PARCELS of every size and shape are piling in and out of post offices throughout the Corner Inlet district in volumes far greater than the annual mid- to late-December Christmas present crescendo.
This phenomenon is not locally unique but nationwide, with Australia Post setting up extra mail handling and sorting facilities to cope with the explosion in the demand for postal services because of the global COVID-19 pandemic’s social restrictions.
Foster Licenced Post Office master Phil Rerden said “the volume of mail we’re currently handling is higher than any Christmas in the past.
“Most of the mail is parcels now as the number of letters has been subsiding every year for the past decade with the rise of email,” he said.
“Every day a mountain of parcels comes in, and with another 30 to 40 per cent more on Mondays compared with the other days of the week.
“The amount of outgoing mail is well up, too, and a lot of things have been going across our counter as local people send parcels to the members of their families and their friends so they can stay connected,” Phil said.
“Usually at this time of the year, things tend to become a little quieter in local post offices, but this year I think we’re all busier than ever!
“I think it’s because the overall population of the Corner Inlet district has grown during the past three or four weeks, otherwise it’s certainly at capacity,” he said.
“We’ve seen students coming home to study, and people with second homes in the area have decided to move down for an extended period.
“Also, the normal exit of our local grey nomads to warmer climates for the winter hasn’t taken place either and they’ve all stayed home instead!”
Phil said he and his team of staff and contractors “are doing the best we can to keep things as normal as possible.
“There’s no question that we’re grateful we’ve got work we can do to serve the community and be a part of helping local people to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Welshpool Licenced Post Office’s Alan O’Neill and Cath O’Meagher reckon they’re regularly dealing with two or even three times more mail.
“All of us in post offices have been hit pretty hard by all the mail that’s coming in now,” Cath said.
“We’ve been opening the post office for an hour or so on Sunday mornings to process the mail,” Alan said.
“We’ve also been getting rid of some of the larger parcels then, too, by contacting the people they belong to via Facebook or by text or ringing them up if we’ve got their telephone number,” he said.
“It helps to clear the deck for Monday, when the mail truck arrives again with the next lot!”
Both Alan and Cath agreed that the amount of mail flowing through their post office since the COVID-19 lockdown began has been “consistently bigger than Christmas.
“A lot of families aren’t able to see each other and they’ve been sending care parcels back and forth,” Alan said.
“Little kids have been writing letters to Nan and Pop, and there’s been a lot of brightly coloured envelopes coming through.”
Cath said “it’s been lovely how the children have been learning about writing letters and where to put the address and which corner the stamp goes in on the envelope, especially since before Easter.
“They get such a thrill when they post their letters through the slot in the mailbox outside, and again when they get a reply.”
Alan said they’ve also seen among all the parcels and the usual mail, “a lot of stuff for the home schoolers.
“The dunny rolls have stopped but even so there’s still quite a variety of mail every day!”
“There are heaps more parcels than Christmas arriving all the time!” said Toora Licenced Post Office proprietors Greg and Maree Stewart.
“We’ve been going into the post office on weekends to sort what’s come along since Friday and to make room for the Monday deliveries,” Maree said.
“We’ve been finding it harder to open the door on time on a Monday simply because of the sheer volume of parcels that we and our three mail contractors are sorting behind the counter, which is the only area we’ve got to work in.” she said.
“Once the contractors head out on their runs with their cars full we’ve got a bit more room to move and then we can open up ready for the day ahead.”
Greg is the Toora township’s postie, and recently he has had to return to the post office quite often to pack his motorbike for the second time with the balance of the day’s mail that wouldn’t fit in the first load.
“Considering that interstate and overseas flights are limited at the moment, I can’t believe just how many parcels there are, and some huge ones, too!” Maree exclaimed.
“There are not as many letters as there were in years gone by, but overall, we’re handling a lot more mail in general because here in Toora we’re seeing a lot of people who have holiday houses in or around the town and have come to stay for the time being,” she said.
“Also, there are local people who are isolating and we’re bringing the things they need and order by phone or online and what their families send to them.”
Fish Creek Licenced Post Office proprietor Suellen Lee said “we’re dealing with at least twice as much mail than we were, especially parcels.
“We used to think we’d got a lot of parcels in when they reached the end of the lino on the sorting room floor, but sometimes nowadays they’re spreading beyond the lino, past the bathroom and into the kitchen of the post office residence!” she said.
“On some mornings during the past few weeks we couldn’t open any more mail bags until some of the parcels we’d already sorted had been collected because we’d literally run out of space.”
Suellen said it was quite clear people really have embraced the idea of looking for what they’re after on their telephones or computers, buying online and then having the item delivered or posted to them.
“And, in the country, that often means the local post office is where that parcel comes to first,” she said.
“One thing is for certain though; online shopping is here to stay!”