“Postal Service clients are reminded that, on Tuesday, 25 April, all post offices on all three Cayman Islands will be closed all day, to facilitate staff development.”
– Media Bulletin, Cayman Islands Government Information Services
How can a country shut down its entire postal system for an entire day?
We’d understand if it were a public holiday, but there’s nothing particularly special about next Tuesday, as far as we can tell, that would lessen the country’s need for post offices to be open.
The Cayman Islands Postal Service is far from being the only government entity to hang up the “Sorry, we’re closed” sign in order “to facilitate staff development,” “training,” “workshops,” etc.
A quick search of our email inboxes reveals similar messages from GIS in relation to the Department of Immigration, Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing, etc. On the door of the Family Resource Centre (located in the Compass Centre), we regularly observe notices advising their clients that the office is closed for the day.
The practice of shuttering offices to assist with staff training appears to be a practice well established in the public sector. It’s another story in the private sector, which depends on revenue and reputation for customer service.
Accordingly, we single out the closing of the Postal Service not because the activity is unusual, but because the service itself is so vital to the proper functioning of our country’s economy … at least, in theory, it should be.
In the absence of detailed statistics, the near-universal perception in Cayman is that when you drop a letter in the local mail, you do so without the expectation that it will be delivered successfully within any standard amount of time.
This issue negatively impacts residents on a daily basis, particularly when government agencies (such as immigration or planning) or private entities communicate on time-sensitive matters through the local Postal Service. How many of you readers have sifted through the contents of your PO Box to find requests for information, notices of permit applications or “service disconnection warnings” whose due dates for response have expired long before you received the letter?
A mini-industry of private couriers has sprung up in Cayman, whose business niche is to hand-deliver invitations to social events so that people have the opportunity to RSVP before the party takes place.
Our neighbor to the north, the United States, has the world’s most impressive postal service (despite formidable obstacles in the “age of email” and public pension liabilities).
Cayman’s Postal Service claims it will deliver local mail in Grand Cayman “on the second working day after posting,” but we’d venture to bet that the U.S. Postal Service can, on average, deliver a letter faster from New York City to Los Angeles (a distance of 2,445 miles) than Cayman’s Postal Service can deliver a letter from West Bay to East End (a distance of 22 miles).
That comparison, of course, wouldn’t be “apples-to-apples” because the U.S. Postal Service delivers door-to-door to 155 million addresses, while Cayman’s Postal Service delivers to PO Boxes at nine locations in Grand Cayman, one in Little Cayman and five(!) on the Brac. (And as for packages … We hope you like making secondary trips to centralized locations and standing in lines for pickup and customs payment.)
It doesn’t have to be this way. Cayman is small enough that we could be on the cutting edge of mail services. Using conventional methods like trucks, a reasonable aim would be for guaranteed same- or next-day service anywhere within Grand Cayman.
If, like Amazon, Google and others, our postal service embraced drone technology (or found ways to entice those tech companies to innovate here under friendly regulations), we could pare delivery times down to a matter of minutes or hours.
We hope that when our postal service is closed next Tuesday for “development,” the first item on the agenda is the importance of innovation and speed.