Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where have all the mailboxes gone?

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , JAKARTA | Tue, 06/23/2009 12:24 PM | Lifestyle
A good example: A mailbox in front of Le Meridien hotel in Jl. Sudirman, Central Jakarta. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)A good example: A mailbox in front of Le Meridien hotel in Jl. Sudirman, Central Jakarta. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)
Post offices are not dead, but why is it getting harder and harder to find mailboxes in Jakarta? 

Blame it on vandalism, but then consider that ATMs haven’t met the same fate; blame it on the Internet and cell phones, and you’ll find not all kinds of letters and documents can be sent through these latest technologies.

Although the Internet and cell phones have become so dominant in this era of communication, people still send letters — applying for jobs through handwritten or printed letters, sending and receiving bank documents, settling problems of debts and receivables through printed letters.

The number of mailboxes in Central Jakarta has been on the decline over time, down to 52 this year from 110 in 2006.

Many mailboxes are removed because they are regarded as being ineffective, says Asep Saiful Uyun, assistant technical and equipment manager at the Central Jakarta Post Office.

“I think the existing number of mailboxes represents the post figure and public need,” says the man responsible for the procurement and maintenance of mailboxes.
“Some addresses only get two to three pieces of mail a week, so they don’t warrant the operational cost to pick up the letter and the maintenance cost.”

Uyun says vandalism is also one of the main reason mailboxes are removed.

“Vandals put anything in the mailboxes, including firecrackers or water. They even break the keys.”

He adds the post office still has to remove mailboxes considered very unproductive.

“People tend to use phones or email to sent documents. Although we still need to provide a mail delivery service, it’s not as much as before,” says Uyun.

The 52 mailboxes in Central Jakarta are located mostly along the main thoroughfares of Jl. Gajah Mada, Jl. Juanda, Jl. K.H. Hasyim Ashari, Jl. Gunung Sahari, Jl. Matraman and Jl. Diponegoro, as well as near local post offices.

“The most used mailboxes are those in the shopping centers and [traditional] markets and office areas,” says Darmawan, assistant mailbox and stamping manager at the Central Jakarta Post Office.

Working or not?: A poorly shaped mailbox at Jl. Palmerah Barat in West Jakarta. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)Working or not?: A poorly shaped mailbox at Jl. Palmerah Barat in West Jakarta. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)
“People are also more confident about putting their letters in mailboxes near or in front of a post office because they believe the postmen will get them. A few also prefer to put their letters in the nearest mailboxes to the post office, because they might not have time to queue at the post office,” he said.

While the Central Jakarta Post Office’s delivery center has 286 employees and supervisors to serve customers, as well as 202 postmen, only six couriers are assigned to check mailboxes along the main roads once a day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., while mailboxes near local post offices are checked two to three times a day.

The six officers are also assigned to collect mail and packages in 45 local post offices around Central Jakarta, as well as from mobile post offices, post office extension counters and post office agents.

Many couriers, says Darmawan, complain about the construction of public facilities that pay no attention to their job, such as the construction of a busway lane on Jl. Pejambon, which prevents couriers from getting to the mailbox at the Foreign Ministry, or the construction of a bus stop in front of some mailboxes in Matraman.
“People don’t know there are mailboxes behind the bus stop,” he says.
Darmawan add he has no current data on the volume of mail posted through mailboxes, but data from Augustus to September 2008 shows about 200 to 300 letters were posted through mailboxes each day.
He says people no longer rely too much on mailboxes, since the post office offers various other mail delivery services, such as mobile post offices, post office extension counters and post office agents that all feature extending working hours.

The Central Jakarta Post Office has 45 local branch offices, 17 mobile post offices, eight extension counters and 10 post office agents.

Jakarta itself has 189 local post offices, with 48 in Central Jakarta, 40 in West Jakarta, 41 in South Jakarta, 40 in East Jakarta and 20 in North Jakarta.

Herri Waskita, head of the Central Jakarta Post Office’s delivery center, says although the number of personal letters passing through the post office have been tailing off over the past decade, the number of corporate correspondence such as billing statements, credit card bills, utilities bills and account statements is on the rise.

This is why the post office is still alive and kicking, and courier services continue to increase over time. The Central Jakarta Post Office has detected around 15 courier services frequently used to send or pick up letters or packages.

The lack of public attention toward mailboxes, Herri says, is because people need assurance their mail will be picked up and deliver in a timely manner.
“Mailboxes represent an ordinary service, and there is no way for people to trace their letters. They fear their letters could stay lost in the system forever or thrown away somewhere,” he says.

“That’s why for fast delivery, people need to go the post office. They need to know their letters will be arrived at the right time.”

— Photos By Matheos V. Messakh

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