Tag Archives: French post office

Green Stamps

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I’m in Nogent sur Marne on the other side of Paris because even after living for 8 years in the Palais Royal, I still go to the dentist I found 15 years ago when I opened my office in Nogent. We’ve even become friends and have lunch together afterwards. I don’t know what I’m going to do when we move to Blois.

Post Office in Nogent sur Marne
Post Office in Nogent sur Marne

I learn that she’s running a little late so I figure I have time to go to the Post Office to get some stamps. As I explained in another post, I have a love/hate relationship with the French Post Office but I’ve run out of stamps and it’s difficult to do without them altogether.

Nowadays they have stamp machines that weigh your letters and take your Visa Card. I walk over to one of the machines but there is nothing to indicate how to buy a book of stamps. So I go and queue. That is another thing I don’t like doing.

When it’s my turn and I ask for a book of stamps, I’m told to go to the machine. “I did that already, but I can’t find the stamp books”. “You’ll see, it’s easy”. I go back to the machines but they are all being used by now. It’s market day. Now there’s another queue at the counter. I storm out swearing, cursing at myself for my less-than-adult reaction.

Stamp machines in the post office in Nogent sur Marne
Stamp machines in the post office in Nogent sur Marne

Two days later, I’m back in Nogent for another visit to the dentist. I’m early this time so I decide that I’ll brave the post office again.

I wait in the queue and a helper comes along and asks me what I want. They introduced helpers to the French post office several years ago. These people walk around the post office showing people like me how to use the stamp machines, choose a post bag or directing them to the right counter. They are usually reasonably friendly, fairly cluey young girls. This is a young man who is neither friendly nor cluey.

“I would like a book of stamps”, I say. “Then go to the stamp machine”. “Well, yes, I tried that last time but I couldn’t make it work. Will you come and show me please?” “Oh, alright, but it’s very simple”.

We get to the machine and he touches the blank screen. Now why didn’t I think of that?  I don’t let on though. “Look, there’s the icon for the book of stamps”, he says. I press it, then select the number 2 (I don’t want to come back here in a hurry) and am about to insert my Visa card when he says, “They’re green stamps. The letters get there in two days”, he says offhandedly.

Green and red stamps
Green and red stamps

“But I don’t want green stamps. I want letters to get there in one day.” “You’ll have to buy them at the counter then.” I don’t believe this! Fortunately, there isn’t a queue so I go back to the counter to the helpful man from the previous visit. “You want red stamps? I don’t have the self-adhesive type though, only collection stamps.” “That’s fine, so long as they’re red”.

He goes over to another counter and brings back the stamps. “You can get these from the machine”, he says. “That’s not what your colleague said”, I reply. “Well, you can.” The colleague is just beside me, talking to another customer. “Well, do you want this card or not”, he asks. My god, he’s talking to a customer like that?

I pay for my stamps and walk out. I feel exchausted. But at least I have my stamps this time.

The French Post Office – a love-hate relationship

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The French post office has changed. You used to spend hours waiting in queues in dismal-looking buildings hoping that the person behind the window in front of you wouldn’t suddenly close it just before you got there. I took to buying aerogrammes (remember them?) so that I wouldn’t have to go to the PO too often. I discovered that one of the reasons for the long queues is that the post office is also a bank, which is particularly popular in rural areas where there is a post office, but not a bank, in every village. Why anyone would have a post office account in Paris is beyond my understanding.

One of the most wonderful things about the arrival of the internet was that it freed me from my bondage to the post office. Before that, I was always having to worry about meeting deadlines for my translations, rushing out in the car to catch the last post at peak hour. There was a special “emergency” room behind the main office where you could make sure that already-stamped letters got there in time or else send them by Chronopost. I had dreams of buying a house next to the post office.

Then a couple of years ago, when the post office was practically bankrupt, they changed the concept. All the buildings were revamped with white walls and floors to offset the yellow and dark blue signature colours. The windows disappeared and were replaced with open desks. Stamping machines and a self-service area were added. It has taken a while for people to get used to the new system but it has gradually become more efficient and the queues have diminished slightly.

Recently, I had to collect a registered letter. I don’t know about Australia, but in France, they send you a registered letter whenever they possibly can. This was to confirm that I had signed the promise of sale for our new home in Blois. Jean Michel had one too but we obviously couldn’t collect each other’s! There was quite a long queue in front of one counter and no one at the other counter which was labelled “registered letters”. I went up and someone came out of nowhere to serve me almost immediately. Suddenly, people started shouting at me from the other queue that I’d jumped my turn! I am usually very respectful of queues but I just acted very French and ignored them. I collected my letter and scuttled out.

The final sale of the house was brought forward by a couple of months so I had to pick up another registered letter of course. We arrived to find that the PO doesn’t open until 10 am on Saturdays. With ten minutes to spare, we went to the dry cleaner’s across the street. When we got back, there were already several people waiting in front. Once the PO was open, we were served quite quickly but the lady took ages to find the letters.

They may have revamped the inside of the post office but they haven’t changed the staff. I also asked for a prepaid box to send my Christmas presents to Australia only to learn that they’d run out of medium-size boxes. God knows how I’m going to fill the ludicrously priced big box but I can’t bear the thought of going to another post office where they probably only have big boxes anyway. Why don’t I just make my own parcel you may ask? It’s because the same weight would probably cost twice as much.

The lady then gave me TWO FORMS to accompany the box which means, obviously, that I’ll have to go back to the post office to send it once I’ve filled it. I’m going to try and find a country PO in the hope that it will be less stressful, but with Christmas coming up, I think it’s a lost cause. I’m also hoping I’ll have a friendly little corner post office in Blois but that’s not for another two and a half years.

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