It did not help that commentators on my social media handles did not find anything amiss with Nipost’s service delivery standards. Quite a few had even scarier accounts of their encounter with the local postal service. Still less reassuring was the point that “service” is not a concept native to Nigeria.


Over the last couple of weeks, I have had problems with the delivery of a set of books from the United Kingdom’s operations of Amazon, the online retailer. Last week, I used the opportunity of this space to draw attention to both this fact and a few lessons I thought were salient for the domestic postal delivery service. We cannot ignore the importance of a working national mail and parcel delivery system any longer. An efficient order-fulfilment process is the lifeblood of a key part of e-commerce. However (following the books’ mail trail), it became obvious with each visit to the Nigeria Postal Service’s flagship outlet on the Marina (Lagos) that the agency would benefit immensely from digitising its operations.

Nearly two weeks after being told that my package ought to have been delivered through the post office — this happens when you choose Amazon’s “standard delivery” option — staff at the General Post Office, Marina were still rummaging through piles of mail searching for my missing packages. Could the barcodes on these packages have been scanned and the information stored on a shared database, instead? Yes. Would this then have improved the search for mail each time customers came calling across the counter? Yes.

Sometime last week, completely flummoxed by Nipost’s incompetence, and worried that the loss of these books would be scarce resource down the drain, I addressed a tweet to @NIPOSTNIG (Nipost Nigeria’s tweeter handle) informing the postal authorities that books which @amazonUK (amazon.co.uk’s tweeter handle) informed me that I ought to have taken delivery of had not yet reached me.

Now, this is where this story gets interesting.

Then, came the response from Amazon. A series of questions were asked (via tweeter) to establish the nature of the purchases. Was it an order fulfilled by a third party? Or by Amazon itself? After which I was directed to a “help channel”. Placed side by side against my experience with Nipost, Amazon’s help channel’s response was a gem…


First, Nipost’s response. And, to be fair to the service, its response came in first. I was requested to send the “tracking details” of both packages via “direct message”. In response, I reminded the authority that precisely the lack of a tracking number when one opts to receive packages via Amazon’s standard delivery option was the nub of the problem here. Nipost’s response? “Please go to the closest post office on the recipient’s address. We can’t track or trace it on this platform without the tracking number.” I had been to the “closest post office” every other day for the last two weeks. Evidently, there was only so much that an institution without the tools consistent with today’s understanding of the service delivery challenge could do in these circumstances.

Back to square one? Was I to go back to ransacking piles of letters and parcels at the post office nearest to me?

Then, came the response from Amazon. A series of questions were asked (via tweeter) to establish the nature of the purchases. Was it an order fulfilled by a third party? Or by Amazon itself? After which I was directed to a “help channel”. Placed side by side against my experience with Nipost, Amazon’s help channel’s response was a gem: “Firstly, please accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused by this delay. We take full responsibility if any item becomes lost during delivery and will be happy to replace it free of charge, or issue a refund if a replacement is unavailable.” That was how the first email came through. Then I was told that as a goodwill gesture a request for the refund of my delivery charges had been put in. Depending on how efficient my bank’s processes are, the refund ought to reflect in my balances within five days.
But I wanted the books. Not the money. At this point, truth be told, I was resigned to paying for the additional cost of having the package freighted in by courier.

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I am still concerned though, that even as we worry over the difficult conditions for the production of goods in this country, the medium without which services may not be properly delivered is not also in place.


Two hours later, I received another message. “I understand how annoying it can be to wait for something for the books(sic), only to find it to be unsuccessful and I clearly feel how it would disappoint you and put your mind away from purchasing in Amazon”, began this new message. This new correspondent proceeded to inform me that “To avoid further delay, I’ve now placed new order for these books.”

By close of business last week, the first of the books for which Nipost could not account had been delivered by special courier.

It did not help that commentators on my social media handles did not find anything amiss with Nipost’s service delivery standards. Quite a few had even scarier accounts of their encounter with the local postal service. Still less reassuring was the point that “service” is not a concept native to Nigeria. I am still concerned though, that even as we worry over the difficult conditions for the production of goods in this country, the medium without which services may not be properly delivered is not also in place.

Uddin Ifeanyi, journalist manqué and retired civil servant, can be reached @IfeanyiUddin.