05/03/2008

The “open plan” post office

Posted in Post Office at 9:16 pm by henrysgauntlet

GPO badgeThis week I have been to the new main post office in Grays for the first time.   Although it has been open for a few months, I have not had occasion to use it before.   Like many across the country, it is situated in a branch of WH Smith in the shopping precinct.

It was OK.   Yes, there was quite a long queue, but then there always was at the old general post office in George Street, now empty and no doubt deteriorating.   The back portion of the WH Smith store has been taken over, and it has been decorated and furnished in a pleasant, modern way.   There are six customer positions  –  promising  –  with four of them open.   The staff all seemed very pleasant, and the young lady who served me was most helpful.

What really surprised me, though, was the “open plan” aspect.  

We have become so used to high security in banks and post offices.   Certainly the little sub post office in a general shop at the corner of my road has high security.   The shop owner, who is the sub postmaster, was made to glass in the back corner of the shop completely, (hopefully it’s bullet-proof glass!), and the customer position has the same sort of narrow slot as banks have under which you push your grubby fivers.

But here at the WH Smith post office there are simply wooden screens which end at about head level of the sitting staff.   Anyone could easily reach over and grab things from the counter.   What is more the screens end either side of each counter clerk, so there is a completely open space of about two feet wide in front of each clerk.   Presumably the cash and stamp supplies are kept in under-counter drawers, but there would be plenty of scope for an evil-doer to put a gun in the face of a counter clerk.

I am perfectly happy for the post office to be in a private shop.   One could feel pleased that no necessity has been perceived for high security barriers.   But we must all hope that an armed attack on this post office never happens.  

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