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Old 8 Feb 2013, 05:10 AM   #1
webecedarian
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Non-American members: Post office?

As I'd said, I love that this is a fairly international forum - as a matter of fact, I don't even know where EMD is based, which would normally make me leery - since most of the forums I participate in are close to1% American. And I realized that there are a bunch of questions I've been curious about, with not many opportunities to ask, so I should try here, especially since the Lounge tends to be rather languid.

So my second question along those lines is about the post office. In the U.S., it looks as thought the post office, is going to end Saturday delivery, so that we'll get mail only Monday through Friday. I find this very annoying, both because generally we're paying more and more for service that's worse and worse, and specifically because unlike a lot of people, I still write and receive letters. Hard to believe that once people used to have two daily deliveries! Where I am, in New York, it's particularly bad, with rude workers, misdirected mail, and post offices that are quick to shut down in bad weather.

So I'm curious about other countries. I'm wondering if we're the only First World country with such a lackluster postal system. Do you have six day delivery? Is your postal system mostly well-regarded and reliable?
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Old 8 Feb 2013, 06:40 AM   #2
walesrob
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The Royal Mail in the UK is still a 6 day a week operation, generally very reliable, in my experience. I live in a very rural part of Wales in a small village, and our postman is here every morning without fail between 9am and 11am.

I'm sure other UK based members will be along shortly with their experiences good or bad with the Royal Mail. When I order online, I always make a point of using Royal Mail to deliver as couriers are generally very hit or miss.
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Old 8 Feb 2013, 11:50 AM   #3
kijinbear
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Originally Posted by webecedarian View Post
I find this very annoying, both because generally we're paying more and more for service that's worse and worse, and specifically because unlike a lot of people, I still write and receive letters.
First World post offices used to be an excellent example of the economy of scale. Since they delivered billions of items every day, they could charge only a small amount for each item, and still have enough money to open 6 days a week and hire decent people.

Nowadays, fewer people send physical letters. In the United States, overall mail volume peaked in 2006, but most of that is junk mail, and First Class mail volume peaked much earlier in 2001 and has been in a steep decline ever since. It's difficult for any company to deal with such a sudden loss of business, and the USPS is just like any other company. (Contrary to popular misconceptions, it is not subsidized by the government.) When bad finances hit a company, including email service providers that we're familiar with, the first thing we usually notice is a drop in the quality of service. The same has happened to the USPS. Fewer days of operation and lower quality of work overall. If your regular postman was replaced with a rude and incompetent one, the most likely reason is that the USPS couldn't afford to hire the friendly and competent postman anymore.

It would be interesting to compare this situation with other countries where the post office's quality of service has remained excellent despite a significant loss of business.

For example, my parents live in rural South Korea, and Korea Post is by far the most reliable courier in the area. Mail is reliably delivered every morning, even if there's two feet of snow outside. Other couriers, on the other hand, might or might not deliver within 3 days depending on who the local contractor is, and the deliverymen tend to be rude and unprofessional. (When I FedEx'd a small parcel to my parents, the FedEx guy just threw the parcel on their porch and left.) Maybe it's because Korea Post is operated by the government. Maybe they're simply more efficient. Maybe it's cheaper to operate post offices in a small country like Korea and many EU countries. Maybe it's all of them.
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Old 8 Feb 2013, 03:20 PM   #4
FredOnline
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It seems that walesrob has a better experience than myself, living in the shadow of a major UK city, in that we hardly ever see a mailman on a Saturday.

I try to do as little correspondence as possible by snail mail, so very rarely have to visit a post office, etc.

I used to do occasional sales on eBay, and it worked ok because there was a small post office near my place of work, that I could visit on my lunch break.

However, the powers that be decided that the branch was not busy enough (it always was when I visited!) so they closed it down. Now the nearest post office is in a shopping center, where you have to pay for parking, and long queues at the counter.

Current price for a normal letter in UK:

1st class is 60p (USD 0.94) and 2nd class is 50p (USD 0.79)

Now a more interesting topic could be the price of petrol/gas in your country!
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Old 8 Feb 2013, 09:23 PM   #5
Tsunami
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Varies a lot from country to country, even within the smallest of all continents (which is us, Europe). In my native Belgium we have Monday to Friday delivery, no Saturday deliveries. Post to another Belgian address would take 1 to 2 days to deliver, but the post office sells emergency stamps (who are a bit more expensive than the usual stamp which is maximum 1 €) for letters that require delivery in the shortest possible time. International post within Europe arrives within the week, outside of Europe it may take a bit longer.

In addition to the regular postal service, the Belgian post also has a bank of their own. I find it a bit of an odd combination, but the Bank of Belgian Postal Services does have a decent reputation.

In many small villages in Belgium, post offices close down or are opened only a limited number of hours per week. This is something many people are sad about, and some local politicians are lobbying to try to reverse this and assure that every town has a postal office with normal opening hours. For people who live on the countryside, now it can include they have to travel to a nearby other town to find a postal office opened, whereas in the past even the smallest villages usually had a post office.


When I lived in Northern Ireland, I was very satisfied with the UK postal services. Never had any issues there. Dito with the German postal services and Spanish postal services. It's too long ago to remember whether German postal services worked 5 days a week or 6, but for sure the Spanish postal services did Saturday deliveries indeed.


The hardest for me, of the 7 countries I've lived in, was Turkey. I lived in Istanbul, a city with estimated 18 million people (even though some retain their official address elsewhere, de facto if you include students and workers who spend most of their days in Istanbul, you come close to 18000000 people).

It speaks for itself that in a city so big and so populated, postal services needed to find ways to deliver post efficiently despite the extremely high number of alleys, citizens and districts.

The way it was done was, which I have never seen in any other country, that you would not only write the receiver's address, but below you would write the name of the nearest big avenue. This indicates the postman that the addressee lives in a small alley, but by also adding the name of the neighbouring big avenue the postman can more easily trace the actual address. In addition different city areas used different zip codes obviously.
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Old 8 Feb 2013, 09:28 PM   #6
Tsunami
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PS: a good friend of mine lives in Canada, but not in any big city. He lives in a farm in the Yukon, a very big territory in the north (bordering Alaska) where population numbers are very low. While he did give me his full address, he said that usually mentioning the name of the receiver + street would be sufficient, even when dropping the house numbers and zip codes. Apparently there's so few people up there that the postal services more or less know by heart which resident lives where.

In some very remote villages in the Canadian North, people don't even have street names but only a PO Box number. The residents just pick up the post in their local post office. You don't need any street or zipcode as the few inhabitants just have their houses scattered in the village without clear street names. This does include that even in places as far north as Qanaaq, there is a post office (although opened only 1 or 2 days a week). Sending a letter there can take several weeks to arrive due to the remoteness, as only once in a while a plane goes there. Letters are then taken with those flights but if there's no flight going to those remote outposts for a fortnight or so, the letter will arrive with weeks of delay.

A different type of issue I have faced several time is alphabet. When sending a letter to my friends in Israel, I opt to write the address both in Latin and Hebrew alphabet on the enveloppe to assure smooth delivery. I have been told that this is in fact not necessary but better play safe I'd say. I have never sent any letters to China or Japan or so, but I can imagine if the local alphabet is missing on the enveloppe, this may cause problems in tiny villages in rural areas where few people speak English (obviously this issue won't occur when the destination is a big city full of English speakers, eg Bejing or Tokio. But I've seen many documentaries of Chinese farming towns in remote areas, where nobody understood English. I assume letters going there need to contain the receiver's address in the locally used alphabet to avoid the letter getting lost?)
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Old 8 Feb 2013, 11:35 PM   #7
kijinbear
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Originally Posted by Tsunami View Post
I have never sent any letters to China or Japan or so, but I can imagine if the local alphabet is missing on the enveloppe, this may cause problems in tiny villages in rural areas where few people speak English (obviously this issue won't occur when the destination is a big city full of English speakers, eg Bejing or Tokio. But I've seen many documentaries of Chinese farming towns in remote areas, where nobody understood English. I assume letters going there need to contain the receiver's address in the locally used alphabet to avoid the letter getting lost?)
It's not so much whether they know the English language as whether they can recognize the name of their own village and names of people written with Latin alphabets. Most people in developed countries can do this just fine, although some names can be ambiguous (e.g. same spelling but different tone). Also, especially in rural areas, postmen tend to be better educated than the average townsfolk. In addition, most addresses contain a lot of redundant information that facilitates finding the recipient: the name, the street address, the postal code, and even the phone number if you use a courier. Finally, most Westerners are terrible at "drawing" Chinese characters, so it might actually be easier for the postman to recognize the address if you just wrote it in the Latin alphabet. In any case, if there is any doubt about the legibility of your handwriting, use a computer and a printer. Never, ever use cursive script.
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Old 9 Feb 2013, 08:17 PM   #8
chrisretusn
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Monday thru Friday here.
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Old 10 Feb 2013, 07:05 AM   #9
n5bb
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The US First Class postage rate is about the same today as it was 125 years ago (corrected for inflation):
US Postal Rate History

Here is a list of international First Class postal rates in US dollars (before the recent 1 cent increase in the US). It appears that US rates are lower than most other countries. Of course, some countries are very small and so have much lower expenses:
Postage Rates World-Wide
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Old 10 Feb 2013, 05:04 PM   #10
janusz
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According to the list quoted by n5bb, Norfolk Island is a very cheap place to post a first class letter. Given that the island's population is 2300 and the area is 35 km2 (some 1.5% of Paris urban area), I wonder how many letters are posted there for inland destinations...
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Old 10 Feb 2013, 08:34 PM   #11
Tsunami
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Based on this list, Brunei would be cheapest of all. However, the list is very incomplete. North Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Egypt, South Africa, Argentina, China, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, ... just to name a few countries who have amongst the largest territories on earth (in square kilometers) and/or some of the most densely populated cities in the world. Meanwhile Tristan da Cunha (the remotest inhabited island in the world, with roughly 300 people only and reachable only by a boat trip of several days) is in the list. That's odd.

Keep in mind too that pricing isn't everything. Canada may be cheap but even a domestic delivery will take weeks or months if the destination address is in a very remote area of the country. Some settlements in Nunavut only get a visiting helicopter once a month or less, so no matter how cheap, it could take a long time before the letter arrives. In cases like this, I'd pay the extra price and use DHL or so to bypass such issues. Pricing isn't everything.

Also, I do wonder how they collected the data from destinations such as Norfolk, Tristan da Cunha, etc when these islands have such low population numbers that it would take an incredible efford to just verify the received pricing info.

Vatican City in the list ... Heh? The only residents there are clergy and student clergy who are directly connected to the Holy See (government) so it would surprise me the Pope or any remotely high ranked bishop would need to pay their stamps. I cannot really see Benedict XVI queue in the postal office to get his letters stamped ... (that said, for stamp collectors, a stamp from the likes of Vatican City, Norfolk, or Tristan da Cunha would be such a rarity they'd probably consider it amongst the most valuable collection pieces available)
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Old 10 Feb 2013, 08:38 PM   #12
Tsunami
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PS: in my native Belgium we are now, and I am NOT joking here, pressing stamps with chocolate flavour. Because a stamp has to be licked usually to paste to the enveloppe and it is quite bitter, while chocolate is about our most famous export product. So the Belgian postal offices are releasing chocolate-taste stamps soon. I would assume they'll be more expensive than the regular stamps, but the idea is quite nice. I will probably try it as soon as they're commercially available (which they announced, would be within the following months)


PS II: apparently some actually unpopulated places in the world have a postal service despite not having perminent residents. I was told Antarctica has a postal service for scientists who spend a few months in a research station and wish to write home. Despite the practical difficulties in such a vast unpopulated area and despite the fact nobody lives there on permanent basis, apparently you indeed can send a letter from the Antarctic continent.
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Old 10 Feb 2013, 10:14 PM   #13
bramhall
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. I was told Antarctica has a postal service
America’s first Post Office in Antarctica was officially established on October 6, 1933.
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Old 12 Feb 2013, 12:27 AM   #14
janusz
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the Belgian postal offices are releasing chocolate-taste stamps soon
On sale now: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21388234
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Old 12 Feb 2013, 01:35 AM   #15
David
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I live in western Canada and the mail service has vastly deteriorated over the last ten to twenty years. Most (not all) government run post offices have been closed down and have been replaced by a kiosk (inside a private store) - this is in the cities and also in the rural areas.

Junk mail seems to have been legalized and I receive tons of it (not addressed to me) This is required (so I have been told) in order to keep the postal system operational and viable.

As I live in a rural area I pick up my mail from the nearest set of post boxes, which are located a couple of hundred yards down the road.

edit: we get five day a week (Monday to Friday) delivery where I live

Last edited by David : 12 Feb 2013 at 01:41 AM.
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