An open letter to the CEO of Australia Post

This blog was posted as an email to Australia Post CEO, Ahmad Fahour, through the somewhat oblique email address  at 4.30pm on 29th February.

If you are a publisher that has experienced similar problems, we would be keen to hear from you.

Nationalistic propaganda from the Australia Post website.

An open letter to Ahmed Fahour, Chief Executive Officer of Australia Post

On the 16th of February, our mailing house (which we have decided not to name as it could compromise their relationship with your company) lodged 1500 copies of our new issue to Australia Post. That mail out comprised comp copies for our sponsors, subscribers’ copies, and our national trade distribution (galleries, bookshops and other small outlets – excluding newsagents). Twelve days later, we began to receive reports that they had started trickling in to letterboxes. Fourteen days later, and some have still not yet been received.

This is not the first time we have had problems with Australia Post. Our previous issue experienced around 100 lost parcels, most of which were subscriber copies. As it took a while to twig that it was a substantial problem and not simply a few strays, and we then had no way of knowing who had received them and who hadn’t, the result was an expensive administrative nightmare that left a bitter taste in the mouths of the people that support us.

As for the current issue’s delays, we have had complaints from retailers and subscribers alike on our Facebook page and on email. Our marketing schedule has been thrown out of whack and we have lost media coverage. We are embarrassed that anyone who had seen the press that did make it out and went looking for the magazine couldn’t find it. We’ve also lost favour with advertisers who expect timely delivery. As newsagents managed to deliver their stock on time, subscribers have seen the issue in their local paper store and are understandably upset that their subscription does not proffer remit before the rest of the world.

So effectively, some subscribers have not received anything. One Facebook complaint read: “I paid last year for a subscription and received issue 3 in the mail. Nothing else since then.” You have not done the job I paid you to do with issues 4 and 5, and I look like a jerk.

I’m confused about all of this, Mr Fahour, because when I send a letter or parcel myself, it generally arrives the next day. And your website states, “We aim to deliver your parcel within 1-5 working days of you lodging it.” So why is it that when a small business like mine has to go through a mailing house due to the volume of parcels, that they arrive so very late, to untenable results that damage corporate and individual relationships as well as our reputation? You state on your site: “Our mission is consistent, on-time delivery”, and you proudly assert your “long history of generously supporting communities.” You’ve failed there, and you’ve failed there too.

Why have we continued to utilise your corporation’s services? Because there is simply no other option. Our mailing house laments that they must use you. “To employ a courier would be ridiculously expensive, and to use Aus Post’s tracking service would be ridiculously expensive,” they tell me. And you have a monopoly, so there is no-one else.

I am not the first publisher to complain – in fact looking back to last December there was an article on the Publishers Australia website addressing the same concerns. Back then, Australia Post was contacted by the association.

“Australia Post spokesperson Melanie Ward acknowledged they had experienced some delays processing magazine lodgements due to technical issues at one of their mail processing facilities. Nevertheless she added: ‘We are confident we have now corrected these issues and do not expect any further delays with magazine lodgements. Australia Post has taken additional steps to ensure this does not occur again and we will continue to closely monitor all lodgements.’”

So why is this still happening?

Distribution is without a doubt the bane of a small publisher’s life. It is one of the hardest and most costly things to do, and involves manifold minutiae and the patience of a Buddhist monk. I have built my distribution base from the ground up, and these hard-won relationships with retailers and subscribers are paramount to Ampersand’s existence.

As you have not provided the services that I paid you for, I would like to be recompensed for the lost copies, the price of re-posting, loss of goodwill and potential profit. And I would like your reply to explain the ongoing delays, and how you plan to support small Australian businesses and publishers in particular, to whom your services are their lifeline.

Sincerely yours,
Alice Gage
Editor, Ampersand Magazine

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