How hard is it in the 21st Century to run a decent postal service? The UK has managed it for years, yet in Spain everyone accepts that Correos, the national postal service, simply cannot be relied on to work.
Let me give you an example. This week I phoned RENFE (the train operator) to make a reservation for some tickets to Toledo. They asked as usual at the end of the call whether I would like the tickets sent to me in the post, or would collect them from the station. Like any sensible person used to living in this country, I opted to collect the tickets in person, knowing not to trust that they would arrive in time by post.
So instead of picking them up in my mail box this morning (when in an ideal world they might have arrived), I have just spent one hour going to the station to pick them up. So, there’s one hour lost for a start, due to my friends at Correos. No doubt similar time is being wasted all over Spain every day of the week.
Marina always says that there is no culture of buying on-line here in Spain as a result of the fact that people don’t trust the whole mail-order concept. In the UK, it was easy to go from phone ordering (with postal delivery) to internet ordering (with postal delivery). Yet here in Spain mail order never took off, and even now, 5 to 10 years after people have happily been ordering online in the rest of the world, Spain still has to get everything from the shops. No one trusts the post.
That means no Amazon.es, and nothing remotely as efficient as US DVD postal-rental service Netflix, two services I would really love to see here in Spain and am very jealous of. But my frustrations aside, hardly any online commerce must mean less spending in general – not good for the nation’s budget.
Speaking of Netflix, there are Spanish copycat services, where you book films online and they supposedly arrive at your house, but guess what, they are widely slandered online (in Spanish forums etc), and I, like many, didn’t risk signing up. While researching such online-postal DVD rental services last year, I came across the following report:
Logistics: Correos, the Spanish postal service, presents two clear problems for the online sector in Spain – reliability and the incidence of loss of discs. So great are these difficulties that one key player has developed an alternative delivery system and is keen to abandon postal delivery altogether. For the remaining competitor using the system, delivery times cannot be guaranteed to customers, with average turnaround at three to four days. During the summer months the average becomes considerably higher [...] The importance of a reliable postal service is underlined by the fact that the Spanish company that still depends on it told Screen Digest that unhappiness with the postal service is one of the main reasons that customers give for canceling subscriptions.
I think it’s going to be an awfully long time before we see an Amazon.es operating fruitfully in Spain.