Confessions of a mail quality control officer

Confessions of a mail quality control officer
Mr Goh Leng Yong, quality control officer at SingPost.

Thanks to quality control officers like Mr Goh Leng Yong, our mail is delivered to the right mailboxes.

On Tuesday, SingPost announced that it would be continuing its $100 million service improvement plan, which includes installing new sorting machines and hiring more postmen.

Mr Goh, 65, is one of 25 QC - or quality control - officers employed by SingPost, which plans to bump this number up to 80 soon. Mr Goh's job is to spot wrong deliveries made by postmen.

He painstakingly goes through mail from individual boxes, ensuring the addresses on the envelopes match the boxes. He puts wrong mail back into the correct slots before making a note in his weekly report to SingPost.

The chatty grandfather-of-four says: "I get quite a few residents asking me who I am and what I do, even though I wear a vest with the SingPost logo and a lanyard with identification at all times. Some residents find me suspicious so they call up the office and complain."

"But in the end, it is good because at least my boss knows I am working," he adds with a hearty laugh.

More commonly, residents mistake him for the postman and ask him when their mail would arrive.

"If I am familiar with the schedule in the area, I try to inform them, otherwise I say I am not sure."

Mr Goh worked as a neighbourhood postman for 10 years before switching to his current role two years ago.

There was a little bit of tension between him and his ex-colleagues when he first started, admits Mr Goh, since his new role requires checking on them.

"Part of the job is also to make sure that the postmen are dressed appropriately - with covered shoes and dark pants," he says.

"When they fail to do so, I am required to report it."

Still, there are perks to the job that he is grateful for: The mailboxes he is charge of are located within the Tampines and Simei area, which is close to where he lives.

The hours - 11.30am to 4.30pm - are also relatively short, leaving him time to look after his grandchildren, aged seven to 11.

The experienced hand can check mailboxes at a rate of 200 boxes each hour, relying on his trusty blue bicycle to get from block to block.

Misdeliveries happen but not often, he says. "For veteran postmen, I usually spot one every two to three blocks, at most. For the newbies, the number doubles or even triples.

"It can be tricky for the new postmen, since two thin envelopes can sometimes get stuck together, making them seem like one package," he adds.

The job comes with a few quirky challenges, he reveals.

"You have to be constantly on your feet. Also, public restrooms are not always available," he says.

"Once, I had to use the bathroom of a family living on the ground floor.

"Another time, I used the mobile toilet set up for a wake at the void deck. Most Singaporeans have been obliging."

Like postmen, Mr Goh is privy to the interesting items people place in their mailboxes, which sometimes make the mailboxes seem like storage spaces.

"I have come across bunches of keys, pen, food and even cash," he says.

"But I always make it a point to leave them as they are or put them in the return mailbox, so owners can call the post office and retrieve them."

Secrets of the trade

1 Always carry a pair of pliers and a can of lubricant. A gust of wind could mean the metal panel (covering the mailboxes) slamming shut and getting stuck. The tools make sure you are never caught off-guard.

2 Toilet paper and a flask with your favourite drink in it are a must. Restrooms with toilet rolls aren't always available. The drink keeps you hydrated.

3 Have a smile for the residents in the area, even if they do not recognise you or your job.

This article was first published on Sep 7, 2014.
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