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It’s All About Personal Service At Passage West Post Office

In an ever increasing age of digital and online business, it’s good to know that a friendly and top class person-to-person service continues to be provided by your local post office and none better than in Passage West, hub of the local community.

Writes Leo McMahon

At your service at An Post Passage West are postmistress Lorraine Desmond (nee O’Mahony, Carrigaline), Mary Coleman, Ballinhassig; Siobhan Butler, Riverstick; Kathleen Arnott, Carrigaline; Gillian Kiely, Carrigaline and Ann Spriggs, Passage West.

Lorraine has over 30 years’ experience in the post office service, having started in Main Street, Carrigaline when it was run by the late Gabrielle Macken.

Lorraine Desmond: Owner of Passage West Post Office (second from right), with staff: Kathleen Arnott, Ann Spriggs & Gillian Kiely, 11th November. Photo Siobhán Russell

‘I always wanted to run a post office myself’ she stated. That opportunity came eight and a half years ago, initially at a much smaller premises in Strand Street, Passage and a year later from the existing premises formerly occupied by AIB Bank.’

Against the backdrop of so many post office closures in towns and villages throughout Ireland in recent years, Lorraine is only too aware of the need to constantly bring in new business.

In addition to overheads such as rent and rates, there’s insurance and spiralling heating and lighting, so running a business is very hard particularly since Lorraine as postmistress is not paid a basic wage but per transaction.

‘We give a very personal service. We are not machines. We know all of our regular customers by name. Unless we’re up the walls, we will take the time to have that little chat because we’re very aware some of them will not have seen anyone all week and won’t until the following week. We’d notice if someone hasn’t been for two weeks so it’s much more than a business.’

An Post Passage West is also so much more than stamps, letters, parcels and pensions.

Banking Services

Banking, said Lorraine, is now a huge and very important part of its business in an expanding town which has no bank. ‘Our services include the An Post current account, AIB and Bank of Ireland lodgements and withdrawals. Unlike many banks today, we also have foreign exchange for five currencies with 0% commission. People can pay utility and other bills here, all of which generate those further transactions that keep Ireland’s post offices viable and provide employment.’

In addition to the blue book that encourages saving through the post office, especially for young people, An Post is up there with the best in modern banking services at competitive rates in credit cards, currency cards, personal loan, home, life car and pet insurance and a very attractive post mobile phone service with unlimited data for only €18 per month, said Lorraine.

Other services include One for All cards and Western Union while Lorraine herself, as a qualified financial advisor, is available if requested, to advise any customer with general advice on investments and help in filling out forms, particularly helpful when a person is grieving.

The cost of posting has risen sharply in recent years and at Passage West PO, help is on hand from the staff advising customers to leave their package open until they call to the office so as to ensure they the best value possible. That could mean taking out a few sweets in order to keep the cost down, she said.

‘It’s all about personal service,’ Lorraine stressed. On a Friday, we like to put on a bit of show for our customers who love the craic and if we know it’s their birthday, we sing ‘happy birthday’ and send them home with a balloon.’

As staff member Ann Spriggs said as she passed in a coffee to Lorraine and myself: ‘It’s community. We see real people. It makes such a difference to come to work in a job that you love.’

‘If it’s lashing rain and not too busy, and a customer we know comes in, we might offer that person a lift home. If we hear about a customer who’s had a mishap or is in hospital, we’ll send out a get well card and balloon because these people are our friends whom we know by name,’ said Lorraine.

Books, Stationery, Toys

Passage West is a post office with a difference and very much a shop. It boasts a fine library corner where people can donate a book or take one away and make a donation into the tin. Since it started, said Lorraine, over €8,000 has been raised for deserving local charities and organisations, the most recent being Passage West Tidy Towns.

‘We also have a party store with helium balloons, greeting cards for every occasion at only €1 each, gift wraps, scented candles, gift packs and bouquets. There’s a fine selection of school and office stationery plus calendars and diaries and it’s a one-stop shop for packaging and envelopes’.

The post office also encourages and supports local people such as Paul McAllister and Martin Collins who have a selection of superb photographic prints, some local, on display there.

Another popular section is ‘Pocket Money Toys’ featuring a wide range of good quality low cost toys and colouring books. Indeed, during Covid, the post office left a picture for taking away outside the premises and ran colouring competitions for adults as well as children which proved very popular.

‘In the summer the post office becomes a mini garden centre,’ said Lorraine. Thanks to her husband Alan Desmond, a trojan worker with Carrigaline Tidy Towns, customers can buy home grown tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, strawberries and other vegetables and herbs as well as garden plants.

Coming up to Christmas is an exciting time at the post office. In addition to Christmas cards (including greetings from Passage West and Monkstown) there is also a stand full of Yuletide novelties and decorations.

‘Star of the Sea Primary School will be singing carols and children, when they post a letter to Santa get a thrill and a treat after they see the express post box light up when we put it in the special post box behind the counter’, she said.

‘Everything we do creates a lovely conversation and a happy experience for customers, many of whom live alone and might not see anyone during the week,’ said Lorraine who added that she was blessed in having such an outstanding staff who really care and also took the opportunity to sincerely thank the post office’s many loyal customers.

Customer and last Mayor of Passage West in 2014, Michael P. Murphy told The Carrigdhoun Newspaper that he does all his banking and other transactions at the local post office without which customers would have to travel to Douglas or Carrigaline. ‘The huge range of services and products is outstanding but also vital for the quality of life for many, so it’s up to people to use it or lose it’.

A very customer-friendly, efficient, valuable and professional service is assured but the team at An Post Passage West offer so much more. As Lorraine, concluded, with its slogan: ‘If you see someone without a smile today give them one of yours.’

Passage West Post Office is open from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday and half day on Saturday. Tel 0214841100, with easy parking.

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