The secret door

I only go into the post office for three reasons.

1. To buy postage (either stamps, or to send packages).

2. To pick up parcels.

3. To renew my post office box. (And in fact I think you can pay that online these days.)

I don’t understand the people that go to pay endless numbers of bills, not to mention buy the other crap they seem to sell in post offices these days — anything from printers and computer monitors to discount DVDs to racks and racks of Smiggle stuff — in other words, stuff you’d normally go elsewhere if you actually wanted to buy them. (All this is why, as I’ve said before, you’ll go in to find a slow-moving line of twenty people when all you want is a book of stamps.)

And of course it narks me somewhat that most post offices (pretty much all apart from agencies, it seems) are only open 9-5 on weekdays. Given my post office box is at such a location (which happens to be the most convenient to home), it means when I do get a parcel delivered, it’s difficult to pick it up.

Then I discovered the secret door.

The post office - the secret door

The secret door is really a service window. It’s present at some post offices near the boxes. There’s a small bell.

Thanks to a tipoff (not from the post office people, I might add), I discovered that outside business hours, you can ring the bell and if you’re lucky, someone will open the window and you can pick up parcels. In my post office’s case, they seem to be regularly there well before 9am, such as 8:15 this morning when I came past on my way to the station.

That saves a bunch of hassle.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

20 replies on “The secret door”

I recently found this at my local as well, but only after calling the Aus Post call centre to ask how i’m supposed to pick up a parcel from a post office which is only open at times i’m at work. The office in question has a loading dock with a back door which serves the same purpose and is “open” from 7:30am, though why this info can’t be put on their website is beyond me.

I also have no idea why the delivery person left it for collection at that office when there is another one which is closer to my house and is open on saturday mornings!

When living in West End, Brisbane – a good 7+ years ago – I had a postbox there, and used the secret door all the time! I had forgotten about it. The current place is an agency, so I can go in Saturday morning if need be.

The answer to your second question, Simon, is that not all post offices operate the delivery service any more. The post office in my suburb is still open, but the delivery services which used to come from there, are now centralised at another post office which services 4 or 5 suburbs. So that would be why your undelivered parcel was there, I guess.

The whole problem of delivery services in Australia is still screwed up, compared to the USA. Its ridiculous that things get delivered to , and require collection from, post offices which for normal working people are inaccessible. And couriers which require signatures. When I was in the USA, the couriers would come at 7 oclock in the evening to deliver stuff to residential customers, they won’t do that here.

That’s so cool!
I too only go to the PO to buy stamps and postpacks. I am wondering if they will ever go with selling stamps and postpacks online. Or do they do that already? I should go have another look!

They do sell books of stamps online, but it’s aimed at collectors, and it looks like there’s a $5 delivery fee, so it’s not really affordable to regular stamp users.

Our postage rates are atrocious too. I need to send a magazine overseas to someone and the postage is going to be more expensive than the magazine!

I’ve never done it because I send so few letters these days but the Royal Mail has a service whereby you can pay for “stamps” online and then print them directly onto envelopes in your own printer as you use them.

As for collecting post, that can’t be done over the counter here; instead you have to go to a delivery office which is invariably hidden around the back of the main building and where your “secret door” is effectively the norm. Also, they open from very early in the morning and close around lunchtime I think.

Basically, the system here dates from a time when collecting parcels delivered while you were out was the exception rather than the norm that it is today, with Internet shopping and people out at work all day.

The personal PO box system, which seems to be so common in Australia, is very, *very* rare here.

It’s a damn good idea, I used to work at a school and had to pick up our parcels before work, it was lovely to be able to ring the special bell and have someone pile me up with parcels.

My palace is 1km from a post office near the train station, and 1km away from one up the road that I have no reason to go near.

Of course, Australia Post has to send all my parcels to the latter one. I think it must be due to postcode boundaries.

A lot of post offices are actually privatised or franchised in some way. My PO box is at a business distribution centre, so a couple of times when I’ve *desperately* needed something immediately I’ve gone there at like 11pm or 5am or whatever knowing that there are people out back processing mail. Unfortunately the parcels are stored in the post office shop itself, which is locked and sealed off because “it’s a franchised operation” or something… darnit!

That said, so long as the package isn’t too large there are several “massive” PO boxes at my business centre that aren’t for lease… if a package doesn’t fit your box and it doesn’t require authorisation they put it into one of those PO boxes and leave the key for it inside yours. Very cool :)

Arrghhhh!!! YES!! Massive lines of people paying bills in the post office, or buying pre-paid phone credit pisses me off so much, when I need to do something actually postal related, like send off a parcel.

Australia Post needs to be less like a shop and more like a post office. A few months ago I went to a post office in the USA and it was actually kinda weird not to be bombarded with shit to buy and do, and just get down to mailing stuff out.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Australia Post let you buy pre-paid postage online, stick it on your parcel and drop it off in a giant mailbox (that fits big parcels).

It sounds like the secret door that Gryff Rhys-Jones showed on the London doco last night which was in fact the top secret entrance to the underground bunker used by British Telecom to combat the cold war fears of the 1950s….

In the US post offices offer a much more limited range of products and services compared to post offices in Australia.

in ameerica, there are machines attached to scales which let you weigh and pay for and print out the “stamp”. then you just stick it in the box, et voila! no postal workers to deal with!

Recently moved my PO Box from an outlet to an agency and closer to home due to it being open on Saturday. Auspost is all commercial and about profit now.

Our PO Boxes are in their own little room (PO Box key opens the door too). We have a window that’s open early and closes at 10am, but for all after hours pickups they have large boxes that are locked with keys. You get a note and a key in your box and collect your oversized item from the big boxes. Fabulous for collecting items at inconvenient times.

As for the post office sticking to what they were meant to do, I think the argument is that the little agency branches wouldn’t survive on postage sales alone. But then with the number of transactions occurring thanks to online shopping and eBay, they must still be doing reasonably well (but perhaps not at the local level).

All that cheap naff crap they sell I don’t know why they bother. The ‘secret’ door in Alice Springs PO (there is only one for this town) is a very, very busy one indeed. In fact you go to it for most parcels unless they are Air Express and the like. What also amazes me is how many (now I’m not being sexist) mainly men & people that don’t know how to use a computer or are fearful of internet banking are in there paying sheafs of bills. Lots of back packers and grey nomads trying to fit a irregular items into a tiny boxes and or arguing about the price & time frame it will take surface mail. When for a few lousy dollars more, people wanting stuff with no id ie phone credit urgh! It’s why I gave up ebay selling I was going balmy.

I have the same problem at my local PO. Additionally, they seem to have the most incredibly incompetant staff ever. Every afternoon from 4pm you will see people queueing to collect parcels, plus a few doing things that could be done elsewhere. Or the one I really love to see – someone trying to get a passport or visa with inadequate documentation or no appointment.

I personally would prefer the post offices to go more like a shop – at least then there is a chance they will be open extended hours.

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