A trip to the post office in France, affectionately called La Poste, is always a baffling experience that leaves you scratching your head. It tests your patience and makes you contemplate why you moved to France in the first place.
Just a disclaimer here before you continue: I know not all post offices in France are like this (and many in the US have horrible service as well). In all honestly, my local French post office got a makeover complete with efficient employees. So while the following isn’t always true, let’s just say I’ve experienced it in more than one city. Phew, now that that’s out of the way…
From all outward appearances, you’d assume La Poste functions quite well. There are lights, employees, cash registers, forms and boxes to aid you in all your mailing needs. But things are never what they seem.
I swear that in the training manual for all La Poste employees, there’s a section that goes like this:
- Work as slowly as you can. Our goal is to irritate customers in line as much as possible and waste their day.
- Make sure there are never enough employees working at any given time to take care of customers in an efficient manner.
- Never know which form to give the customer and make them wait while you ask Employee #2 who is busy himself. Or on break. Or en vacances. So then you have to ask Employee #3 who may or may not know.
- Along with forms, act like you have no clue what postage or tracking forms to put on a package outside of France.
- Act like everything is so difficult and that your 10 plus years of experience working at the post office have taught you nothing.
- Never be open for business when anyone has time to actually mail stuff.
- Hire interns that have no clue at all yet let them interact with customers alone.
And that was the short list about the post office in France.
About that last point, an intern this summer charged me two euros to mail a small package to the USA. Luckily, I knew this was the wrong postage and knew I needed a customs form since I was mailing something abroad (99% of my visits), but what if it was the first time I was mailing something abroad? Yikes. And then once they give you the form, you have you go to the BACK of the line when done. Well, depending on the mood of the employee that day.
Normally, an extra five minute wait wouldn’t ruin my day but at Christmas when the line is out the door? Yeah, not cool.
Example of how knowledgeable employees are at the post office in France?
One time while mailing something at a mailbox on the street, I ran into the postal worker who was collecting the mail. I was short a stamp or two on a letter to the US, so I asked her how many stamps I needed to ensure the letter would arrive. She looked at me like I just asked her the winning lottery numbers. Blank. Like I’m joking. Like why the heck would she, the postal worker, actually know how much it costs to send a letter. A regular letter. Beats me.
But it’s France. And things are different here. So I laugh at these things now.