Ugly new post boxes and need to show ID leave locals disgruntled

Steve Hubrecht

There’s been more than the mail going postal at the Radium post office lately. The new post office boxes and a new hard line on showing identification when picking up parcels and packages have ruffled feathers and led to some disgruntled comments around the village.

While the issues may seem minor to big city dwellers, residents of rural areas such as the Columbia Valley take their mail seriously: it’s a delivery and communications lifeline to an outside world that can otherwise often seem distant and inaccessible. As rural postmasters across Canada have learned, often to their chagrin, messing with residents’ post offices can be a fraught business with peril.

No surprise then that the functional-yet-decidedly unaesthetic new post boxes plunked down outside the Radium post office have created a stir. Or that post office’s staff insistence on ID has not gone over smoothly with all Radium residents.

The new post office boxes came because as Radium has grown recently, it has developed a considerable waiting list for post office boxes. Several weeks ago, the new boxes arrived, with Canada Post cementing them in rows on either side of the entrance to the post office.

While getting the new boxes was welcome, the state they were in — dented, scratched, dirty, and otherwise clearly well used in a previous incarnation — and their location — right outside and perpendicular to the door — has raised more than a few eyebrows.

“They really do look as though Canada Post pulled them out of the bottom of an old storage bin,” Radium mayor Clara Reinhardt told the Pioneer.

Indeed some Radium residents have suggested on social media that the federal postal agency appears to have salvaged the new boxes from the dump.

Putting them in rows extending from the post office door was perhaps not the best idea either, added Reinhardt.

“It does make for a more narrow entrance way. You kind of do sometimes feel like you’re running the gauntlet,” said Reinhardt, pointing out that this is less than ideal during a pandemic in which people are supposed to maintain social distance as much as possible.

Reinhardt called Canada Post to raise concerns before eventually turning to Kootenay Columbia MP Rob Morrison for help. Shortly thereafter, Canada Post reached out to Reinhardt.

“They acknowledged that they are in fact very short of boxes,” she told the Pioneer, adding the agency has committed to sending a Canada Post superintendent up to assess the situation.

Hopefully, at the very least, as an interim measure, Canada Post can polish up the boxes or use decals to make them a little more easy on the eye, said Reinhardt.

The other issue — that of identification — stems from a number of factors, explained Reinhardt. To start with, rural people such as Valley residents often get blasé about following minor rules, such as Canada Post’s country wide requirement to show ID when collecting parcels.

“It’s a small town, you get to know people, so the staff relax a bit about the rules, and then the residents get used to that,” she said. “But Radium’s post office, other post offices recently, has had staffing issues, so there are a fair number of new staff. At the same time, Canada Post has recently been more firm about the need to show ID. That’s everywhere, not just in Radium. But in our community, it’s created a situation in which people have been getting a bit more grumpy than they ought to, and there have been a few altercations.”

Reinhardt has suggested to Canada Post to put a sign in the door of its Radium post office reminding residents that everyone must present ID. Doing so would avoid having people wait for a considerable amount of time in line only to get to the front counter and find out they can’t collect their parcel because they don’t have identification, she explained, adding this particular happenstance seems to be one that gets people particularly riled up.

“The staff at the Radium post office are doing a great job. We need to keep in mind they are doing their best and that they have to work within the system,” said Reinhardt. “A little extra bit of patience and understanding goes a long way. And please bring your ID when you come to pick things up.