months ago

    we wonder how they deal with if you had TOOK THE WRONG OPTION TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
    if mistakes cant be rectified

  • Gaz
    12 months ago

    This will upset the Post office owners even more now. I have enough hassle and bullcrap from my local PO Owner when i take in a prepaid item and all i get is snarky remarks because they have to provide a service to me and they don’t get anything in return. Now they will have to operate and provide the power for a labelling machine too. This does not bode well for small rural post offices who need every penny to survive.

  • 12 months ago

    I am not a fan of machines, but that is the way we are going, although it took a little longer than people thought it would.

    Totally unacceptable that the mistake could not be rectified by the staff at the till.

    I am unsure why the item, after having the label fixed to it could not be posted anywhere, supposing you did not have the item with you?

  • Toby
    12 months ago

    It could be that the machines aree licences to the individual post office like a ppi account is to the owner… but having said that i can still take my ppi to a post office, sorting office or a have it collected!

  • Pat
    12 months ago

    So you’re annoyed that you bought the wrong postage and you missed the last collection? Which is nothing to do with self service machines and more so to do with your reading ability and time management skills? Conclusion: moronic.

  • anorakeric
    12 months ago

    I post a few Ebay for a charity every week in a busy city centre location which closes at 1730 but last collection is now (I think) 1650 as delivery/collection depot is on outskirts 4 miles away.
    So I now go at lunchtime, but take a list with me of what to put into the robot.
    They have 5 robots and typically 5 counter positions open for normal stuff.
    The machine queue time is typically half of the human time, the only really annoying things are waiting for a human to be available to release the certificates of posting, also the same human guiding another poster through every step.
    I’m afraid I am a convert to the robots.

  • Alan
    12 months ago

    I use technology all the time, but prefer humans at the supermarket. I have switched to my local Lidl (no self service machines) because the alternative supermarket only offered machines or long queues. And Lidl turns out to be surprisingly good/cheap. The PO in my small town still has humans.

  • Angela H
    12 months ago

    I have used the self service machines at the central Birmingham PO (very close to work) on numerous occasions and much prefer them to queuing to deal with a member of counter staff. Depending on the time of day, and I do my best to time my visits at a time when there is no queue or a very small queue, I can be in and out in no time. I pray for the day that the PO local to where I live.

  • Eggyplops
    12 months ago

    I, for one, welcome our new Computer overlords

  • northumbrian
    12 months ago

    many local sub post office humans need a reboot
    their often jobs worth awkward
    that delight in being obstructive and unhelpful
    we welcome the day of the machines

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