Staff at the Beijing Dongsi Post Office help elderly clients fill up forms. Beijing Dongsi Post Office sticks to the service concept of "clients are like family members", and has been honored as the outstanding collective in post system.[cnii.com.cn]
"When I started working at the Dongsi Post Office, I was still a teenager. And I worked for 24 years over there," said the retired chief of Dongsi Post Office, Cheng Wensen, pointing at the row of stores across the street from where the post office currently stands. "The post office used to be there."
Currently, Dongsi Post Office is located at Dongsibei Avenue in Beijing. Its small facade belies a history that goes back to the first decade of the last century. Established in 1909, it is the oldest post office in Beijing.
In the past 100 years, the post office has seen the fall of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the failure of China's northern warlords (1912-1928), the Kuomintang' s retreat to Taiwan, as well as the establishment and development of the People's Republic of China (1949-current). Located in the center of Beijing, the office has witnessed all these changes.
The second floor houses a room where all the post office's historical files are archived. The files have been kept intact through several relocations.
"The files are the most important historical records of Dongsi Post Office. They are the soul of the office," said one of the staff.
After the establishment of the PRC, many of the staff stayed at the post office. "At the time, bureaucracy prevailed in the office," said Cheng, pointing to several old photos.
For example, Cheng said, the post office staff was not allowed to fill up forms for the customers.
"This rule was made at the end of the 19th century, but it clashed with the real needs of the customers," Cheng said. As the literacy rate was low at the time, many customers were simply not able to fill up the forms themselves.
The post office held a meeting to discuss this problem.
"All the attendees thought the rule was too unreasonable to keep," Cheng said.
"It seems a common practice now, but for people back then, it was a breakthrough," said Cheng.
The post office did a lot of similar improvements to its services. As a result, the People's Daily published an editorial on June 2, 1958, to urge the service sector all over China to learn from Dongsi Post Office.
"In those years, we were very proud to say we worked at the Dongsi Post Office because it was considered the best in Beijing's post industry," said the chief of Dongsi Post Office Xu Chonglan.
In the 1990s, China's service sector began to adopt Western ideas, such as 'the client is God'.
"At the time, the post office also asked its staff to follow this idea. But many couldn't understand it and to some it didn't make sense to 'serve God' as they were not religious," Xu said.
A meeting was once more convened to discuss the problem, with the result that 'God' was replaced by 'family'. In 1999, the post office adopted the policy that 'the client is our family'.
With the rise of mobile phones and Internet, the post office once more faced great challenges as the number of people writing letters dropped. The post office searched for new ways to develop its business.
"We provide services to arrange anniversary and commemorative events for our customers. We also have a marketing team to make customized stamps. They can combine the customer's images with the stamps," said Xu. "And we also provide flower and tickets delivery services."
The Dongsi Post Office is set to move soon to a new address not far from its current location, and neighborhood regulars will continue to enjoy the services of their 100-year-old 'friend'.