Islamabad’s General Post Office: Showcasing Incompetence!

GPO Melody

Being a visiting trainer at the Postal Staff College, Islamabad and as a student of quality management I keenly observe the operations of the GPO Islamabad, whenever, I get a chance to visit its shop-floor (a place where value is added or operations take place). I also remember the old shop-floor of the GPO and in recent years it has been given a make-over to portray or depict a professional outlook of the postal department.Uggs Outlet.

There is a huge hall at the center of which there is a large square boundary comprising different counters and inside the boundary wall there are different cubicles arranged in not so rational manner in terms of their layout. There are so many people who sit idle or carry-out paperwork inside the cubicles showing they are busy that it is easy to know the post office needs right-sizing. There are only a handful of people at the counters who often have no or little training how to deal with or address the needs of the customers. One notices the lethargy in the attitude of the personnel as they lack customer-focus, time-management, process-orientation, courtesy, empathy and professionalism. One has to go through different illogically designed queues to get different things done. For instance if I have to get utility bills paid or driving license renewed I have to enter two different queues and wait for a long time. There is a separate counter for urgent mail (express mail or courier service) & even you have to go through a separate queue in order to just buy postal stamps.Uggs Outlet Online.

Last time I visited GPO was to deposit utility bills. It was a late afternoon and only two people were standing in front of me at the counter dedicated for utility bills. The focal GPO person who had to carry-out the process was least interested in initiating the process for the visitor who was standing at the front of the row waiting to be given attention; rather the focal person was busy streamlining his own work area. It is absolutely a crime to make your customer wait because you are not organized or you have not been given training to act in a proper manner. These things extremely disturb me but somehow I kept cool and reminded the focal person at the counter that a guy is waiting at the front for his consideration. My effort to get the work going was followed with a discourteous reply from the GPO focal person, who told me not to teach him his job. It was a hot day and since GPO is not centrally air-conditioned so the waiting job seemed pretty taxing. After quite a while the counter-guy started processing the utility bill of the guy in the front. Unfortunately, like always, there was no change available at the counter so when the front guy offered to pay in terms of a Rs. 1000 currency note the focal person at the counter plainly told him that he did not have any

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change. Both exchanged some harsh words and to my surprise the GPO personnel who were sitting in cubicles inside the boundary wall (which I call showcase) did not pay any attention, what so ever, rather they kept on doing the things they were doing i.e., drinking tea and reading routine files pretending as if they were faced with the most challenging job of their career. It seemed they were used to of this sort of situation. Anyway, the guy at the front had to leave GPO with a promise that when he would return back with change he would be given preference. The GPO focal person at the counter was also drinking tea, so he took a while to start entertaining the next guy. It was again a test of patience for me. By this time I was examining myself as to how much the situation was taking a toll on my nerves. Since, we in Pakistan are used to of this sort of non-professional behavior, so it was not difficult for me to hold back. When my turn came the guy told me to just hold on and he wanted to go to wash room. By this time I was smiling while hiding my inner disgust, however, I told him to make it back to the counter earlier if possible. Just imagine a person’s salary is paid from your tax money and instead of having regards for you the guy starts taking you for granted..

Keeping in view the state of the country, it is nothing short of a grave sin to waste time. Sometimes I feel Pakistan is like a guy who cannot move from the bed with paralysis and is seeing danger coming towards him with frightened eyes, but cannot move or do something.

Another day I decided to get my license renewed well before its expiry date. I used to initially get it renewed from GPO Islamabad but I had spent about 5 years in Karachi before returning to Islamabad. During my stay in Karachi I used to get it renewed from GPO Clifton. You need to submit an application along with a fee to switch the GPO for the same purpose. Now I wanted to get it back to GPO Islamabad once again following the standard operating procedure. My driving license is from Sheikhupura, a city in Punjab, which I never visited in my entire life time. One of my friends from Sheikhupura got me the driving license using his influence as a token of thanks for something I did for him many years back. Before visiting GPO I tried to get a new license from Islamabad traffic police but a police officer who was controlling the queue at the entrance of the traffic police test center told me that in order to get my license converted to Islamabad I had to get a No-Objection-Certificate (NOC) from Sheikhupura driving license issuing authority first. In absence of a NOC I could only get a learners license from Islamabad and after 15 days or so could apply for a regular license that too after going through an oral and practical exam. I must confess that since I learned driving on my own so, even after over 15 years of driving, I still did not know many of the road signs. Apart from this someone told me that in case of an accident a person involved in it sometimes get credit for the number of years he or she had been driving in order to settle the claim of the other party. For instance I would be in a better position to defend myself in case of an accident if I am driving since 15 years and especially when I have experience of driving on the busy roads of Karachi. So it was not wise at all to just ignore my license from Sheikhupura – a city named after King Akbar’s son, prince Saleem who was lovingly nick named ‘Sheikhu’ by his father when he was a crown prince. Prince Saleem used to visit Sheikhupura for wild hunt before the place turned into a small village and later evolved into a full-fledged city.

So here I was trying to get my license renewed, but the guy at the counter told me that since the process of renewal of the license had been computerized and my license was not only still valid but also manual (meaning not computerized or machine readable) so it won’t be possible to renew it till it expired. It seemed totally illogical to me as I told him that I wanted to comply with rules and he was making me disobey rules. He told me that first I should let my license expire and then he will levy a penalty and only then he will be able to renew my license through the automated process involving computer front-end software data entry program. Quality fails when human interface is replaced with a computer. I do not want to say that computer interface is useless, but I want to stress upon the need to make it more convenient for the client to participate in the process. A computer is only programmed to obey command; whereas people use their minds (neuro-computers) to negotiate complex settings. So for the GPO person it was pretty normal to deny service to a customer whereas I was totally disturbed with that non-sense. Why should I pay for incompetence of someone else? This is how Government in Pakistan collects revenue from people to humiliate them and make them go through terrible circumstances. I am a law-abiding citizen and willing to pay dues in advance but the system did not allow me to do so. What a shame. So I decided to consult the customer care person at GPO with a senior designation. To my surprise he repeated the same thing that first I had to let my license expire and they will levy a nominal penalty after which they will renew my license. I dropped the idea and after a

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couple of days I decided to consult my childhood friend who was now a position nbso holder in the office of labor union of GPO. When I approached my friend; life all of a sudden became pretty easy. He assured me he will get the job done in no time and even he hesitated to take the fee from me but took it when I insisted. So that was how I got my license renewed till 2012. Hope next time I do not have to use the same route or go through the same type of mental torture. One needs to shed a great deal of refinement and education in order to stay calm in Pakistan.

I know that in the morning people desperately wait for the GPO main gates to open-up and when they open the doors people rush towards the license counter to get a manual token. People, who most of the times reach the GPO gate earlier, get token numbers due to which their turn comes late and people who come late but are either physically or mentally smarter; or for that matter have good luck; get token numbers that allow them an earlier turn at the counter.

Whenever I visit a post office, it reminds me of the Minnato-Ku, 8-Chome Post office in Tokyo where they use altogether different strategy to satisfy their customers. First you cut down the space to 75% compared to GPO Islamabad. At the entrance there is a token machine. You get a token with a number. Now you can see the display on which active token number is displayed. You can gauge if you should wait for your turn or you can do other things meanwhile and come back before your turn comes. No need to wait unnecessarily. There are newspapers and magazines at the waiting area. There is only one counter at which you have to interact with only one person. At your turn you go there and the guy understands whatever you want to do at the post office and you need not to go through different queues to do different things rather the same guy gets all the jobs done for you. When your turn is over the new person comes at the counter and the old one starts working on your requirements. This way they realize a one-window operation making life easier for themselves and their customers. Why can’t we do this at the GPO Islamabad? Now a day’s banks have started using automated token system. Why rely on manual token system?

These types of behavioral problems are prevalent in almost all the public offices in Pakistan, and example of GPO is used as I am in a way associated with it. I must confess that despite of pitfalls our postal service is reliable to some extent, as it seldom fails to make a delivery. I generally do not get my letters lost even though now I mostly use e-mail and courier service but I remember only one occasion when I had posted a New Year card to someone and it was not delivered.

Many years back I had to post a letter to my father who was in those days living at our residence in the home town. My Islamabad residence was at a walking distance from GPO Melody Islamabad. One of my close relatives was leaving for hometown, he asked me to hand over the letter to him instead of putting it inside a post box. I told him that my father always advised me to post a letter instead of giving it to someone, when especially I had the envelope and the

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stamp too. I told him that it will disturb my father if he received the letter by hand. My family member did not like it, attributing my principle stand as mistrust on his honesty or good spirits. Anyway, I posted it and seen-off my relative. A couple of days afterwards I called my father and asked him if he received my letter. To my amazement my father told me that my same relative handed my letter to him. It took me totally by surprise as I had put the letter myself in the mail box and my relative had left the place in front of me. When I next met my same relative I asked him how he managed to get the letter and delivered it. He smiled and told me that it takes only less than two hours to reach hometown whereas a letter takes a minimum full day to reach the destination. Further he told me that after the weekend when he was coming back from hometown he saw the postman holding the same letter trying to find the intended recipient. Since my hometown used to be a small place back then, so when my relative told the postman to hand him the letter, the postman did not hesitate. He should have not done that at all professionally speaking. But he did, which resulted in a very interesting story in the end. My relative still tells me how annoyed he was when I did not give him the letter instead he says since his intentions were pure so Allah made him to deliver the letter ultimately. Ironically funny I must say!

The great Iqbal pointed the main issue many years back in a meaningful verse:

  • Waey Nakami Mata-e-Karwan Jaata Raha
  • Kawan Ke Dil Se Ahsas-e-Ziyan Jaata Raha


(What a pity that we lost the ‘character’ & the ‘values’ that were our heritage, but even biggest failure is that we have lost the sense of loss too!)

  3 comments for “Islamabad’s General Post Office: Showcasing Incompetence!

    May 14, 2011 at 5:47 am

    A very simple article which projects the inefficiency of the Postal department. I would recommend that you send this article to the DG POST who may want to rethink his strategies.

    May 15, 2011 at 3:36 am

    Thanks a lot Sir…

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