The factor and his tour

Didier Demazière, “the heart of the business factor :” his ” tour “, Ethnologie française, 2005/1, N°101

The factor, employee of The Post office which distributes the mail, is a familiar figure. Its activities touch even to the most private or intimate life, as it is to wear new, expected or unexpected, good or bad. This symbolic dimension, especially in certain circumstances such as periods of war, is the principle of a true “religion of the letter” among the factors.

At the center of the activity of the factor, after the sorting of the mail at the postal centre, is the tour. The article proposed here is based on an in-depth survey1 conducted in two centres of distribution of the great suburbs of paris, where we conducted follow-up of factors in a tour, observations of collective activities factors (sort early morning in particular), interviews, explanations of the observed activities, interviews, biographical and confrontations with the video documents produced during observations. This research reveals that the tour factor is a sequence of professional activity that is invested with strategies that are varied and contrasting.

The tour cannot be reduced neither to an amount of time necessary to the passage of mail, or to a simple path in a particular territory : it is also a weaving of relationships with the inhabitants, at least some of them. These work as a permanent component of the distribution activity ; and the factor did not remain long alone on his tour, both the greetings and exchanges of civility are recurring.

Become the holder of a tour [by opposition to the condition of the ” wheeler “), which changes tour at the discretion of the absences of factors owners. The beginner must be “wheeler” for a year] indicates that we really enter into the trade. Have his tour, “owning” some say, is a salient feature, an essential property of the job of a factor, acquired in a definitive manner, except sanction majeure caused by a serious misconduct (destruction of mail, claims repeated about folds recommended, etc). Be holder it is both the possibility of putting in place routines, which express a mastery of the territory, which will result in time savings and improved reliability of the distribution, and the possibility of developing relational exchanges that will result in an enrichment of the tasks and an increase in customer satisfaction.

“Selling districts “

It is at the level of each distribution centre, the tours are divided up between the factors, in the course of a ” sale of the neighbourhoods “, organised twice a year by the team leaders. The ritual is codified with precision : two weeks prior to the scheduled day, two lists are displayed, the first identifying the tours vacant, without incumbent, the second establishing the order of the turn of speech that is strictly a function of seniority in the profession. On the scheduled day, a team leader announces to a tour vacant and recites by order of seniority decreasing the name of the factors, which respond to the wind by yes or no. What are the all-rounders who have sufficient seniority to become owners, which are often the only ones to choose a tour.

Tenure on a tour seems like a real rite of passage, marking the end of a state inferiorized – wheeler – and the entrance in the professional group, and marked by an outpouring of collective and a new categorization (” there it is, I’m really factor now “). “Buy a round “, it is to make a decisive step in the career. Indeed, the cleavage and the most significant within the professional group is the one that separates owners and non-owners (all-rounders), only the factors having their own tour being considered, and reciprocally considering, as really factors, such as professionals in the full sense of the term. The “good” tour can be defined a contrario, from the examination of those whose factors do not want, that they leave a lasting all-rounders. Because, in the distribution centers studied, several tours offered at each sale have not found a taker. These are rounds that, in practice, have never of the holder and for which everyone knows – including the riders who have been allocated one day or the other – they are the ” rounds to avoid “, ” rotten “. Their characteristics are easily explained by the factors, even if they are diversified and trace profiles are heterogeneous : these tours tell of e-mail involving the distribution of packets in a wider area, “very long” and “do not end” ; or still of tours in the ” difficult neighborhoods “, in which the contacts with the population are rare, the safety factors have not been properly insured, the interest of the work low. Factors owners have a relationship of ownership and property with their tour.

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