LETTERS: Rural businesses out of the loop . . . again

LETTERS: Rural businesses out of the loop . . . again

For over 20 years I have owned computer sales and repair businesses in remote and regional areas of Australia.

In such areas, the mail, including letters and general freight, is usually delivered by sub-contractors on behalf of Australia Post. The more remote the area, the more likely you are to deal with a sub-contractor. As is usually the case, these sub-contractors are often the local agent for just about every other general freight company in existence, so when it comes to having freight delivered into such areas it makes sense to take the least expensive option and have freight collected by Australia Post.

Depending on the size of the delivery, the cost savings can run into hundreds of dollars and this is the way I have had thousands of items, collectively worth millions of dollars, delivered for many years. At this point, it is also worth mentioning that not a single item has ever been lost or even damaged when collected by Australia Post, something I can't say for other couriers.

The option of using Australia Post came to a sudden halt in February 2001 when it issued a memo to all outlets that it no longer wished to carry items such as computers and associated peripherals as the claims for damages was beyond what they could bare. The outcome of this memo was that I lost the option of having systems collected in, say, Melbourne or Sydney and delivered to the East Kimberly at a reasonable cost.

Despite contacting the various state managers, and eventually the national manager of Australia Post, they were unrelenting and insisted that Australia Post was "not a fragile courier" and emphasised that none of their staff were trained in handling such specialist freight. They also advised I should use private freight companies, even though, as in my case, the freight would be handled by the same people for more than 90 per cent of its journey.

Some relief came later in the year when Australia Post decided to leave the decision to accept "fragile freight" to the individual managers of local post offices. Through the incredible efforts of some of our suppliers, who literally drove our orders from post office to post office seeking one that would accept them, we were able to once again use Australia Post. Unfortunately, this situation was short-lived as post office staff would accept the freight one day but not the next, a situation that was simply not tolerable.

At the beginning of this year, I closed my business in the East Kimberley and moved to Queensland, the issue of access to lower freight costs playing a part in my decision.

Upon my arrival in Queensland, you can imagine my surprise when I was bombarded with television advertising promoting Australia Post Logistics and editorials as to how Australia Post was able to handle IT distribution! Not only that, but I heard Australia Post was the successful tenderer for all aspects of distribution for the new Microsoft Xbox.

So, after months of discussions over freight issues, it would appear that Australia Post have either not been honest with me, exaggerated their abilities to Microsoft or, in only a couple of weeks, have managed to retrain thousands of staff so they are now well equipped to handle "fragile freight". Which one is it?

Shane Arnfield,

Arnfield Computer Services,

Maryborough, Queensland.

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