Superboxes could have super costs

Columnist Claudette Sandecki takes a sharp look at upcoming changes to Canada Post

Canada Post’s plan to phase out door- to-door mail delivery in favour of community super boxes would have me up in arms if I were physically disabled and housebound or if I received more than bills and fast food flyers most days. Still, I’ve heard the pros and cons and appreciate their implications.

Theft from super boxes is a big concern. CBC investigated and reported between 2008 to 2013 British Columbia experienced 4800 incidents of vandalism or other tampering with community super boxes.

Incidents included prying boxes open, cutting locks, arson, stealing mail, shoving boxes over on their backs like turtles (this happened to two boxes, one on Parmenter, the other on the north end of Novotny, before the boxes could be anchored in concrete, despite plenty of foot and vehicular traffic passing both locations). Vehicles deliberately drive into the boxes. Other boxes are battered by hand tools.

After thefts customers must change their credit card and bank account numbers, and security system codes. A tedious, exasperating task rarely necessary when mail is delivered door-to-door.

Others argue a mailbox outside your front door or, as in rural cases, at the end of a driveway, are not secure from theft or vandals either.

A slot in your front door may be more secure than an outside mailbox, but I would worry about molotov cocktails being slipped into my house by some weirdo.

Finding physical space to set up these monster boxes will be a particular problem in established neighbourhoods. New developments plan for super mail boxes setting aside real estate for them. But what of built up areas where every square foot is either street, boulevard, or private property? Where will those super boxes be shoehorned in?

And if Canada Post tries to “rent” front yard space from homeowners that, too, will add to the perpetual cost even as the boxes disfigure owners’ front yards.

Another objection to community mail boxes is the litter they create. Often people sort their mail at the box and toss flyers and other junk on the ground heedless of handy recycling bins.

If recycling bins are used, someone must be hired to empty them daily. Would the job of postie merely morph into that of garbage man?

In winter snow clearing contractors would have to be hired to remove snow around boxes, a job that currently falls to individual home owners at no cost to Canada Post.

One objection clear to me is the loss of delivery and human contact for shut-ins, elderly or others restricted by mobility or vision problems. And how many times have posties saved the life of an elderly shut-in who may have fallen and been unable to reach a phone or in some other way arouse attention other than by their mail piling up on the doorstep?

Setting aside the risk of future damage or theft, right off the bat Canada Post will face the initial cost of buying and installing super mailboxes. Dozens of them. And that won’t be cheap, if Kitimat is any example.

In that city, Canada Post delivered no mail to the 30 or so residents on Farrow Street for a year after one dog was allowed to roam the street and bite a postie.

One possible solution offered by Canada Post after months of wrangling with city council was for the post office to install a community mail box for Farrow residents and if the dog died or moved away, the box would be removed and door-to-door delivery reinstated.

The post office pegged the cost of installation and removal of that one super box as $10,000. I would expect removal would be far cheaper than installation.  Canada Post may end up recategorizing costs, not saving.

Claudette Sandecki’s postal code is in Thornhill, B.C.

 

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