Royal Mail pleads with public not to paint its mailboxes

The Guardian, LONDON

Fri, Aug 17, 2012 - Page 19

It started as a touching, light-hearted gesture of pride and congratulation, but Royal Mail’s decision to paint mailboxes gold in honor of medal-winning Olympians in their home towns is in danger of veering out of control as members of the public begin taking matters into their own hands.

A bar and restaurant owner was arrested in Lymington, Hampshire, after spraypainting a Royal Mail mailbox in honor of the sailor Ben -Ainslie, who lives in the town.

Rob Smith, 51, painted the mailbox in Lymington High Street on his way home from work at about 1:30am. He was arrested by police on suspicion of criminal damage and later released on bail.

Royal Mail decided Ainslie’s golden mailbox would be placed in Cornwall, where he grew up and learned to sail, much to the chagrin of Lymington residents.

“When they said they weren’t going to paint anything in Lymington, I just thought: This is madness,” Smith told the BBC. “He’s lived here for around 15 years. All of Lymington believes that the Post Office made the wrong choice in painting one down in Cornwall. Give him two.”

A Royal Mail spokeswoman, Val Bodden, said: “Royal Mail has been delighted to mark the achievement of Team GB athletes winning gold medals at London 2012.”

“Each of these gold medal winners had a postbox painted gold in the local community with which they have a close association. This could be where they were born, where they grew up or where they presently live and we looked at all these factors before reaching a considered choice,” Bodden said.

Meanwhile, in Doddington, Lincolnshire, hockey fans painted a mailbox bronze in honor of the British women’s hockey team, who beat New Zealand 3-1 in the third-place play-off.

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: “We understand the sentiment and congratulate the women’s hockey team on their achievement. However, we’d rather people left the painting of postboxes to us.”