FACT OF THE DAY In Alès, the “organized anthill” of La Poste in an uproar before Christmas

Since “Black Friday” and with the prospect of Christmas approaching, emotion reigns in La Poste’s sorting centers. This is obviously the case for the courier-parcel service platform in Alès, which has not escaped the e-commerce boom. Every day, 5,000 packages are distributed. Following in the footsteps of a Santa-like postman. Report.

Every day, it’s the same melody. From 4am onwards, the first trucks arrive at the docks of the Alesian de La Poste sorting centre, set up in the heart of the Pist Oasis business park, in the Rieu district. For a good two hours, agents on the services-mail-parcels platform receive parcels sent from the regional logistics platform located in Cavaillon.

All packages are scanned by scanners to ensure optimal traceability. This is followed by a tedious sorting phase, before loading the vehicles driven by the postmen who begin their rounds. A millimeter ballet in the 500 square meters of facilities dedicated to plots, or rather “an organized anthill”🇧🇷 “Everyone is doing it in their cell. Everyone knows what they have to do. The system has been working for years. We tweak it from year to year, taking into account feedback from postmen. It’s a well-oiled machine. “observes Patrice Bert, head of the team, who opens up the guts of the platform this Wednesday, December 22nd.

The Alesiana postal sorting platform, a real anthill. (Photo by Corentin Migoule)

Christmas is approaching and it is a crucial period for the La Poste group, to say the least. This “rush hour”that is, “high season”, even started in November with the famous “Black Friday”. “We reached the peak this Wednesday, from tomorrow (Friday) it will fall”, specifies the former postman. And for good reason! Since it theoretically takes two days post-order for an order to be delivered (unless you call Chronopost and delivery is made within 24 hours), the time to expect to have your gift at the foot of the tree in the evening of the day 24 is now outdated.

“On the 24th of December, the center is open until 6.30 pm., explains Patrice Bert. To support the duplication of activity, which increases the number of packages processed from 2,500 to 5,000, the latter has reinforced its teams. Every year since 2020 and the explosion of online shopping due to the pandemic, around ten term hires have been made locally by the end of October.

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The transport trolley heads to the dock for loading. (Photo by Corentin Migoule)

This is again the case in 2022, as 13 seasonal workers have joined the 110 employees of the services-mail-parcels platform in Alès. After exceptional order volumes at the end of 2020 due to health restrictions linked to Covid, La Poste returned to normal growth due to the reopening of physical stores. Thus, from November to December 2022, La Poste expects to sort and distribute 100 million Colissimo, i.e. a similar volume to the end of last year and a 25% increase compared to 2019 before the confinements (which did not compensate for the drop free of postage: 18 billion distributed in 2008, less than 7 in 2022).

In the Gard, Alesian establishments contribute greatly to this service, covering an extensive area from Lédignan in the south to Génolhac in the north and from the Ganges in the west to Barjac in the east. There are 65,000 addresses served, which represents around 200,000 people. Thus, the task of the Alesian postmen is heavy. And errors must remain marginal. “The key word is customer satisfaction. Everyone should get their Christmas present”insists Guillaume Mancera, head of media relations for La Poste in Occitania.

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Jean-Régis’ car is loaded. Contains about 160 kilos. (photo Corentin Migoule)

But, according to Patrice Bert, “we are not immune to parcel loss”🇧🇷 Especially when they are unaddressed or have an incomplete address. These are then sent to Libourne where La Poste has a dedicated service for processing these “flying packets”. “Packages are open and agents are trying to find the best alternative to find the recipient or at least the sender”assures the team leader.

Most of the time, it doesn’t! And the customer receives his gift. “You send a package from Brest, two days later it is at your home in Alès”, marvels Guillaume Mancera. And the press officer paraphrasing its CEO, Philippe Wahl: “Every day, we perform a small miracle!” Among the dream makers, Jean-Régis, Alesian postman since 2015, whom everyone calls Guillaume due to administrative confusion.

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Arriving at Place Gabriel-Peri, the postman delivers his first package in mid-morning. (photo Corentin Migoule)

This Thursday morning, after having participated in the order sorting phase from 6:30 am to 8:30 am, the young man approaches the platform where his low-emission yellow vehicle (our box) is parked. Aided by a transport cart, Jean-Régis loads up to 160 packages in the back of the van, sorting them intelligently. “I try to put the packages that will leave first closer to me”says the last named.

Armed with a smartphone on which he can unfold the instructions, like all agents, the postman leaves for a tour of several hours through the streets of Alès. YOUR tour. Alesiano knows her inside out. From the city center to the main street Jean-Moulin, to the other side of the Gardon, in the Rochebelle, Cauvel and La Royale districts. Your first package in the morning is large enough (packages over 30 kilos are not processed by La Poste) that it has to be hand-delivered to a resident of Place Gabriel-Peri.

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Jean-Régis and his “goes everywhere” key in the middle of distributing orders. (Photo by Corentin Migoule)

At the foot of the building, Jean-Régis plays. “If the bell doesn’t answer, we have the customer number on the package. Or we can find it on the Colissimo app by displaying the barcode”, says the postman. In theory, the customer was warned upstream by a message that it will be delivered soon. Adding to this the impatience to receive Christmas shopping, there are few who do not open their doors to the postman. “When it’s a gift, we see the smiles on people’s faces who tell us ‘I’ve been waiting for this!’ Sometimes it looks like Santa Claus.”smiles Patrice Bert, a former postman.

The postman, an unrivaled trusted third party. “They are sometimes expected like the white wolf!”wants to believe in Guillaume Mancera. “The postman is the French people’s second favorite character, after the baker. For many elderly people, he is the only contact of the day. When he calls, we make him go home easily”, he continues. Especially if he wears his identifiable outfit emblazoned with La Poste’s blue bird arrow logo. A theory verified during Jean-Régis’ morning walk.

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A customer happy to receive one of their Christmas purchases. (photo Corentin Migoule)

On the stairs of an Alesian building, when he has just crossed the threshold thanks to his universal badge, the postman comes across a customer who happens to be the one to whom he was about to deliver a large package. 🇧🇷 Overjoyed, the retiree takes the package and slips a few coins into our “hero of the day” pocket. “It happens all the time in this period. And many times it’s the young people who donate!”Comment the interested person next.

Back at the wheel of his vehicle, Jean-Régis has already identified the next package to distribute. It is very small and will simply be placed in the mailbox slot. Contrary to popular belief, at the local level, giant Amazon boxes represent “only” 7% of distributed orders. The trunk of the Alesian postman’s car is quite representative of this reality.

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A few coins as a thank you. (photo Corentin Migoule)

“What scares me this school holiday period is that it’s a child who opens the door for me when I potentially have their present in my hands., develops Jean-Régis a few hectometers ahead. This Thursday, the young man did not commit any blunder. And the magic of Christmas was once again preserved…

And also…

Libourne is also home to the famous secretariat of Santa Claus, who is celebrating his 60th birthday this year. There, 60 little “elves” dressed in La Poste colors respond to letters from children who have expressed their wishes before December 20th. In one month, Santa’s disciples would have processed one million letters.

Did you know ?

La Poste has the largest fleet of electric vehicles in Europe with more than 37,000 electric vehicles (utility vehicles, bicycles, three-wheel scooters and quads). More than half of the laps (54%) are made in low-emission vehicles. “When postmen try electric vehicles, they no longer want to go back to thermals”, confides Guillaume, highlighting the comfort of automatic gearboxes.

La Poste reinvents itself

To compensate for the various breaks in activity partly linked to the dematerialization of administrative processes, La Poste reinvents itself: home visits, delivery of meals and medication, sessions of the Highway Code, etc. of communities. Some postmen’s carts are equipped with a camera that analyzes the state of the roads and sends them back to the communes. Ingenious!

Corentin Migoule

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