October 11, 2011

Postez comme vous vivez!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 10:35 am
Tags: , , ,

The above exhortation (roughly translated as ‘Post to suit you and your lifestyle’) comes from an ad that struck my eye as I was flicking through Femme Actuelle (the French equivalent of Women’s Own). I won’t digress on justifying my choice of literature, nor on the other ads I noticed – except perhaps the one for my favourite beauty product: an anti-ageing facial cream made with a magic formula containing snake venom. Father Christmas – please take note!

So what was so interestingabout this one (see below) from the French Post Office?



It seems simple enough – an announcement about new postal rates on offer. French consumers can choose from the ‘Green letter’ which is delivered in 48 hours, is cheaper and greener (through a commitment to avoid using plane transport); the ‘Priority letter’ for next day delivery; and finally the oddest one of all, the ‘Online letter’ which is printed out and delivered. Dig a little deeper and there are many interesting angles to explore.

Firstly, I pity poor French consumers who now have to negotiate the additional complexity these rates create. They already had to deal with three different possible weights for letters (20g, 50g or 100g, whereas in the UK, we only have to work out whether something weights more than 100g); and now they have to think  about delivery speed. Want to know more? There are four documents to download (each of four pages) which explain all the different options.

Secondly, what about this ‘Green letter’? I must confess I am not convinced. Offering consumers a lower standard of service (slower delivery) as more ‘economical’ (by a trivial three cents) and more ecological smacks of blatant greenwashery. Carrying out a little further research also reveals how disingenous this green claim is. Though the letters will not be transported by plane, they will go on the road (a plan to use TGVs to replace the postal air fleet sold in 2007 has so far come to nothing). In addition, as the French Post Office has gone through a period of rationalisation, a number of sorting offices have been closed meaning that the distances the lorries travel has in fact increased over recent years.

Finally, it also raises issues for workers. (How could one write about a French public service without including something from unhappy civil servants). According to the trade union for postal workers in southern France, offering a slower service means that fewer workers will be required on the night shift. Whilst they recognise night shifts are not for everybody, the union berate the government for not recognising the rights and routines of their workers.

After all that, I think I would rather stick to emails!


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