On Thursday last week I had a conversation with an ex-South African now living in Rochester New York. She's married an American, see, but she said, entering OR Tambo that she burst into tears. Soon after part of the ceiling scaffolding caved in not far from her and her companion, which, one presumes, soothed her somewhat that being out of the country isn't as bad as it seems.
Over dinner with friends she told us about what is sleg about the States (60% suffer from obesity). She said one of the nice things was a service called NETFLIX. You go on the net, choose what you want (for a monthly subscription), and then it gets delivered to your door. You exchange your last DVD for the next set etc. Great idea! Except it would never work in South Africa, because our postal service is...well, fucked up. (See email below from Gunther Linzer to Financial Mail).
It's easy to then get caught up in the whining and whinging about why we can't do what we could do. I remember thinking a few times subsequently what a great idea it was but that ultimately it wouldn't work...and then found out that not only is it possible, it's already been done by a Cape Town based cmpany called PUSHPLAY. See what's possible? I know this because I came upon this article in Financial Mail (what a great magazine):
Pushing people's buttons
Hilary Prendini Toffoli with PushPlay online DVD rentals founder Darren McLean at Col'Cacchio, Cape Town
It's everyone's dream: a constant flow of your personally selected DVDs delivered to your letter box without your ever having to enter a video store. For as little as R89/month.
Not a proposition in a country whose post is notoriously unreliable? On the contrary, says Darren McLean (36), the Capetonian who launched PushPlay online DVD rentals in October last year. In 14 months he's lost fewer than 1% of his DVDs and now has 3 000 subscribers.
For more on this article, go here.
Günther Linzer, via e-mail
Last week's FM had as its centrepiece the SA Post Office (Sapo) blowing its own trumpet about its "successful" conversion from a government albatross to a modern business (Corporate Report November 30).
What is of concern to every South African, though, is the rampant theft that takes place unabated while that old-fashioned commodity called mail is entrusted into the organisation's care. Mail theft appears to be getting worse as time goes by. I have been on the receiving end (if you pardon the pun) of several registered items "going astray", particularly from the UK, where the Royal Mail calls registered post "signed for" mail. The tracking numbers can always be traced up to the point where the items get handed over to Sapo, where they are meant to be checked into the local tracking system with newly allocated numbers. In all instances - and I have proof via my UK contact of several other items that have vanished on their way to SA in the recent past - the mail disappears before it gets scanned into the SA postal system and obviously during the process of being handed over.
All representations have proven to be fruitless and only mealy mouthed replies with some vague declarations have been forthcoming.
In one instance I have been promised reparation(s), which I am still waiting for. In another, recent case, priceless and irreplaceable documents have gone missing and no-one appears to be very concerned about this at the post office.
Since my cases are emanating just from one single source in the UK, I wonder how other "clients" of Sapo have fared of late, and whether their senses have been blunted to such a degree that South Africans are now accepting mail kleptomania as part of our local service delivery - or lack thereof.