Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 15.

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In late 1983 I became a PSR (Postal Sales Representative), but like everything in the Post Office, I had to be trained to do the job. Another thirteen weeks course at POMC (Post Office Management College). To be honest that was the icing on the cake. I loved the place. Who wouldn’t? It was like a five star hotel.

I picked up my new company car, nothing fancy, in fact it was the old pool car. A four year old, 3 door Hatchback, Vauxhall Chevette. I didn’t care, I was now an Executive with a company car, business cards and a briefcase.

Not that I would be let loose on the world yet. I still had my training to do. The first two weeks at Management College and then a week out with an experienced London Sales Rep.

I drove up to Coton House (POMC) on Sunday evening to avoid the rush hour traffic on Monday morning. I’d been told by Gary that the place was pretty much deserted at weekends and only really came to life during weekdays. There would be no bar or restaurant open and a room key would be left for me with the Security Guard. I had no idea how many people would be on the course or if any of them would be like me and arrive on Sunday night. I got there at 7.30pm. The car park was deserted. The main entrance was open but inside it was like the Mary Celeste! I shouted out.

“Hello. Anyone?”

No answer. I wandered around the main reception area and called out again.

“Hello. Anyone about?”

A guy in his late fifties with silver grey hair appeared holding a massive bunch of keys.

“What one are you?”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Sorry?”

He repeated the question.

“What one are you? I’ve got three people coming up tonight. So what one are you?”

Now I understood.

“Joe. From London Sales.”

He went behind the reception desk and grabbed an envelope. He gave it to me.

“You’re in room 22. Keys inside the envelope. Nothing is open but you can help yourself to tea and coffee from the kitchen if you like.”

With that he walked away.

I took my things up to room 22 and then returned to reception. I decided to have a wander.  The restaurant was in darkness but I could see the kitchen area behind and there was a light on. Once in the kitchen I could see a coffee machine with a full pot of coffee underneath. It looked like it had been sitting there for a while but it was hot so I poured myself a cup. At the far end of the kitchen there was a narrow corridor, I followed it. There were two doors, one to the left and one to the right. I turned the handle of the right hand door.

Fuck me, it was like an Aladdin’s cave. The room was about 10 x 12 and packed floor to ceiling with…wine!  Right hand side was red, left hand was white. Hundreds of bottles. I closed the door quickly just in case the security guard was watching. Then I opened up the left hand door. Oh dear. It was the door that led to the small bar in the main reception room. I pulled on one of the taps. Sure enough, cold lager began to pour out.

I was disturbed by a noise coming from the kitchen. I thought it was the security guard so very quietly I turned and walked out of the room and back along the corridor. I called out.

“Hello.”

A voice returned my call.

“Hello.”

Standing by the coffee machine was a guy about thirty. Dressed casually in Jeans, Tee Shirt and trainers.  We shook hands.

“My name’s Danny. I’m from Milton Keynes. You on the Sales course tomorrow?”

“Yeh. I’m Joe. From London.”

He took a mouthful of his coffee.

“Jesus this is like piss. Shame the bar’s not open. I could kill for a pint.”

Music to my ears.

“Stay there and look out for the Security guard.”

I took two coffee mugs and walked back along the corridor. I could see he looked confused. I returned a couple of minutes later and handed him his mug. He looked at it and then took a sip. A big grin appeared on his face.

“How?”

I told him about the two rooms behind the kitchen. One full of wine and the other was the bar.

“Great news. I think we might be drinking a lot of “coffee” tonight.”

We quickly drank our beers and I went back and got us a refill. We took our “coffee” to the large lounge area.

He told me his story. He was twenty nine and been with the Post office since leaving school. He’d worked his way up the ladder from Postman to PEC but it had taken him twelve years. He’d seen the advert in The Gazette for Sales Reps and thought he’d give it a go. When I told him I’d only been with the Post office for three and a half years he asked the obvious question.

“How the fuck did you get a PEC grade so quickly?”

I just shrugged my shoulders.

“Right place at the right time!”

We were interrupted by a broad Glaswegian accent.

“Hiya. You two on the Sales Course tomorrow?”

Standing at the main entrance was a big guy. Mid thirties, big mop of ginger hair, over six feet tall and about eighteen stone.

We both got up to greet him. We did our introductions. His name was Greg and he was from the Glasgow office. I went behind the reception desk and found his envelope.

“Here you go Greg. You’re in room 23, next door to me. Chuck your bags in the room and then join us for coffee.”

He looked disappointed.

“Coffee? Is the bar not open?”

We both laughed.

“Don’t worry Greg. You’ll love the coffee here. It’s the best coffee you’ll have ever tasted!”

By the end of that evening, we drank an awful lot of “coffee” and me, Danny and Greg became mates. We would soon be known at Coton House as “The Naughty Boys”.

 

 

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Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 14.

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After Stan left, Bill became a different man. He smartened up, lost weight, took his role seriously and welcomed the fact that I was making him up to twenty appointments a week. But to be fair I only had him to look after and I could have made him forty!

The weeks passed and suddenly Gary was handing me a copy of the Post Office Gazette.

“Turn to page nine.”

I did as he asked and there it was. “Postal Sales Representatives Wanted. All regions.”

I read the article carefully. It mentioned that it was at PEC grade and was open to all Executives of that grade, but also to Postal Officers with the relevant service and experience. I liked that last bit. I turned and looked at Gary.

“So what happens now? I write a letter of application and send it off?”

Gary just smiled.

“No. Write the letter of course but bring it with you on Wednesday at the interview.”

That caught me by surprise.

“This Wednesday? But that’s the day after tomorrow.”

Gary nodded in agreement.

“Yep. Dave will be here at 11.00am. We’ll see you at 11.30 in my office.”

I was suddenly nervous. I’d been looking forward to this for weeks and here it was just forty eight hours away.

“But what do I need to prepare? What questions will he ask? What…?”

I didn’t have time to finish the sentence. Gary interrupted.

“Just be yourself. Listen, you’re better prepared for this interview that anyone else who’ll apply. You know what a Sales Rep needs to do, you know what we expect. You’ll walk through it.”

Forty eight hours later and I was sitting in front of Gary and Dave.  And the grilling began.

They acted as though I’d never met them before. It was all very formal and lasted for ninety minutes.  They asked a lot of questions about the Butchers Shop and seemed impressed that I’d run my own business at the age of just nineteen. They wanted to know how it all happened. I said that Roy had decided to emigrate to Australia and given me the opportunity to rent the shop for a year before deciding if I wanted to buy it. Not a complete lie as Roy could have been hiding anywhere in the world and Australia seemed a likely option. Then Dave asked a question that took me completely by surprise.

“Where do you see yourself in five years time?”

I thought back to five years before. I was a Butcher working in a shop in East London getting up to all sorts of skulduggery. If I’d been asked the same question back then the answer would have been easy. I always thought I’d have a string of Butcher Shops all over London, “Joe’s Joint” would be a household name and I’d be raking in the cash. It suddenly dawned on me, that ambition was never going to happen. My life had changed and possibly the trade I loved wasn’t going to be a part of it anymore. So I did what I always did in those situations. I came out with a load of bollocks!

“Well, I’m confident that I’ll be sitting right where Gary is at the moment. I’ll be a Sales Manager with my own team of Reps. Five years is a long time. I might even have your job by then Dave!”

They both smiled. I knew I’d said the right thing. If there’s one thing that these people liked was confidence and ambition. I was giving them both in one statement.

The questions continued for another thirty minutes and then Gary handed me a biro.

“Sell me this pen.”

It was just an ordinary Bic biro. So there was nothing special about it. Nothing that would make him want it. It wasn’t the pen I had to sell. It was the NEED for a pen! The sale began.

“What do you do for a living Gary? What’s your profession?”

“I’m a Salesman for Mothercare.”

I wasn’t expecting that answer but continued.

“What exactly do you sell for them?”

“I sell Mothercare Prams and Pushchairs to Stores all around Europe.”

“Do you try to make it as easy as possible for your customers to buy your products Gary?”

“Yes. The easier it is, the quicker I can get their order and the more money I make.”

“Do they have to complete an order form? Fill in some paperwork? A contract maybe?”

“Yes, everytime.”

“Do you fill out the paperwork for them? To speed up the process?”

“No.”

“Why is that Gary?”

“I don’t have a pen.”

I offered Gary the Biro.

“Buy this one. It does the job perfectly and will help you make the customers job much easier and quicker.”

Gary took the pen.

“Thank you. I’ll take it.”

It was an easy sale and not too difficult, but it did prove I knew the sales process. They both sat back and began to bring the interview to a close. Dave asked the question that I’d been waiting for.

“Okay Joe, I think we’ve covered everything. Are there any questions that you’d like to ask us?”

I’d promised myself I’d ask a certain question when the time was right. Now was that time.

“Just one. Have I got the job?”

The two of them looked at each other and both began laughing. Gary couldn’t help himself. The formality went out the window.

“I fucking knew you would ask that. I fucking knew it. Yes you’ve got the job. You start at Management College in just three weeks!”

I got confirmation the following week, offering me the position of PSR (Postal Sales Representative). My grade would be a PEC (Postal Executive “C”) grade.

I kept wondering, would this now be my new career? Was Butchery just a thing of the past? Only time would tell…

 

Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 13.

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At 9.30am on Tuesday morning, me, Bill and Garry were seated in Gary’s office. There was no sign of Stan. Gary looked at his watch.

“Okay, we’ll have a coffee and give him till 9.45am, but then we’ll start without him.”

At 9.43am Stan turned up. He casually put down his briefcase and helped himself to some coffee. He was in no rush to join us. From the window in Garry’s office I could see him frantically looking for his diary. Eventually he decided to join us. He came in and took a seat next to Bill. I could see that Gary was struggling to control his temper.

“Ahh Stan. Thanks for joining us at last. Glad you could make it.”

The sarcasm was wasted on Stan. He was more concerned about his diary. Then he spotted it on Gary’s desk along with Bills. He spoke for the first time.

“How long’s this gonna take. I’ve got an appointment in East London at 11.00am.”

Gary smiled.

“Really Stan? Enlighten us. Who with? Because it’s not in your diary. According to your diary your first appointment today is at 12.30.”

Stan wasn’t used to being challenged and obviously didn’t like it. He shrugged his shoulders.

“Oh, I thought it was 11.00am. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. So, how long’s this gonna take?”

Gary completely ignored him and carried on.

“Glad you mentioned your diary Stan, because that’s why we’re here. I’ve got some good news for you both. You no longer have to make your own appointments. Joe’s started and I’m pleased to say that after only one day he’s got you your MAPS!”

There was a blank look on Bill and Stan’s faces. Stan asked the obvious question.

“What the fucks a MAP?”

Gary couldn’t wait to enlighten him.

“Sorry Stan. Sales jargon again. MAPS, stands for Minimum Acceptable Performance. And yours and Bills MAP is three sales calls a day. That’s fifteen a week. It’s no longer a target. Your TARGET is five calls per day. Three is the MINIMUM that we expect of you.”

Bill was silent but Stan wasn’t having it. He scoffed at the idea.

“And what if we don’t achieve our MAPS? What then?”

Gary was professional.

“Well then Stan. You’ll face disciplinary procedures just as you would in any other job where you weren’t performing to a certain standard.”

Stan wasn’t phased, he carried on in his usual fashion.

“That’s bull shit. No way. Impossible to do three a day. And five? Well that’s just total bollocks. There’s not enough hours in the day.”

Gary once again ignored his comments and continued. He looked straight at Bill.

“Joe was busy yesterday Bill, and this week, including today, he’s made you fifteen appointments all in the same area so you haven’t got to worry about travelling time.”

I think for Bill the penny had finally dropped. He could see that things were changing and this was the way forward. The days of doing exactly what he liked were now over. He accepted the inevitable.

Now it was time to give Stan the good news. Gary turned and looked him straight in the eyes.

“And for you Stan it gets even better. You’re in East London all week. Sixteen for you, that includes three this afternoon.”

Stans face couldn’t get any redder. I thought he was about to explode.

“Give me that diary. Let’s see what fucking sort of appointments these are. I bet they’re all a complete waste of time!”

Gary handed him his diary. The look on his face was a picture as he scanned the pages. Against every appointment I’d put down the name of the person he was seeing and why he was there. There was also information about how much mail they sent each day, how many parcels, how many went to the UK and how many went overseas. I’d also asked about their marketing and suggested our HDS service. Stan had nowhere to go. Then he spotted his 9.00am appointment on Thursday.

“Fucking 9.00am in Whitechapel? Impossible. Not doing it. I live in Romford, I’d have to leave home at 7.30am to get there for that time. No. Not possible.”

Gary asked a question nice and calm.

“Stan, you’re contracted to do an eight hour working day. Your working day starts when you get to your first appointment, not when you leave home. Understand? Or do I need to get a copy of your job description and working schedule for you?”

Stan was silent but was clearly thinking about his next move. Gary decided to go further.

“So that means Stan that if your first appointment is at 11.00am, I’ll expect you to work till 7.00pm on that day. Joe, you could get Stan some 6.00pm appointments couldn’t you?”

Up until then I hadn’t said a word. But Stan was acting like a spoilt kid so I chipped in.

“Yeh, no problem Gary. In fact there were a couple of companies I spoke to yesterday that would have welcomed a late appointment.”

That was it. Stan finally threw his toys out of his pram!

“This is total, total, bollocks and you won’t get away with it. The Unions won’t stand for it. You’re changing things without consultation and with no Union agreement. There’ll be strikes over this. They’ll all come out in our support. You mark my words, you’ll regret this and have to stand down over it. You’re making a big mistake!”

Then Gary played the trump card that even I didn’t know he had.

“Do you know where I was yesterday afternoon Stan? I was at Regional HQ just up the road. I was in a meeting with my boss and my Sales Director. We sat down with both the local Union officials and the National ones. We told them about your new targets of five calls per day. They thought that was a bit high so we agreed to three. But they agreed that three should be a MAP and not a target. It was their idea Stan. So you see the Union is in total agreement with us!”

It was as if Stan had been hit by a truck. He gathered up his things and stormed out of the office. Gary shouted after him.

“Don’t forget to photocopy the pages in your diary Stan. Wouldn’t want you to be late for any of them.”

The following week Stan went off sick with “stress”. He never returned to the office. After three months he was offered EVR (Early Voluntary Retirement) and accepted it. His days at The Post Office were over.

 

Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 12.

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I must have driven my wife mad that weekend with all the talk about the College at Coton House and Graham the tutor and John Fowler the Head of Sales and Marketing. His motivational talk had somehow struck a chord with me and I was fired up and ready to go.

I was at the office early on Monday. I parked the old Chevette back where I’d found it, fired up the coffee machine and was going through all the sales leads when Gary walked in at 8.00am.

“Fuck me, you’re early. How was the course?”

I went into great detail about what Graham had taught us and mentioned about John Fowler.

Garry was smiling.

“So you met John Fowler? What did you think?”

I didn’t have to think about it for long.

“I think he might just be the coolest man on the planet!”

Gary had just taken a mouthful of coffee when I said those words. He almost choked on it. He put down his cup.

“Yep I agree. He’s from FMCG.”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

“FMCG?”

Gary apologised.

“Sorry mate. It’s Sales jargon it stands for Fast Moving Consumable Goods. He worked for The Mars Corporation. Supposed to be the best trained Sales Force anywhere in the world. God knows how much it cost to get him, but he’s ours now and he’s already rattling some cages at the highest level. He wants us to be the best, and to be the best it’s going to cost money. I guarantee within six months we’ll have changed beyond all recognition. For example, we only have Stan and Bill to cover all of East London, Romford and Ilford. That’s a total of forty seven different Post Codes. John wants us to have one Rep for just four of five Postcodes. That means that my team will increase from two to TEN Reps!”

I couldn’t help but be impressed.

“Bloody hell, he’s building an Empire!”

Gary nodded.

“That’s exactly what he wants Joe. He wants, Sales Assistants, Sales Reps, Sales Managers, Regional Sales Managers, National Sales Managers. Account Managers, Major Account Managers and not just in London. All over the UK. You’ve come in just at the right time. ”

Now I realised why I’d been chosen by Dave and Ray when I was back in Romford. They had to recruit people quickly and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

With this newly gained knowledge soaring through my brain I got on with the job in hand. I had Stan and Bill’s diaries in front of me. I wasn’t surprised to see that they were practically empty for the week ahead. My challenge was to get them to hit their target of three Sales calls per day, something they had NEVER achieved.

I started with Bill. His diary was blank for Monday and Tuesday, but he had an appointment booked for 11.30 in Ilford on Wednesday. So I planned to keep him in Ilford all week. I found it easy. I had telephone directories for all businesses in the area. In the next few hours I called about twenty or thirty of them. My pitch was simple. I was calling from the Post Office and our representatives were in Ilford this week seeing if we could streamline their Post Room or help them save costs on their postage. The word Sales was never used. To my surprise most of them agreed. I then asked them who they used apart from The Post Office for their parcel distribution. How many and how often. I tried to make it more of a general chat rather than a sales call. It wasn’t long before Bill’s diary was full for the rest of the week.

Now it was Stans turn. He had only two booked appointments for the week. Both in East London. By the end of my first day. Stan had sixteen appointments that week.

Gary had been busy all day, writing up reports in the morning, and then attending a meeting just up the road at Regional HQ. When he returned at 4.30 he got himself a coffee and took a seat opposite me.

“How’s it going?”

I pushed both Stan and Bills diaries across the desk for him to look at. His face lit up.

“Fuck me Joe. They’ll go mad!”

We both roared with laughter. He studied the pages of the diaries.

“You’ve even booked Stan an appointment in Whitechapel at 9.00am! I doubt if Stans ever seen 9.00am let alone been in Whitechapel at that time of the morning. This is great work Joe. Really great work.”

He looked at his watch, it was 4.45pm.

“If the pubs were open now, I’d buy you a pint.”

That was music to my ears.

“Funny you should say that Garry, but I know a place just round the corner that will open up for us, that’s if you’re serious?”

Gary locked his office door.

“Let’s go!”

We walked the short distance to the pub that I’d become a regular in when I was doing my Counter training three years earlier. I knocked on the door. Sure enough, Bob the landlord was still there.

“Hello mate, long time no see. You want serving.”

“Yes please Bob, if it’s not too much trouble.”

Five minutes later we were seated at the bar drinking pints of lager and tucking into a cheese rolls.

There were a few things that I wanted to know from Garry and now seemed like the best time to have that conversation. But before I could start he beat me to it.

“You do know that your name is already on the list for the next PSR (Postal Sales Reps) course?”

I acted surprised.

“Really?”

Gary smiled.

“Look, I know all about your conversation with Dave and Ray in Romford. You’ll make a great Rep and after that? Who knows?”

I still wanted to know how it could happen. How could I get promotion after just three years as a Postal Officer?

“There’s only one thing that worries me Gary. How does it all work? I mean with me getting promotion to an Executive grade?”

Gary put down his pint.

“Simple. Under normal circumstance you couldn’t jump up a grade that quickly, the Unions just wouldn’t allow it. But…Sales is different. It’s specialised. So we can get bend the rules slightly. I’ll recommend you. Then me and Dave will interview you for the job. We’ll send a glowing report to Ray, and as Director, he can sanction it. The next course is in just eight weeks.”

That made me smile. It was going to happen even quicker than I’d thought.

We had another beer and then both headed home. The morning couldn’t come quick enough. Bill and Stan were both due in the office at 9.30 for a meeting with Gary. It was going to be explosive!

 

 

Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 11.

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On the way home I stopped off in Ilford and bought myself a new suit from Next. Expensive, but it fitted well and looked the bollocks. Once home I quickly packed an overnight bag, kissed the wife and headed off to Rugby.

Gary had given me the address on a small scrap of paper. “Coton House, Rugby. Come off at Junction 1 of the M6 and it’s on your right hand side. It’s signposted!”

Not much to go on, but after travelling for the best part of two hours I found it easily.

Coton House was impressive. A Grade 11 listed Country Manor House with hundreds of acres of grounds. The Post Office had purchased it back in 1970 and it was used as their Management Training College.

I parked the Chevette in one of the large car parks within the grounds, it looked out of place among the BMW’s and Mercedes. I gathered up my things and walked into the building. There was a small reception area and a smiling middle aged woman greeted me.

“Hello Sir, what’s the name?”

I wasn’t used to being called Sir. I liked it.

I gave her my name and said I was from London Sales. She ran her finger down a piece of paper and found me.

“Ahh  yes. Here we are. You’re in Room 17 on the first floor. Have you been to Coton House before?”

“No. It’s my first time.”

“No problem Sir. Dinner is served in the restaurant just along the corridor in the restaurant from 7.00pm – 9.00pm. The small bar in the lounge opens at 5.00pm but the main bar in the games room doesn’t open until 7.00pm.”

She’d said the magic words. “Bar and Games Room” I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

I thanked her and made my way up two flights of stairs and found my room.  It was small but cosy, just a desk, a table and chair, a single bed and an en-suite toilet and shower. It was 5.30 so I thought it was about time I went and found the lounge and more importantly…the bar.

The main lounge was enormous. Full of large armchairs, leather sofas and coffee tables. There were about twenty or thirty well dressed people sitting around drinking coffee and chatting. I spotted the bar, walked up and ordered a pint. Of course it was subsidised and cost next to nothing.

Garry had said there would be about a dozen of us on the course, I was assuming we’d all be around the same age so started looking for people of my own age who were on their own. I spotted a guy about twenty five sitting on a sofa with a cup of coffee. He looked out of place so I approached him.

“Hi mate. Sorry to bother you but are you here for the PSA course?”

He looked relieved.

“Yeh, came up early this afternoon. This place is amazing!”

The ice was broken and we started talking. He was from Croydon and new to the job and like me had no idea what to expect. It turned out we were the only two that had come up the night before. Everyone else was coming up in the morning.

We had a couple of pints then headed to the restaurant for dinner. It was like a five star hotel. We were escorted to a table and given a menu. This was no carvery, no self service, no buffet…this was silver service. A young waitress handed us a menu and we both played it safe by ordering the steak. Twenty minutes later our food arrived and we were tucking into our steak and chips, washed down with a good bottle of red. We had to pay for the wine but once again it was subsidised. We were just two young lads from London enjoying the high life.

After dinner we headed for the games room. It was an additional building built in the grounds of the manor house. There was a long bar, a pool table, a dart board and table tennis.

At 10.30 we were both a bit wobbly. Time for bed. Big day tomorrow.

I slept well and was up and back in the restaurant at 7.30. This time it was buffet. I had everything. Eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and something called hash browns. I’d never heard of them before, but boy did they hit the spot.

My new mate Steve came down at 8.00am. He looked a bit worse for wear. But a good breakfast soon sorted him out. Our course was to start at 9.00am prompt.

The lovely receptionist told us that our course was in Room D. On the ground floor. I had on my new suit, blue shirt and yellow silk tie. Yep, I looked like a Sales Rep.

There were only eight of us on the course. Six guys and two girls. The ages ranged from twenty three to thirty five. Our trainer was a bulldog of a man called Graham. He was short, stocky and seemed to have no neck whatsoever. He wouldn’t have looked out of place in the front row of the England Rugby team. But he was a gentle giant.

We started by standing up one at a time and introducing ourselves. When my turn came I simply said. “My names Joe. I’m a Butcher from East London who’s somehow found himself working for the Post Office, staying in a luxury hotel and learning how to sell parcels.”

The entire room laughed and I felt instantly at ease.

Graham was a brilliant tutor. He told us what was expected of us and how it was down to US to transform the old style Sales Force. We were the future. At the end of the day we were visited by the smartest man I’d ever seen. He looked like a film star. His navy blue double breasted suit was immaculate and was obviously made to measure. He was over six feet tall, jet black hair with a small black manicured moustache. He oozed confidence and charm. His voice was deep and warm.

“Good afternoon everyone. My name is John Fowler and I’m head of Sales and Marketing training here at Coton House. Some of you in this room will go on to become Sales Reps and even Sales Managers so you might be seeing a lot of me in the future. I’ve been recruited to transform this business, modernise it and take it forward into the twentieth century. Some people won’t want to be part of it and they’ll fall by the wayside. But for those of you who do want to be a part of it, I can promise you one thing. You’re in for the ride of your life!”

After that short, motivational speech, he left the room.

I drove home pumped up and ready to go. Stan and Bill were in for a rude awakening…

 

 

 

 

 

Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 10.

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Gary explained that my “training” would be just the first week then I’d be expected to start making appointments for Stan and Bill.

The good news was that all the effort I’d put in gaining information on TNT in the Romford area hadn’t been touched. So already I had a shed load of leads to follow up.

My training in week one was simple. Monday in the office with Gary. Tuesday out for the day with Stan. Wednesday out for the day with Bill. Thursday and Friday would be at POMC (Post Office Management College) in Rugby. It all sounded like good fun, apart from the two days with Stan and Bill who obviously hated my guts!

At the end of day one I left for home at 4.00pm.

Stan Webber lived not far from me in Romford. He agreed to pick me up at 9.30am. He actually got to me at 10.30. I’d been waiting outside for over an hour.

“Didn’t know your phone number so couldn’t let you know about the change in time.”

These were the first words he said. No apology for being an hour late. I’ve got a short fuse, but thought it best to say nothing at the moment. It was only day two in my new job.

His car looked like a bomb site. There were bits of paper everywhere. His jacket was on the floor crumpled into a ball behind his seat. He sat there shuffling papers. Then he spoke.

“Okay. Got it! We’ve got to see someone at 11.30 in Whitechapel. Plenty of time. We’ll stop off at a local cafe I know and get some breakfast.”

With that he put his foot on the accelerator and off we went. At 10.55 we were eating bacon sandwiches and drinking coffee at a cafe in Bethnal Green. I thought I’d better ask about the upcoming appointment.

“So, Stan, who we seeing at 11.30?”

Bill spoke with his mouth full of bacon and bread. Small pieces of which sprayed straight at me.

“Some marketing company. They want to do a mail shot in East London to advertise their business. Simple work, we’ll be out of there in twenty minutes!”

Now the Post Office had a service called HDS (Household Delivery Service). It was leaflet distribution by Postmen. Whilst they were delivering the mail they would also post a leaflet through your door at the same time. The client could be specific, he could have them delivered to businesses or residential addresses and he could specify what postcodes he wanted them delivered in.  It was good targeted marketing.

I thought it would be an interesting call with lots of potential for other business.

We arrived at the company ten minutes late. Bill had insisted on having apple pie for afters and an extra coffee.

There was a lovely looking girl on their reception desk. Bill was abrupt and went straight for the jugular.

“We’re from the Post Office. We’re expected. Where’s the Postroom?”

The poor girl looked all flustered.

“Along the corridor. Mister Walters is in charge.”

Twenty minutes later we were back in the car. I couldn’t believe the speed of the man. But I could see the problem. He had only concentrated on that one service. He hadn’t asked who they used for their parcel distribution, he hadn’t asked if they had any International parcels in fact he hadn’t asked ANYTHING about their business. He’d just taken their order.

It was now 12.15 and we were off to the local sorting office in Whitechapel. Stan knew everyone there. This was obviously where he was at home. He spent an hour talking to his old mates and then another hour explaining to them about the new HDS deal he’d just done. By the time we’d got out of there it was almost 3.00pm.

“Time for home. We’ve done well today.” was all Stan could say. And he really meant it.

Sure enough at 3.45 he was dropping me off outside my house in Romford. I’d been out for just five hours and in that time I’d seen one customer and had a good breakfast. But that was it.

The next day with Bill wasn’t much better. We managed to see two customers, one who just wanted to talk about a new franking machine (nothing to do with us), and another that had a problem with his regular Post delivery (once again, not our job). We had a pub lunch then Bill dropped me off at 2.30pm.

I couldn’t believe that people on their grade and salary could literally do nothing all day and get paid. But I was no grass. When Gary asked me the next morning how my two days had gone, I lied.

“Yeh all good. Stan got a really good HDS job and unfortunately Bill had to get involved in some Customer Service work, but he still got some information out of it.”

Gary could tell I wasn’t telling him the whole story.

“Okay, I understand you don’t want to tell tales, but you can obviously see that they’re not Sales people.”

I just nodded.

Then he gave me the good news.

There’s a pool car downstairs with your name on it. There’s a one day course for new PSA’s tomorrow at our Management College in Rugby and you’re down for it. Go home, get some clothes and get up there for around 5.00pm. Go up this afternoon and stay the night so you’re fresh for the morning. Everything is booked, dinner tonight, room and breakfast in the morning. There’s only about ten of you on the course and it’ll give you a bit of an insight into what’s expected. See you Monday.”

He handed me a set of car keys. The fob had the registration number of the car I was going to drive. I quickly found it. A Vauxhall Chevette in of course Post Office Red!

 

 

 

Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 9.

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I said goodbye to my mates on the Counter at Romford as soon as I got written confirmation that the PSA job was mine. They all thought I was mad taking a job in London that I knew nothing about.

I never said a word about the promised promotion in just three months time.

I reported to the Sales Office in Old Street, London, on a wet Monday morning. I was assigned to the East London team. A young, fresh faced lad with blond hair greeted me.

“Hi Joe. Welcome to the East London Sales team. My name’s Gary, I’m the Sales Manager.”

I couldn’t believe it. He looked my age and yet was a PEB grade. How could that happen? In Romford he’d have to be in his forties to get to that position.

He took me to his office and we both sat down.

“You’re the only PSA we have. Another one was due to start today but for some reason has now decided to stay where she is. Oh well, these things happen. It’s a new role so we have to make it up as we go along. Your priority is to make appointments for the Sales Reps. Although we’re called the East London team we also cover the Ilford and Romford Postcodes. All the information you gathered over the past few weeks has come to me. So a big thank you for that. You’ll be looking after two Sales Reps. Stan and Bill. Their old timers. Both in their fifties and to be honest they won’t welcome you with open arms. Up until now they’ve made their own appointments and come and gone as they’ve pleased. They’re not really the sort of people we want in the new Sales Force. They’ve got no drive, no ambition, and no energy. I call them the dynamic duo!”

He laughed as he said the last few words as though it was some kind of “in” joke.

I also laughed but had to ask the obvious question.

“So why are they here? Why are they part of the team?”

Garry shrugged his shoulders.

“Unions. They’re very powerful in London. We’re not allowed to recruit from outside the business, so we’ve had to recruit from within. These guys applied for the job and because they were the same grade they got it. Unfortunately that’s how it works at the moment. They’ve come up through the ranks of operations. Postmen, then Postman Higher Grade (PHG), then after years in the sorting office they got their PEC grade. The only reason they applied for the job is because it comes with a company car! Not because they want to be Salesmen. But…times are changing and things are being sorted out at the highest level. “

He emphasises the words “at the moment” and “times are changing”.

Two questions were on my mind, firstly how did he get his job at such a young age and secondly what type of company car did they get?  But another question had to be asked first.

“But I’d have thought they’d be pleased to have someone making appointments for them. Surely it makes their job easier?”

Gary smiled.

“It’s all very political. We want them to do five Sales calls per day. At the moment they only do three. They say they don’t have time to do five because they have to make their own appointments and complete certain paperwork after they’ve visited a customer. We all know that’s complete bollocks and they’re probably indoors or in the pub by midday. But we have to play the game.  So we said okay, we understand, let’s get you an assistant to make those calls for you and do the paperwork afterwards. Then you WILL have time to do five Sales calls! So we created the role of the PSA.”

Now I realised why I was there. I was just a pawn in a giant game of chess. But it didn’t matter, all I had to do was get on with it and wait out my three months till it was my time for promotion. Gary stood up and walked to the door of his office.

“So, ready to meet the dynamic duo?”

“Yep, let’s go for it!”

We walked along a narrow corridor and into a small office. There were four desks, sitting at two of them were two men that looked nothing like the Sales guys I’d seen already. Both overweight, both in badly fitting and crumpled suits, shirts that looked like they’d never seen an iron and ties that were fashionable back in the sixties. They were both tucking into what looked like egg and bacon sandwiches.

Gary did the introductions.

“This is Joe. He’s your PSA. He’s here to help you both with your appointments.”

Their reaction was underwhelming. They ignored me and both looked at Gary. Stan put down his sandwich and wiped away a large dollop of egg yolk from his tie.

“So I suppose you’ll be wanting us to make more calls then?”

Gary wasn’t phased.

“Not immediately Stan. Joes got some training to do but yes in a couple of weeks time I’ll expect a bit more from you guys. After all, this was all your idea wasn’t it? To help you with all your paperwork and help you get out of the office more.”

There was silence. I did my usual and stepped up. I walked over to Stan and thrust out my hand for him to shake.

“Hi Stan. Looking forward to working with you.”

He reluctantly shook it but never looked me in the eye. I did the same to Bill. He seemed a bit more welcoming.

“And you Joe.”

They both put some papers into their briefcases and were out of the office in minutes.  Gary looked at me.

“Sorry about that Joe. As I say they‘re not what we’re looking for. Lets grab a coffee and I’ll let you know about the training plan.”

There was a large pot of coffee on a desk in the main office. Gary poured out two mugs.

“This will always be your first job of the day. As soon as you get in, make sure the coffee goes on. Get whatever you need, coffee, filters, milk, tea or biscuits, it doesn’t matter, I’ll give you the money out of petty cash. This office can’t function without coffee.”

It seemed wherever I went I always ended up making the tea or coffee!

 

Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 8.

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It wasn’t the same two Sales guys that stepped into John’s office that morning at 11.30am.  I recognised one of them from before but the other guy was much shorter and had a beard. He was also smartly dressed but his hair was slightly longer and I was guessing he was in his mid forties. I greeted them both with my usual firm handshake.

The familiar Sales guy did the introductions.

“Hi Joe, my name is David and I’m the Regional Sales Manager for London and the South East. This is Ray. He’s our Director of Sales.”

Yep he used the word “Director”. Fuck me I was sitting opposite one of the Directors of the Post Office. I tried to act as casually as possible.

“Nice to meet you both. Thanks for coming over.”

The conversation started with them asking about my arm and how much longer would it be in plaster. Ray asked about my days as a Butcher. I told him about leaving school, then Butchery College, everything really apart from the stolen goods, the firearms, the police investigation, the lorry hi-jackings and my boss Roy being the biggest Supergrass the country had ever see. I thought it best to leave those bits out!

The small talk lasted for about ten minutes, then Ray obviously decided it was time to talk business.

“You’re doing a really great job with the TNT information. So keep it coming. You’ve done more in two weeks than most of my Reps have done in a year!”

I smiled and thanked him. Then he said the words I’d been hoping to hear.

“Want to come and work with us Joe. Fancy being one of our London Reps?”

I acted as if it was a surprise.

“Wow, that would be great but it’s an Executive Grade job. I’m not eligible for promotion for at least another two years otherwise I’d jump at the chance.”

I must have said something funny because they both laughed. Ray sat back in his chair and continued the conversation.

“That wouldn’t be a problem. Trust me. But you need to transfer to London first so that you report directly to David. In a few weeks time we’ll be advertising for PSA’s. That’s a Postal Sales Assistant. We need people like you to make appointments for our Sales Reps. You call up businesses in a certain area and ask them questions, just like you’ve been doing these last few weeks. Find out who they use and how often. Then make an appointment for a Rep to pay them a visit. Okay?”

I nodded. He was right, it was exactly what I’d been doing while I was out with John.

“Yeh, that sounds easy enough.”

Ray seemed pleased with my response.

“Good. The PSA grade is the same as a Postal Officer so you’ll just be applying for a job of the same grade but in the London region. If you apply for it, I’ll make sure you get the job. If you do that job for 3 months, you’ll get a good feel for how the Sales Team work and get to understand the role of the Sales Rep. After three months, I’ll make sure you get a Reps job and an Executive grade. What do you think? Deal?”

He stuck out his hand. I shook it firmly.

“Deal.”

They both stood up and I thought they were leaving but Ray had other ideas.

“Okay, so show me the best pub in this town. We’re taking you and John for lunch!”

Fuck me. This couldn’t get any better. I’d be working with guys that liked a beer.

The four of us headed off to The Golden Lion. A traditional boozer that did great pub grub. Ray looked at the wine menu and ordered two bottles of red.

“This is on us. Have what you like. It’s our way of saying thank you for the work you’ve put in over the last few weeks.”

He looked at his colleague and smiled.

“Dave, you’re paying for this by the way. Stick it down on your expenses form and I’ll sign it off.”

The both laughed heartily.

During lunch Ray and Dave spoke about the Parcel Business They both seemed passionate about it. I couldn’t understand how people could get so enthusiastic about boxes! Dave was in full flow.

“You’ve got TNT nicking all our best Parcel business, DHL taking all our International work and there’s even talk of Federal Express coming over next year and having a go at both. If we’re not careful they’ll be nothing left and we’ll all be out of work.”

I thought I’d better chip in with something.

“But we’ve still got the letter business. No one can touch that surely?”

Ray shook his head.

“No one wants it Joe. We lose money on that part of the business, always have. Think about it. It costs just 16p to get a letter all the way from Cornwall to Scotland. Can you imagine what the REAL cost of that is? Parcels are where the money is that’s why we don’t want others coming in and taking it away. It won’t be long before we have to split the business into different sections. It won’t be the Post Office anymore. It’ll be Parcels, Letters and International. And, even those will be separated into more sections. It’s the way it HAS to change otherwise it won’t survive.”

It would be another three years before Ray’s words came true.

I carried on delivering the satchels and gaining more information for the Sales team for the next few weeks. Then, just as Ray said it would, a notice went up advertising for a new position in London. The role was PSA. I immediately applied and was given an interview date for the following week.

I arrived at Old Street in London for the interview. There were two familiar faces sitting opposite me taking the interview. It was Dave and Ray.

Surprise, surprise, I got the job. My start date was in three weeks. Perfect timing because the plaster on my arm was coming off a week before. I was saying goodbye to working on the counter and to be honest I wasn’t going to miss it. It was time for a new chapter in my young life to begin…

 

Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 7.

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Head Office was a daunting place when you were a lowly Postal Officer. Everyone was an Executive Grade C, B, A, or even higher. Then there were the real superstars..the SB’s.  Salary Bands!

Once you’d progressed through the entire ranks of PEC, PEB and PEA, you went on to a “Salary Band” these were a mystery to most people. You never knew what these people earned but you knew it was a SERIOUS amount of money. They were either dedicated career people who had spent their entire working life for the Post office ( 40 years or more) or super intelligent people who had been head hunted by the Post Office for a specific function.

Mark Brown met me at reception. He was an attractive looking man in his early fifties.  Very smartly dressed with well groomed silver hair. He looked every part an Executive.

“Hello mate. Sorry about the arm. Heard some good things about you. Let me introduce you to some people.”

For the next thirty minutes Mark went round the office taking his time to introduce me to all the senior important people.

“This is Joe, he works on the Counter at Romford. Busted his arm but still wants to work, so he’s been assigned to me.”

Everyone said hello and welcomed me to Head Office. This was going well.

After the introductions he took me to his office.

“You’ve come at a really good time Joe. Got a lot of leg work to do so I’m really grateful for your input.”

From under his desk he pulled out two zip up satchels. One red and one green.

“Over the next few weeks, you and me have to give these out to every business customer in our area. All they have to do is put all their first class mail in the Red Satchel and their second class in the Green one. Simple.”

I nodded. It looked easy.

“Okay. That seems straight forward. When do we start?”

“Tomorrow. Let me have your address and I’ll pick you up at 8.30am. We’ll start on the outskirts of town and gradually work our way in. I’ve got a list of all business addresses that have a Franking Machine and post mail every day. We should be able to do 50 per day, that’s twenty five each, roughly twelve in the morning and twelve in the afternoon. That’s a 1000 in a month. Two months and we’ve cracked it!”

I was about to leave when two very smartly dressed men walked into the office. John stood up as though these guys were very important. I thought it best to stand up as well.

“Sorry to interrupt John but I understand you’ll be delivering the satchels in the area?”

John shook both their hands.

“Yep. Me and Joe, we start in the morning.”

John pointed at me when he mentioned my name.

Now both men were looking at me and smiling. They were both in their thirties, immaculately dressed. Sharp suits, silk ties, highly polished shoes. One of them spoke.

“What happened to your arm Joe?”

I explained about falling over a wall outside a pub. They both found it amusing. They pulled up a couple of chairs and we all sat down. The same guy spoke again.

“Look we’d like you to do us a favour. You’ll be visiting every business address in the area over the next couple of months. That’s a great opportunity for us to get to know what’s going on. A lot of our Parcel business is being poached by a new company that’s just come into the UK. A firm called TNT. They’re offering silly rates and all kind of promises on delivery times. We need to know who’s using them so we can send our Reps in to try to get the business back. So while you’re out there see if you can find out whose using them and let us know. We’d really appreciate it.”

John and I agreed and the two guys stood up and left. Once they were out of the office I couldn’t help but ask John a question.

“Who were those guys?”

John smiled.

“Those guys were from London. They’re heading up the new Sales Force.  Both PEA’s.”

I was stunned. These two guys were the highest ranking Executives and yet were only in their thirties. Again I had to ask the question.

“But how? How have they got to PEA so quickly? That would usually take fifteen or twenty years at least!”

John laughed.

“Two reasons. They’re in London and they’re in Sales. The usual rules do not apply to those guys.”

That was it. I was hooked. That’s what I wanted. My mission was now to work for the new Sales Team and I had a plan on how to get there.

The next morning John picked me up at 8.30 and we were out delivering the satchels at 9.00am. I’d put on my only suit, with white shirt and blue tie. Even with one arm it was easy. I just walked into an office and said I was from the Post office and could I speak to the person in charge of their mail. For some it was just the girl on reception, other larger businesses it was a full post room with a number of staff. I spoke about how important it was for the mail to be segregated and gave them two of each colour. At the end of the conversation I would casually ask the question.

“Oh, by the way, do you ever use TNT?”

If they said no, that was it, I just left. But if they said yes, I’d ask a few more questions.

“Are they any good? I hear their rates are cheap?”

I’d try to get as much information as possible, then when I was outside I’d write it all down beside the name of the company.

John and I had a great time delivering the satchels. We stopped for lunch every day at a pub and had a pint or two and we always finished around 4.00pm. At the end of the first week I had a folder full of information for the Sales guys. I gave it to John.

“Bloody hell mate. This’ll be gold dust for the Sales Team. You after a job?”

He laughed when he said it but then realised that I was serious.

“You are, aren’t you? I tell you what, you’d make a great Sales Rep. Leave it to me. I’ll start the ball rolling.”

True to his word John did his bit. He sent all the information off to the Sales Team in London with a glowing report about me. Two weeks later I got what I was waiting for. I met John in his office and he closed the door.

“Great news. Those Sales guys are coming in here tomorrow. They want to thank you personally for all the information you’ve given them about TNT. Think of it as a bit of a job interview.”

Twenty four hours later I was in Johns office dressed in my only suit and with my shoes polished to the highest standard.

 

 

Butcher Boy2. Post Office Days 6.

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1983 came and I suddenly realised I’d been here for three years. That was about two and a half years longer than I’d ever imagined. But it was a steady job and the pay wasn’t bad. I discovered that there were ways of making the time pass much quicker.

I volunteered for everything.

They wanted a First Aid Officer at Romford. I was first in the queue. A weeks training at a local office meant a week away from the Counter. As it was a training course we got a Travel and Subsistence allowance, so my fares were paid back and forwards to the course and I got a daily lunch allowance.

They wanted people to go on a Philatelic Course. Yep, I volunteered. That was two weeks in Edinburgh at the Philatelic Bureau. I learnt a lot about Stamps, but also a lot about Whisky and how to drink large quantities of it, all of course paid for by my Employer.

I did a lot of running back then and joined the Post Office running club. I represented them at Cross Country. Whenever an event came up I was given the day off so that I could attend.

We were even given a half day off to give blood!

One day we were told that a new machine was being installed at the Office. It would revolutionise the way people sent information to each other. I was asked if I’d like to be the person who “looked after” this new invention. Of course I agreed instantly. The service was called Intelpost. The machine arrived and was installed in a large office at the end of the counters. It was enormous. Over six feet in height and about three feet wide with a telephone attached. It made a continuous loud buzzing noise.  This is how it worked…

People would bring documents or letters into the Office and hand them to me. All I needed was the address they had to be sent to. The cost was based on how many pages and where in the country they were going to. I worked out the price and charged the customer.

I then looked at the list of other main offices that also had an Intelpost Machine. There were about 30 around the country. If, for example, the documents had to go to a Leicester postcode, I would slowly feed the documents into the Intelpost Machine, each page would take around five or six minutes to load. Once all the pages were loaded, I dialled the number of the Leicester Intelpost Machine. As if by magic, a copy of those same documents would slowly start to appear out of the Leicester machine. Once received, the Leicester office would put the documents into an envelope and arrange for a Postman to deliver them to the addressee straightaway.

Yes…it was the first ever FAX MACHINE!

But in late 1983 a freak accident outside of work was to change my career path for many years to come.

Me and the missus had been invited to a function at a nearby school hall. It was to raise funds for a local charity. There was going to be a DJ and food. All we had to do was pay a sum at the door and turn up with our own booze. It was within walking distance and there was a pub on the way where I could pick up the drinks.

I came out of the pub with my arms full of cans of beer and a bottle of wine. What I hadn’t noticed was the small brick wall that surrounded the pub. I tripped over it and took a nasty fall. Of course my main concern was for the beers!

Luckily nothing was broken (or so I thought). I dusted myself off and off we went to the party. It was a good night, we drank and danced till midnight. We were home and in bed by twelve thirty.

At about 3am I woke up with a desperate need to urinate. But something was wrong. I couldn’t move my right arm. I couldn’t feel my hand or my fingers. I pulled back the covers and saw that my right hand and wrist was three times the size it should be.  Having broken my left wrist twice before playing Rugby, I knew there and then it was a break. I slowly pulled myself up from the bed and somehow managed to put on a shirt, trousers and shoes using just one hand. I woke my wife up and told her that I was getting a cab to take me to the local A&E.

Five hours later I was back indoors with my right arm in plaster from just below the knuckles up to the elbow. I’d broken my wrist in three places. My arm was held up high in a sling.

I was told it would take six to eight weeks to heal.  I phoned my boss on Monday morning and told him the news.

“Okay. See you in about eight weeks then!”

The Post Office were great in those situations. Pay wasn’t a problem, apart from missing out on the overtime, everything would be the same. But after a week I was going stir crazy. So the next Monday I reported for work as usual. I sat down with my boss.

“Look, I know I can’t work on the Counter, but there must be SOMETHING I can do?”

He laughed at me.

“Let me make a couple of phone calls and see what I can do.”

I went and had a cup of tea and waited. It wasn’t long before he came to see me.

“Okay. Go to Head Office and report to Mark Brown. He’s the area Customer Services Rep. You can help him out for the next few weeks.”

So off I went to Head Office wondering what the hell a Customer Services Rep was.