La Poste: Nemesis Numero Uno

Boîte aux lettres La Poste

Have I ever told you how much I hate La Poste? That it is the bane of my existence? (Well, that and laundry).

My virulent loathing of the institution might seem a bit overstated, but I think in some ways it’s a good solution for dealing with my frustrations living in France. I simply channel all my ill feelings into this one receptacle – no need to get upset about everything.

Sure, I suppose I could choose someplace with a bit more power – the prefecture, say- as the singular object of my wrath. (You’ve seen my absolute terror in facing the prefecture here).

However, the prefecture is not a place I have to deal with often (usually just the annual trial suffices).

La Poste, on the other hand, is a fact of daily life. Inefficiency, surly customer service, long lines – all of these traits find their way here. All of France’s woes in one convenient location, in other words.

What has set off this tirade?

Well, a small thing, really. (Isn’t it always?)

I went to make photocopies and then mail off my US taxes and some health forms to my Mutuelle (June 15 is the filing date for us folks abroad, for those of you who think I’ve woefully missed the April 15 tax deadline. A Mutuelle is a complimentary health insurance for you same US folks who might not know.)

Sounds like a simple task, right? Only in France, no small task goes unpunished.

Go to my nearest post office. Copier only takes exact change (10 centimes). Machine that makes changes is out of order. Postal workers will not give me change because, well, they don’t like giving change.

Exit post office and go to nearest photocopy place. Stand in line. My turn. First 2 pages copy. Then machine stops copying. The guy working there (very nice, I will say) tries to figure out the problem. To no avail. Woman behind me exclaims, “this place is worse than the post office!”

Ok, next post office. Great! Their change machine works! Many 10 cent coins in hand. Go to their photocopier. En panne. (Out of service).

Back to original post office. One of the copiers has managed to fall en panne, too, in the interceding time, but one still works. I make all of my copies. Hooray!

After I finish, the woman behind me tries the machine. “It doesn’t work!” she cries. Break out another en panne sign.

Not a huge deal, I know. Believe me, I still have perspective. But a quick errand (I had assumed – hah!) turned into half a day. While I’m pretty laid-back, sometimes you just want things to be straightforward. Like mailing an envelope could – in an ideal world – take about 30 seconds. (But then this blog post wouldn’t have happened).

I’m sure there were other ways. Should I have gone to corner café, ordered a glass of wine and gotten some change that way? Maybe. Might have been more fun.

But no harm done. So onto something more evil.

the kittening (crazy-eyes edition)

The post office steals my care packages. Yes. They steal.

It’s wrong to jump to conclusions, right? But after the third or fourth missing package, you start to wonder. Especially when you go inquiring after your missing package, witness their entirely haphazard tracking system (consisting of the postal worker scanning a crumpled sheet with names scrawled in horrible handwriting with no other identifying information) to then inform you that the package has never passed through. To also hear other people complaining of their missing packages. To also know this has happened at two of your Paris addresses already.

I’ve told friends and family back home to stop sending me care packages. Do you know how sad this is? Do any of you realize how vital small gifts from home are to the long-term expat? But I am a strong girl. No, it’s ok, I say, lips quivering. I’d rather you not send it. No need to waste your money, mom. It probably won’t get here.

So ok post office, you steal my stuff. Fine. Can you please at least install a working photocopier? Or give me change? Thanks.

*************************************************************************************

This is how it should be:

Cartas de amor

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38 Responses to “La Poste: Nemesis Numero Uno”


  1. 1 Alison May 28, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Wow! That sounds EXACTLY like Belgium… except here they are surly at you in two languages… Ugh. What a drag to have to waste a whole day on something that should be so simple. Packages are a problem here too. There was actually a Belgian postal worker arrested a year or so ago for hoarding mail… for 30 YEARS! I’m not sure if France is the same but it costs a fortune to send packages from Belgium. The first year we were here we wanted to send Christmas gifts and the postage ended up costing more than the presents. That ended the holiday gift sending cheer… ok here endeth my rant ;) Glad to get that off my chest!

    • 2 paris (im)perfect May 28, 2010 at 10:17 am

      Feels good to rant sometimes doesn’t it? :) Wow, I don’t know if I could handle surliness in 2 languages. You are a brave, brave woman. Yeah, I forgot to mention the hassle of sending packages, too. Once I wanted to make sure an important document arrived to the USA within a week and I asked about my options. The postal worker quoted me some service that cost like 55 euros. I was like, for this envelope? He was like, yeah. Or, there’s the normal service that usually gets there in a week and costs a buck (I am rounding here, of course. Don’t really remember the exact cost.)

      Um, yeah, I’d like the service that costs 54 euros less, please. Ok, end of my second rant :)

      • 3 Alison May 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm

        Oh man… That’s insane. We had friends here from India who needed to ships a couple of boxes when they were moving home. They asked us to go to the post office with them since their French wasn’t good. We looked at the sign with all of the rates as we stood in line (for close to an hour) and figured that it would be about 50 euro a box. We finally get to the front and the guy says it’s time to close for lunch. We said we had been there for an hour and he gave his huge sigh and said fine. He weighed the boxes and said they would be over 100 euro each. We pointed to the sign and he says “oh, yeah that isn’t starting until next week…” No dates printed on the sign anywhere. In the end we hung on to the boxes for our friends and mailed them the next week for half the price. I miss Canada Post.

  2. 4 Adam May 28, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Sion – are you saying that packages have just never arrived? I’ve had that a few times as well (in and out of France!), but what is really irritating is the note in the mailbox from the postman saying ‘I knocked at your door but no-one was home. You can pick your mail up at the Post Office tomorrow’. Generally this appears even though you’ve been home all day, and is in fact a result of the postman not fancying a climb up the stairs. Strangely enough, he doesn’t seem to mind the climb at Christmas when he has a few calendars to sell.

    For photocopies, try one of the mini phone boutique places. They always seem to have a photocopier, and there’s never a queue. You won’t need to sort out any change beforehand either!

    • 5 paris (im)perfect May 28, 2010 at 10:12 am

      Hi Adam,

      Yes, I am saying that the packages never arrive, but that ALSO there is no note from the post. Many times someone has told me that they sent me a package – but it never gets to me AND the post office never tries to deliver it. That’s why I’m accusing them of keeping it. Of course, it could be customs, too – I don’t know.

      And actually I WAS at one of those mini phone photo boutiques. I agree they usually work out well. This time the photocopier decided to fall en panne there, too, though. Not a big deal – just one of those days!

  3. 6 daveleb26 May 28, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Just so you can avoid your nemesis (!), the IRS has an office in Paris, at the US Embassy, and you can drop off all your forms (and make any payments) there. And you don’t have to wait behind all those people who’ve lost their passports; there is a dedicated window for the IRS.

    • 7 paris (im)perfect May 28, 2010 at 10:42 am

      Good to know about the IRS office. I think I knew that, but filed that away in my ‘only need to know that once a year’ part of my head. Things get lost there easily.

      Not sure it solves my post office woes, but hey, let’s get real: I kind of like complaining about it. (I have become French!)

      Thrilled to see your new website, too!

  4. 8 Cynthia May 28, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Oh yeah, they do steal, their must be some intellectual thief too because they often steal my books! I’ve even heard about packages being rummaged through so that the postal thief gets only what’s interesting to him!

    I also send all the important letters through registered mail because I can at least blame them if it doesn’t arrive ;)

    • 9 paris (im)perfect May 28, 2010 at 10:39 am

      Oh, so I’m not crazy! Sorry to hear about your packages – and your books! Gosh, someone laying their hands on my books would kill me, too. I have received packages that have obviously been opened, too. Sigh.

      I agree about registered mail. RAR all the way, baby ;)

  5. 10 Lindsey May 28, 2010 at 10:38 am

    OOOOOH yes. I’m dealing with a post office issue right now. A whopper. First, though, I must say that the photo with your cat in the box KILLED Me, I LOVE IT. I want it. I wish my cat would do that. I might love her even more (if that’s even possible).

    Okay, so over a month ago I got an avis de passage that I had coliposte package waiting for me at the post office. I went, and they said, no, read the slip- it says your package was left with a neighbor. Well, they’re not legally allowed to do this yet the incompetent delivery men do it anyway. I honestly think they take the least educated people possible to do these jobs, people with no respect for rules or common sense.

    HEre’s the kicker. On the avis de passage, it says that the package was left with Madame Morel, 5th floor, right. THAT’S ME! Idiots. TO make matters worse, THERE WAS NO TRACKING/PACKAGE NUMBER on the slip so no one can find where it might be, or who delivered it. I asked all of my neighbors, none of them have it.

    After going back and forth with coliposte and filing a reclamation, I was informed yesterday that without a package number they can’t help me. Do I know the sender? NO! That also makes this more complicated. So now I have to go through the post office mediator, sending in another hand written reclamation with a photo copy of the erroneous avis de passage and hope they can do something about this.

    I’ve also had packages magically get lost, but so far, nothing sent from my mom has gotten lost. And I just got a package from a friend with PEANUT BUTTER M&M’s which I’m genuinely surprised made it through. Although the French don’t like peanut butter, so make that explains it.

    All that to say, I know. La Poste sucks. BUT so does the USPS. They’re pretty on par just with slightly more knowledgeable staff.

    • 11 paris (im)perfect May 28, 2010 at 10:48 am

      Oh gosh. That is quite an ordeal – much more intense than the one I described. But I know exactly what you’re talking about. I always get asked what the package number is, too and I’m like, um, I don’t know because I’ve never seen the package! Well, we just can’t help you, Madame. Sigh.

      I was made fully aware of this because it’s often packages from my mom that get lost. SO sad. I am denied mommy love because of the post! Though maybe I’ll ask her to send peanut butter. You’re right – the French don’t like that, so maybe it stands a chance.

      If it helps, I once had a package arrive 8 months after it was sent. It was a box of clothes I sent when I was moving to France. Guess I bought some clothes in the meantime :)

  6. 12 Paris Parfait May 28, 2010 at 11:12 am

    La Poste! La Poste is the devil! Quel cachemar dealing with trying to receive packages. Sometimes they go missing for weeks and after much hand-wringing and stress, they’re found buried beneath a mountain of boxes at La Poste; it’s just that no one has made any attempt to deliver them. In ten years here, I’ve had run-in after run-in w/ uncaring La Poste staff in an attempt to receive my packages. The concept of “next-day” or “second-day” delivery barely exists here. And the long lines! Sigh. You’re right, a lot of frustration is channeled towards La Poste.

    That being said, they’re pretty good at sending packages abroad. Have had only one of those go missing.

  7. 14 PigletinFrance May 28, 2010 at 11:23 am

    First, your cat is so cute!

    Second, arhhhhgghhhh LA POSTE! I’ve blogged about them before but I don’t think I’ve ever had as many things go missing as you and Lindsey here. What a nightmare!

    I think most of the problems are with the postman. I’ll explain. Until a year ago we were experiencing all sorts of problems similar to what you have described. Then we got a new postman. And hey presto! We now always get slips, the doorbell is always rung and none of our packages have gone missing (quick, must touch wood) when we go to the post office. I now make a point of always asking him how he is and smiling at him if I see him and hopefully our luck will continue…

    Bon weekend!

    • 15 paris (im)perfect May 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm

      Hey there,

      Just a quick clarification – that is not my cat. I SO wish it were, though! I got that photo from Flickr Creative Commons. Oh, if only that cute kitty came in a care package!

      Glad to hear your post woes have cleared up. But I think it proves my point. I bet your old postman *was* taking your packages. I mean, there’s just a clear link. My mom kept sending things…that never arrived. I mean, they got lost *somewhere*.

      Anyway, maybe I’ll try to make friends with the postman so he’ll take pity on me. In France, you have to turn on the charm, sometimes!

      Bon weekend a toi, aussi!

      • 16 PigletinFrance May 31, 2010 at 10:45 am

        Oh, that cat is so cute! Shame it’s not yours to cuddle :(

        In France, you have to turn on the charm, sometimes! All the time! I’ve found if you want something, turn on the charm and if that doesn’t work you have to SHOUT! Ah, la belle France!

  8. 17 Delana May 28, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Sion, I bought a printer/copier after 2 months here! Couldn’t stand the trials and tribulations at the post. And I have the same problem with packages so I just tell people to send them to upcoming visitors and have them bring them. I get no note, when I try to track it down it’s apparently never existed, then it has…then it never did once again! Aaarrgghhh! Several weeks ago, on an optimistic day, I ordered a pair of shoes. Imagine my surprise when the postman rang the bell and delivered them. He refused to come up the stairs, but I felt like I had accomplished a major triumph!

    • 18 paris (im)perfect May 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm

      That *is* a triumph, Delana. Wow. I don’t have enough visitors for me to have people bring me stuff. But you better believe when people do visit, I ask for stuff :)

      I have a printer, but not a copier. Hmm, maybe I’ll invest. Hope you like your new shoes :)

  9. 19 pariskarin May 28, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    OH. MY. GAWD.

    You got a comment from DAVID LEBOVITZ. *faints*

  10. 21 pariskarin May 28, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    *revives self quickly*

    Wow. You lucky, lucky chica. :) Attention from the Prom King himself, I am impressed.

    La Poste scares me and I refuse to go there alone. I always make Paul go with me, lol.

    We have not had too many problems with packages not arriving. Paul’s mom has sent him packages over the 20 years he has been here and he’s never talked about even a one “gone missing.” I’m *sure* it happens, I know it must — it does everywhere. China was *terrible* in this regard when I lived there.

    It is a very frustrating thing…

    How I solve this? I have relatives send me things like Amazon.fr gift certificates/credits instead. :D

    • 22 paris (im)perfect May 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

      As I’ve deduced with Piglet, I guess it depends on your postman and their honesty and integrity. Maybe Paul has lived in some good places if he’s NEVER had a package go missing in 20 years! Wow! (What am I doing wrong?)

      I know I’m becoming pretty autonomous in France because I *am* able to face the post on my own. I just complain about it, like everyone else :)

      • 23 pariskarin May 28, 2010 at 6:27 pm

        Pigalle and Place des Fêtes probably don’t qualify as good places, hahahaha.

        I don’t think you are doing anything wrong at all. It’s just one of those things. Like you wrote, it could be the postal workers you have had, maybe the post offices closest to your area… I mean, it is a bureaucracy and bureaucracies are noted for being really lame.

        I’m just sorry that it’s happened to you what sounds like a disproportional amount of times. That sucks!

        And hey — yes! You are “going native” with your abilities to negotiate the post and complain a little about it. Hoo wah! ;-)

  11. 24 Dani Voirin May 28, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I feel your pain. When I was in the 13th, my post office was at Place Jean d’Arc (thieves identified), and small, simple packages from three different loving family members never arrived. I was told that each sender would have to file a declaration on their end in order to investigate where the error was. Bon, laissez-tomber… to me the obvious culprit was standing in front of me. From that day, no more care packages.

    I even had to stop renting DVDs online, they disappeared too!

    But it’s random, now I have a nice post office, on the north side of Butte Chaumont. And if, for some reason, they’re having a bad day and snap at you, you can go hug a tree in the Butte, they don’t bite.

    • 25 pariskarin May 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      “But it’s random, now I have a nice post office, on the north side of Butte Chaumont.”

      That’s ours, too. Maybe it is just one more nice thing about this area: a decent post office. Move back to the 19th, chica. :)

      Okay — I checked with Paul. In 20 years, there was one package that was violated. It was a necklace for his ex-wife from Paul’s mom. The package had been sliced, the contents taken out, and then re-taped and the empty envelope sent to their place. They separated over 8 years ago, so this had to have been at least that long ago, and probably more like 10-12 years ago now.

      What he has had gone missing regularly are the DVDs for CSI — Les Experts — that he was subscribing to. He only received about half of the ones that were supposed to have been sent.

      So turns out he’s had bad luck, too. I just wanted to make sure that I let you know that!

    • 27 paris (im)perfect June 2, 2010 at 12:39 am

      Ugh, that’s so frustrating! I’ve been asked to have people fill out those declarations, too. As if! We all know you just took it, dude!

  12. 28 Leesa June 12, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Oh my!!! That’s really evil if they are just downright STEALING your packages.. which I believe is entirely the case here.. I just sent a card and an envelop with a music cd (a copy) of an unknown Youtube musician) and the card arrived and the envelop for the cd- but NO cd!! My friend got the cd envelop about 2 weeks after the card.. I was mad that someone stole the cd, but not entirely shocked!
    I have heard stories of the POSTE stealing care packages from the U.S. (I think that in Paris, they KNOW that the good stuff comes here from the U.S. so anything with that U.S. postmark is fair game to them… Which sucks for us! It hasn’t happened to me here in Antony (touches wood)… but I know it CAN happen… I was pissed that someone stole the cd I sent to my friend.. She lives in Paris – so it went from Antony to Paris and was gone!!

    I hear your frustrations and I’m sorry about all of that.. You’re story about the copy machine had me shaking my head– Ah… typical, right.. Gosh.. They need a better system here.. We’re not in Kansas anymore — and WHY the heck DON’T they like giving change.. esp. since it’s to use the darn machine in THER own establishment.. Weird…

    By the way.. I just found your blog, via my friend, Carolyn- from Sydney.
    We were talking about you and Karin yesterday and I wanted to stop by and introduce myself….
    Take care and have a nice weekend…
    Leesa

    • 29 paris (im)perfect June 12, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Leesa. Nice to meet you! And ugh! In the short trip from Antony to Paris, even, things are getting snatched? Sigh. Well, at least we all know about it. Airing our collective grievances can sometimes make us feel better :)

      Bon weekend to you, too!

  13. 30 lauren September 24, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    oh, how funny – that’s my cat, steve! he’ll be so pleased to know he has an international audience. as it happens, he steals letters and packages (and receipts, and credit cards, and paper money – especially paper money) – so your illustration is especially apt. i hope your relationship with the post has improved since you wrote about it!

  14. 32 RoseMurasaki December 8, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    I think it’s a problem with the sorting office, and affects packages from overseas more than packages sent from within France. I have lost books, dvds, clothes, bags, newspaper cuttings, magazines on subscription etc Repeated complaints fell on deaf ears – no-one who worked for La Poste gave a damn.

    Once talked to a French friend who had actually worked for La Poste and he confirmed what I’d long suspected – that some of the folk in the sorting office just help themselves systematically to whatever takes their fancy.

    It’s pathetic, it really is.

    The following article article is about Italy, but I suspect it applies to some parts of France too:
    http://www.securityinfowatch.com/root+level/1279047?pageNum=1

  15. 34 Christina Smith December 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I’ve had this problem as well. Back in 2008 two large packages from my family went missing. Sadly, the assumed they would get to me and lost all of their papers from sending them so they couldn’t claim any missing packages to get some money back. We’ve since moved to a new apartment and thankfully seem to not have a stealing mailman now. I’ve successfully gotten many packages this last year and my parents are sending their their card package of the year after resorting to small cards here and there.
    La Poste is one of the most ridiculous institutions in France now in the US when people send things through the regular mail they have to give even more detailed descriptions and they are entered into the computers for ALL to see at any time they want to look up the package. How much more easy is it going to be for a worker to look up what’s in a package and see a detailed description more so than what was written on the front before. Ugh it’s getting quite out of hand.
    And then at the end of year they sell off all the items that they didn’t want to take home personally. I see it on the news all the time posting the items that are “unclaimed” for profit. Makes me sick.

    • 35 paris (im)perfect December 20, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      Well I couldn’t have voiced my outrage better! Yeah, I just don’t do the package thing AT ALL in France anymore. Which is a real shame, but just reflecting reality. I’ve lived at 2 different addresses in Paris so far and had problem with both. Maybe one of my criteria for my next move should involve scoping out the local post first. Third time’s a charm? :)


  1. 1 Pages or a Package? « paris (im)perfect Trackback on October 18, 2010 at 5:53 pm
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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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