Saturday, January 30, 2010

I was wrong about SingPost

Among the various Chinese New Year mailings looking for a piece of the consumer's buck, I found a nice five-fold mini-catalog printed on good quality stock. Entitled shop@post, "where great shopping begins," it claims to be "Ushering in the Lunar New Year with Great Buys!" The familiar Singapore Post logo is in the corner.

What are some of these great buys? There's two different models of electric steamboat pot, a Black & Decker cordless drill, a range of abalone gift sets, a variety of phones and walkie talkies, and a mini car fridge. There's even a 26" LCD/DVD combo, which I think is also a TV although it doesn't say. I can also go online for more selections.

I can place my order at any of 62 post offices island-wide, drop it in any post box, order online, or visit any SAM or SAMplus. SAM stands for self-service automated machine. I used to be able to buy stamps from them, but they no longer take small change and there is always a super long queue of people waiting to do all kinds of non-mail related things. I don't know what SAMplus does, though presumably it offers more than the regular SAM. Maybe it also sells stamps or shines shoes.

So my prediction that SingPost would shut down its mail service altogether is probably wrong. It needs the mail to deliver its catalog! So here's my revised prediction: SingPost will expand its retail offerings and soon I will be getting a shop@post catalog the size of the Yellow Pages.

The Straits Times reports today that SingPost's third-quarter profits jumped 20.6 per cent. Of that, mail revenue declined 1.2% while retail revenue increased by 4.1%. Only 4.1%? They need to be more aggressive in their marketing! I'm sure they will be.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

SingPost forges ahead

I stopped at the post office today to buy stamps. Miraculously, they had a few on hand. Probably not many, as they need to make room for their other inventory. The latest new products for sale there include irons (for clothes, not golf), hot water boilers, and Chinese New Year gift boxes of abalone, shark's fin soup, etc. This particular branch did not have a cafe, like most bookstores now have, but some of the branches do. I predicted this some time ago.

I've noticed that machines that used to let you weigh letters and purchase stamps no longer take coins. The list of functions performed at the post office continues to grow. You can renew your magazine subscription, pay insurance premiums, get a dog license, pay bills and fines, and do all kinds of non-mail related things. The mail business just gets in the way.

SingPost is hell bent on becoming a conglomerate, constantly looking for new revenue streams. Here's another prediction: One day - probably sooner than we think - they will give up delivering mail completely. You will have to use email or a delivery service to send a simple greeting card or letter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Home again

We’re back home again, after a very pleasant 3½ weeks in the States. Our flight out of Newark was delayed when a passenger decided he didn’t want to go after all, and we had to wait for his bags to be unloaded from the plane. This is not what you want to hear two days after a Nigerian tried to blow up a plane over Detroit. Then another passenger became ill, medics were called and determined he shouldn’t fly, and his bags had to be removed. Of course, when you’re talking about 30 hours of travelling, this delay was no biggie. We finally arrived in time for New Year’s Eve, which we slept through, and several days of jet lag, which we had trouble sleeping through.

Whenever I return from a trip stateside I like to bring a little bit of Americana with me. This time it took the form of an espresso maker. Not the big machine that’s been taking over office pantries, but a little metal job that looks like an hourglass. I also brought back a couple of bricks of coffee and made some Cuban coffee. It didn’t taste quite like the stuff in Miami, though. You’re supposed to put the first few drops into a tiny metal pitcher with some sugar and whip it into a froth. I didn’t get any froth, perhaps because all I had to mix it in was a porcelain Chinese teacup. We drank it from tiny porcelain Japanese sake cups. They were slightly larger than the little plastic condiment cups you get on Calle Ocho (which look like the ones you squirt ketchup into at McDonald’s), and the experience was not at all authentic. I suspect I am the first and only person ever to sip cafe Cubano from a sake glass—man, it feels great to be a pioneer.