FOR MORE THAN 30 years in various parts of Africa I subscribed religiously to Time magazine. It was my window on the world, particularly in places where local news sources were inadequate or biased. I prided myself on being one of Time’s longest-running subscribers and waited (in vain, as it happens) for that to be recognised with a small award.
But a couple of years ago I let my subscription lapse and made no attempt to renew it.
Not because Time had deteriorated, but because South Africa’s the Post Office had. I found that in a good month I’d receive three out of four issues. More often it was only two. When you’re receiving half the issues, those heavily discounted subscription rates begin to lose their attraction.
Now I notice the banks are warning customers not to expect that cheques sent in the post will actually arrive. Merchants laugh derisively when you say your cheque’s in the post – giving new piquancy to that clichéd excuse.
The reason for all that is, of course, theft. Those issues of Time magazine aren’t being eaten by termites.
One wonders what damage is being done to the publishing industry, which still sends many of its subscription copies through the post.
But there’s little doubt about the harm the Post Office is doing to itself. Through it all its advertising campaign blithely insists: “We deliver – whatever it takes.” Nothing can damage its image more than a claim so blatantly untrue.