Our too-pushy post offices: Customers forced to queue for too long before being offered services they don’t want
07:50 GMT, 28 November 2012
Long queues: The Post Office has been criticised over waiting times following a mystery shopping test around the country
Customers are queuing for up to ten minutes to be served at post offices then pressed to buy services they do not want, a report says today.
Campaign group Consumer Focus criticises the use of ‘active up-selling’ at Post Offices, which sell all types of financial products from travel money to mortgages, and warns of ‘a considerable number of consumers being charged for a more expensive product when cheaper alternatives would better meet their needs’.
One post office user in three has to queue for at least five minutes, and for some the wait is more than twice that long said Consumer Focus, which tested 448 post offices in urban high streets.
The research, carried out at the end
of last year, compared three types of post office: the large Crown
Offices run by Post Office Ltd – which was split from the Royal Mail in
April – former Crown Offices now part of a WH Smith and franchised post
offices based in a shop such as a Tesco.
It says those based in branches of WH Smith are the worst.
In a Crown Office, the average wait has fallen from six minutes and seven seconds in 2009 to three minutes and 51 seconds.
Too pushy: Branches within WH Smith came off worse in the research, with queues of more than five minutes, and on nearly a fifth of occasions as much as 10 minutes
In a WH Smith, it fell from six
minutes and four seconds to five minutes and 29 seconds, but 19 per cent
shoppers queued for more than ten minutes.
WH Smith said its average queue times have now improved to ‘less than four minutes’.
mystery shopping exercise carried out at branches in urban high-streets
around Britain found an irritatingly high level of waiting before
finally being served.
The wait exasperates many busy customers who find their lunch hour eaten up by the long wait or frail pensioners who struggle to stand in a queue for such a long time.
It said 19 per cent of its mystery shoppers queued for more than ten minutes in one of these branches, compared to ten per cent in a Crown office and eight per cent in a franchised Post Office based in a shop.
Active up-selling: The report accused Post Office branches of pressuring customers to buy services they don't actually want
For many customers, who are used to
supermarkets opening extra tills if queues develop, the small number of
counters which are open is exasperating.
For example, Consumer Focus said a typical Crown office has 7.3 counters, but only 3.8 are actually open.
The report said the WH Smith offices also offer the smallest chance of being able to go to a Post Office and not have to queue.
said around 30 per cent of mystery shoppers who went to a Crown ‘did
not have to wait at all’, compared to 17 per cent in a WH Smith.
One visitor complained: ‘Queuing outside the Post Office area into part of WH Smith, behind me in the queue there were 12 people queuing.
‘Only two positions and the foreign currency counter attending to people.’
The report, based on research done at the end of 2011, said the length of queues in Crown offices has been helped by the roll-out ‘do-it-yourself’ machines called ‘Post and Go’.
The machines allow people to do basic transactions, such as weigh a letter or parcel and buy stamps, which means they do not have to speak to a member of staff behind the counter.
A Post Office spokesman said: ‘This report is based on research carried out a year ago and it doesn’t fully reflect the positive developments in the Post Office of today.
‘Our key priority is to deliver excellent customer service and where issues are identified, we are always willing to address them.’
On 1 April, Post Office Limited was separated from its parent company, Royal Mail, and is now an independent business.
Last week, its first-ever trading statement found it made an operating profit of 61million in the six months to 23 September, although this is after a 103million Government subsidy.