As you have likely heard, small things please small minds. I love small things. You may draw your own conclusions.
Tonight, I had to package up a parcel to send to a friend in Europe. I was very chuffed when I managed to get all five foot of draught excluder into something about A4 size (albeit somewhat plumper). And yes, it would be me who is sending a five foot draught excluder to Europe. (I’ve never actually sent anything to the country in question but I have sent something from. An A2 canvas painting of the Titanic sinking. Cheerful stuff, not exactly my taste. But my friend was ecstatic that I’d persuaded the post office to take it). It seems that I have something of a track record when it comes to posting random things. You’ve seen other evidence.
Postage is ridiculously expensive these days. I remember the uproar when the European airmail stamp hit 36p. These days I think first class is more expensive than that now! (I possibly sound remarkably old when I make comments like that). Anyway, I like to know what I’m getting myself in for before going down and doing battle in the post office. I find that the post office is indeed somewhere where knowledge is power.
I grew up in a small town (England-style, not US). The post office had long queues, especially on pension mornings, because that was back in the days when everything was done in cheque-style books that had to be religiously stamped to death by the post office clerk, but was always helpful. Actually, the library was the same. The librarians were friendly and helpful. I never had a fine in all the twenty plus years that I was there.
Then I moved here. We have a bigger library and a bigger post office. The librarians resent any disruption to their frantically busy task of sitting behind desks and I also have had more library fines than fillings, which is saying quite a lot with my dental history. The post office has cordoned queue control and the whole thing at rush hour rapidly turns into Ellis Island. With the appropriate interrogation and suspicion of course. You don’t really want to risk asking a question in either of those places. Your mission is simply to get in and out as quickly as possible, preferably still alive and with most of your income intact.
I make it my job to know how much my postage will cost and how it’s going where it’s going. I write down all and any information that they may require for any random forms that must be filled out as fast as possible. This way I can minimise the stress and confusion that results in what basically amounts to buying a stamp. (If I’m armed with knowledge, I don’t get stressed and confused at all. The clerk only does a little bit).
I have to agree with Tilly Bud, the service industry just inspires terror, trepidation and guilt.
Anyway, back to the stamp. I was inputting all my variables and trying to find the most cost-effective way of sending a five foot draught excluder to Europe with not too much delay when it came up with strange little option. I’m not a fan of the post office’s website, it’s never been particularly efficient and I tend to rely on my stash of printed price guides rather than their high-tech solutions that get me nowhere. (I’m particularly suspicious how every time I try to find surface mail rates, it directs me only to expensive parcel services. And in recent months it has seemed that whatever I do, I end up in some other online shop being told to buy huge books of first class stamps. Not impressed).
This time I found, with remarkably little hassle although I did keep ending in the first day covers (the post office is apparently more keen on Doctor Who than I am), something called a ‘price finder’. That’s my kind of thing. Input, quote, use information against post office staff.
So I inputted.
Was very surprised by the rate. (My draught excluder might be huge but it’s comparatively light, I can send it as a packet rather than as a parcel. (Please don’t even get me started on dissecting that logic that means a parcel to the same destination of the same weight and dimensions is four times as expensive as a packet)).
(I do that).
Next to the delivery options (it’s a little like flight tickets, please don’t choose our cheapest option), there is now a small box that says ‘buy and print’.
I’m scared by new things. Especially when they involve technology.
And the post office.
And parting with money.
I asked husband if he’d like to come and test this for me.
As he was already in bed, he answered in the negative.
I was left to face the decision alone.
Me and one small red button that isn’t even a real button but a picture on a screen.
I pressed it.
And had to input a billion more things.
And then part with some money.
And then it asked me to print my label.
I don’t trust printing things from the internet. They’re usually never designed to actually fit any known paper formats or printers. And why is it that every time you do print something from the internet, it has this obsession with printing just two lines on the next page and wasting an entire sheet of paper?
Then realised that my ink cartridges are at the invisible stage.
So I held my breath.
Because you know that’s going to make a difference.
I printed a stamp!
Not just a stamp, it had insisted on printing the addresses too in its own queer format (I prefer a nice, funky coloured marker personally) and it said paid for and lots of other official things. And it had one of those new fangled squiggly barcode box thingys!
I have a stamp.
‘Stamp’ prints on a quarter page of A4. (Don’t get me started about waste).
I took ‘stamp’ to husband to cut down. He insisted on doing it with a ruler and pencil as he’s something of a pedant when it comes to precision. But that’s why I gave him the ‘stamp’ to cut anyway, he can actually cut straight lines. I can’t draw them. Even with a ruler.
‘Stamp’ is now affixed to very squishy parcel (it bounces).
But I am now faced with another dilemma.
Clearly, I can repeat this process in the future. I will be able to buy exactly (well, maybe, that might be dependent on what mood the website is in) what postage I want when I want it. (Although most of the time, it will require traipsing into town to the main post office to find a fat mouthed post box, most if not all of the branch post offices around here have closed now, a discussion for another day, I’m sure).
… is this a good thing?
Much as I hate the hassle and stress of the post office, I don’t want to be responsible for anybody, however grumpy, losing their jobs. If we all end up buying our postage online, what will happen to our post offices?