On being hit on

by Stephen Tall on August 20, 2006

A couple of weeks back, Will Howells (of No Geek Is An Island fame) discovered he was The second most famous Will in the world. Sadly – and I think unjustly – I’m only the 44th most famous ‘Stephen’ according to Google.

But here’s where I do score: I am Google’s top return if you search for “Royal Mail complaints”. Which is surely some kind of claim to fame (albeit fairly transient). I guess there must be a nerd-word which encapsulates being Number 1 – a Googlewhack-off, perhaps?

The reason for this supremacy is the series of articles I’ve posted to my main website about the poor performance of Royal Mail in my Oxford City Council ward of Headington. (These are archived on my ‘Royal Mail In Crisis?’ webpage.)

Flattering as, in some ways, this Google ranking is – it’s also a little bit troubling. It suggests to me there might be a problem with Royal Mail’s complaints procedure if the website of a district councillor – with naff-all responsibility for, or authority over, Royal Mail – should attract more hits than, say, their own site, or that of Postwatch or Postcomm.

So I thought: time to do some digging, and see if I can uncover more about the Royal Mail complaints procedure. I’ve filed the following request under the Freedom of Information Act:

In each of the last three years:

* The number of complaints received by Royal Mail customer within the Oxford city area. If the information is available, I should also like this data broken down into the areas within Oxford – for example, Headington, Marston, Cowley, etc.

* The types of complaint received by Royal Mail from customers within the Oxford city area – eg, missing post, late delivery, etc.

* How many of these complaints were investigated by Royal Mail. And of those which were investigated, how many were upheld and how many dismissed.

There’s always a problem with requesting such information under the FoI – you have to be specific enough so that your enquiry cannot simply be dismissed as a vexatious waste of time; but broad enough to ensure there’s a chance they might have data readily available (otherwise you get the “It’ll cost too much to find out / It’ll compromise individuals’ right to privacy” response).

I shall eagerly await the response, and keep you posted (ahem).

PS: I am also one of the top Google returns for Clarke’s shoes. I have to admit to feeling a little guilty I get so much traffic from people searching for footwear, and instead stumbling on a dissection of the implications of Charles Clarke’s resignation for the Blair Government. But what can you do?