Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Hebrew mail service: everywhere, for everyone


Tel Aviv is the only place where I have received a registered letter while walking down the street.

I mention this by way of responding to a suggestion that local journalists write articles about their experiences with the mail. The suggestion came from a dissatisfied postal customer, who proposed the theme "Israel's shoddy postal service."

I don't have any horror stories to offer. Here, instead, are a few generally positive words about Hebrew mail service.

The Hebrew motto in the logo (above) claims that the postal service is "everywhere, for everyone." This is a characteristically Israeli boast. On the one hand, it is an overstatement. On the other hand, it expresses good intentions and some reality.

One day when our neighborhood mail carrier was on his appointed rounds, he spotted me on the other side of the street a few blocks from my home. He called out and waved me over. When I crossed the street, he presented me with a registered letter.

This personal touch makes Tel Aviv different from other places where I have received mail, including Manhattan and Washington.

In Tel Aviv, clerks at the counter of the local branch post office know me, too.

The clerks have to do more than sell stamps and handle mail. Other services of the branch include foreign currency exchange, money transfers, fax transmission, and a savings bank. The branch sells international telephone calling cards and local electronic parking cards. The languages heard across the counter include not only Hebrew and English but Russian, Spanish and French.

In the main, these clerks are efficient and remarkably patient.

When decisions aren't up to the clerks, it is a different story. Seldom does a supervisor show up if a customer with a problem becomes loud or disruptive. Waiting lines are sometimes longer than necessary. The coin-operated photocopy machine at the branch seldom works. A broken venetian blind went neglected and unrepaired for years.

Generally the shortcomings at this branch post office show that management is weak and consumerism isn't strong. Like much else in Israel, the good side of the service is determined by the people who actually perform the work and not by their bosses or customers.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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