In this age of corporate behemoths, I habitually try to support independent businesses when the option is available. Sometimes, though, it seems like the independent businesses want me to go to the behemoth. Mailbox Plus (link unavailable), 1027 Davie Street, Vancouver, is one of these. I really want to be charitable about this place, but I just can’t.
The staff are usually pleasant, and I don’t dislike them (I’ve even had occasional amiable chats with a couple of them), but someone with some authority over them (the owners?) don’t actually seem to take the running of their business very seriously.
Mailbox Plus has no website. What is this, 1996? Any elementary school child with mommy’s smartphone can create a basic website in minutes, and even a free one on WordPress.com would be better than no website. Want to know what their business hours are over the holidays? A website would help.
“Well, you could just call and ask, you millennial snowflake,” you might say, not knowing that, chronologically, I’m much closer to dirt-encrusted yellow ice crystal than a fresh, young snowflake.
I tried that after the Google-fail. I called and encountered a recording that says only “The person you have reached is not available. Please leave a message.” Very helpful, Mailbox Plus. Perhaps it’s possible that I called an incorrect number, but I can’t confirm it because they don’t even have a website that has their phone number on it.
Next try: I checked Google Maps. Surely someone running a storefront business without a website in (almost) 2020 would keep their Google Maps listing up-to-date? Not Mailbox Plus. Their listing says they’re open today, and it’s not because they’re open, it’s because they didn’t update the listing.
I can confirm that they aren’t open because I finally went all the way down there and found a note taped to the front door that says “Closed until January 2”. Way to waste two hours of my day, Mailbox Plus.
Poor customer communication is not the only thing undesirable thing about Mailbox Plus, though:
Lousy Business Hours:
Woe to anyone that wants to do anything mail-related after 6pm, or anytime on weekends. Even if you just want to be able to access your mailbox, you either need to wait until Monday during the day, or cough up $50 for a front door key. (But make sure you’re there before 6pm to get the key!)
At the very least, they could stay open later two nights a week, maybe Thursday and Friday (say til, 8pm?) and maybe open for four hours on Saturdays. Then, customers who work weekdays could access their mailboxes and services without having to take time off from their jobs.
And a front door key? Back to 1996! How about installing a digital lock and giving every mailbox holder a twenty cent access card? More secure, less money, better service.
Staff use the front counter to sort incoming mail before it’s stuffed into recipients’ mailboxes. It’s not unusual to find heaps of bundled envelopes piled up there, while the staff are in the back, on the phone or computer, or talking to a customer. It would be startlingly easy to stuff a pile of envelopes under your coat and walk out.
Staff rarely ask for ID when you request anything, like ask for a replacement key or add an authorised representative’s name to your account. Sure, they ask for your box number and occasionally your name, but one could easily look at one of the unattended bundled envelopes on the front counter and get a name and box number. Maybe this never happens, but it could, and MB+ doesn’t seem to care. Their staff member carelessly dismissed my concern when I politely raised it.
Inconsistent Staff Competence
I went in for a spare key recently, paid for it, and was told to come back the next day to pick it up from my mailbox. When I went back, it wasn’t there. Given that I had to schedule my visit to coincide with their business hours, this was quite inconvenient. They did copy a key for me then, but there was no apology for the inconvenience, just more casual chatter that pretends that the customer wasn’t let down.
This one example is not the end of the world, but I’ve encountered things like this several times now. Given that I very rarely go in there and request anything, their success/fail ratio, then, could be said to be abysmal.
And getting back to security for a second: He didn’t ask me for my name or look up my account – I just told him my box number and he cut me a key. Could I do that with just anyone’s box? I suspect so.
The staff is usually superficially pleasant, but they don’t make any attempt to act like they care much about providing whatever service it is you seek. Rather, it appears that they think they’re doing you a big favour for which you should be obsequiously grateful, while they perform an unconvincing imitation of casually familiar camaraderie devoid of any professionalism.
I’ll concede that this casually friendly-but-ultimately-unfriendly means of attending to customers (I’ll refrain from referring to it as “service”) is not particularly unusual in contemporary retail, something easily confirmed with a visit to almost any independent Vancouver coffee shop. At this point complaining about it is clearly as futile as Quixote’s lance-armed charge against his nemesis windmill. However old-world as it may be, though, it still seems reasonable to me to expect a service provider to at least do what they say they’ll do.
My wish for 2020 is that Mailbox Plus will resolve to take their business more seriously. They could perhaps secure my future loyalty by contacting all of their existing customers to let them know what steps they will take to be better service providers for them this year, and then commit to fulfilling it. In the absence of this, it’s almost certain that I’ll decline to renew my mailbox in favour of the Canada Post outlet in Shoppers Drug Mart.
I’d rather support the independent business, but the independent business has to at least try to support me.