Since the beginning of Rietmark, the delivery of Rietmark was of upmost importance for the survival and growth of Rietmark. We can have eye-catching adverts, printed on quality glossy paper, but if it is not delivered ‘on time, every time’ – what is the use of Rietmark? So here follows just a few snippets of events and people during the years of distributing Rietmark.
The first postman was …. myself. Since Rietmark was a one-woman show, with no money to spend on outside labour, I distributed the first few month’s copies on my own. Fortunately it was not as difficult as it would be now. Way back in 1997 the distribution was only 1 100 – enough for the suburbs of Rietondale, Riviera and Deerness. These areas saw the small beginnings of Rietmark, and stayed staunch supporters ever since. From next month Rietmark will distribute 80 000 copies monthly!
After a few months I started to appoint agents in other areas as well, such as Rietfontein, Gezina, Queenswood and Waverley and had to appoint someone for the distributing task. Fortunately the garden worker Lazarus, working for my neighbour, was available once a month. It was not long before I had to make the first capital investment for Rietmark – a red post-office style bicycle! The only problem was that Lazarus tended to sleep late. So in the morning you could see me in my backyard – calling over the 6-foot high wall to the neighbours- “Lazarus, staan op!”….which always felt a bit Biblical to me.
Because Rietmark was expanding so quickly, I decided to start using the services of professional distributors. Since I personally knew the job, I had a very good idea about the time they should be spending per area – and I was always double-checking by driving behind them, or using reports from my advertisers and agents.
For instance, I remember one month when one of my agents, living in Villieria, called me to tell me that the postmen are only delivering in every second or third street – we call it ‘knit one, slip one’. When the driver told me that they were finished in Villieria, and it took them about 30 minutes, I knew there was something wrong. I phoned the company, and they promised to look at the worksheets that night. That wasn’t good enough for me, since I expected them to give immediate attention to the problem. That was when I started to use the next company on the list.
Eventually I decided that I would rather do the job myself – this time with our family’s Toyota Venture and my own hand-picked team of postmen. For the next few years I was the driver, making sure that everything ran smoothly. That usually meant about 4 or 5 days on the road, from early morning and sometimes till after dark. And try to find a lost postman, after dark, without a cellphone or other means of communication!
Eventually you learn to expect anything – from rain to labour problems, and dogs to car accidents. And if one of the postmen didn’t pitch up for work, I would grab his bag and start posting myself. One day I was in quite a scary position – standing in Waverley with a German Shephard’s front paws on my shoulders, and a little foxterrier biting my pants from behind….what can you do?
On a Friday morning, early in 2004, I was waiting for the printers to finish my booklets, and quickly went to our church in Riviera to deliver something at their office. Three minutes later, back in the street, my Venture was gone….stolen within 3 minutes. After recovering from the shock, I still had to deliver the month’s booklets. So I borrowed one of my agent’s 4×4 bakkies to finish the task. During the next month, I made a much bigger capital investment. This time not a red bicycle, but a Toyota Stallion panelvan – especially for the delivery of Rietmark. That also gave me an opportunity to appoint a temporary driver – Issi van der Merwe got the job, and did a sterling job for the next three years.
Issi also has a lot of stories to tell – but a few I can think about now was about Philemon, which walked right in front of a car near Rietfontein Pavillion. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt too much. But a few months later he was attacked in Soshanguve, got brain damage, and wasn’t able to work again. A real tragedy for a very loyal and friendly postman. Themba had to run away from 4 guys on their way to Loftus, which was spraying him with a gas pistol. Another postman was hijacked whilst posting in Rietfontein – they took his cellphone and his bag of Rietmark booklets – at gunpoint.
After three years I had to make a change again – the postmen informed me they would be on strike the next month, and that I will have to make another plan. The reason for the proposed strike? They were unhappy that the posting days didn’t fall over the end-of-April public holidays (we only started distributing the first week of May) – and felt that I robbed them of the chance of earning double pay.
After carefully considering the situation, I decided to get quotes from various independent companies. After conforming to all the relevant labour law issues, I started to make use of the services of Pamphlet Experts, and in the field for close to 15 years. In retrospect, it was a very sensible decision to outsource the posting this time around – leaving me with more time to focus on the growth of Rietmark.