Perhaps Canada Post wasn't solely to blame for trouble in '78?

Perhaps Canadians needed to follow more instructions to the letter before they complained about the postal service.

If the public wanted the service to run like a machine, they had to treat it like one

The public had plenty of criticism of Canada Post's service, but the public had a few lessons of its own to learn. 2:23

"Not a bad service if only it would operate without interruptions." 

That was the least unflattering of the man-on-the-street opinions about Canada Post expressed to CBC reporter Frank Hilliard in 1978.  

"Ordinary Canadians are bitterly critical about the national mail service," Hilliard said at the start of his report.  

'Anger and frustration'

Events like 1975's seven-week strike and a steady stream since of wildcat strikes and walkouts had left Canadians with plenty to criticize. 

John Bulloch, founder of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, summed it up.

"The post office has become the equivalent of the red flag that you put before the bull," he said. 

"You just have to mention the word post office and you set off a whole wave of anger and frustration," Bulloch added.

During the 1970s, a decade rife with insecurities about its reliability and with fewer alternatives for mail delivery, the unhappy state of the post office was a steady topic of conversation.  

CBC's The National took a week-long look at just what was at the root of what had shaped up to be a chaotic decade for the service, hampered by hiccups in the automation process, including employee rejection of the postal code.

The ABCs of postal protocol

Typing the correct postal code could take a letter further, faster in 1978 (The National/CBC Archives)

The unions, government, and management were groups that took the brunt of the criticism, but as Hilliard pointed out, "the one group the public never criticizes for poor mail service is itself."  

The list of ways for the public to do its part, he suggested, was short, and meant using proper postal codes, early mailing and "by staying with the post office and not using private couriers ... letters mailed privately mean more costs for taxpayers."

In short, "if the public wants to reap the full benefits of postal automation, it's going to have to treat the post office more like a machine."

Hilliard said that meant using standard-size envelopes, filling out the postal code and mailing things early.