Rain nor sleet nor snow…

October 12, 2005

Argentine Postal Worker Rain nor sleet nor snow will stop the mail, but don´t put any tape on it, or there is going to be a problem!

One of the things I really like about travel is how it makes me look at even the most mundane activities with a fresh perspective. I recently discovered an interesting variant of Dominoes where the dominoes go up to 9/9 (instead of 6/6), and being a fan of all sorts of games I bought a set for $12.50. Since they weigh a kilo (2.2 lbs) and I didn´t want to carry them around I went to the post office this morning to mail them home. What could be more mundane?

The post office itself was very much like the large impressive marble palaces built in the US during the WPA. Inside it was crowded with dozens of people paying phone bills, registering to vote for the election here at the end of the month, and wiring money. Of course I immediately looked for the longest line knowing it would be the one I needed. I was not disappointed. I left Soyan in line and went up to make sure that it was the right line, and to find out what packaging or paperwork I might need so I did not have to wait in line a second

The postal worker explained that they only provided envelopes for express mail, which he estimated would cost $30.00, but I could send it regular mail for about $10.00, however I would need to go across the street and buy an envelope. I left Soyan in line and went to get an envelope. I was first offered an 9×12 padded envelope that looked like it would work well, but I´d need to fold the envelope over and tape it up so the dominoes didn´t move around and break through the package. The salesman explained that the post office would not accept it folded up like that, so I inquired about a smaller envelope. He
told me that the dominoes wouldn´t fit in the smaller envelope, but eventually he let me try and they indeed fit perfectly.

I used the single use self sealing closure on the envelope and sealed it up. Given the width of the dominoes it put a little pressure on the closure and I asked for some tape to close it. The salesman looked sheepish and explained that I had to seal the envelope in the presence of the postal worker to avoid running afoul of postal export rules. I bought a second envelope while he explained that in addition to not folding my envelope, I could not apply tape of any sort to it.

I thanked him, addressed my envelope and hustled over to get to Soyan before she got to the head of the line. I praised myself for the efficient use of time and for having figured out the system.

When it was our turn I approached the postal worker and presented my dominoes and envelope. He looked at them and asked me if they´d fit and I assured him they would. He put them in and sealed the package. I told him I worried that it might open the way it was. He told me that I need not worry and gave a gentle tug on the seal to demonstrate the needlessness of my concern. Of course the seal responded by tearing part way open.

I suggested that perhaps we could apply some tape. He explained that if the package had tape, it would be an indication that someone had tampered with it and resealed it. Then he looked quizzically at the partially open seal and wandered off. He returned a moment later with a loop of tape around the package and stamped the tape with a rubber stamp that I suspected was likely to rub off on some other package almost immediately.

I thanked him for his assistance and he told me that it would take more than thanks, I would need to pay to send my package. I assured him that it was in fact my intent to pay.

He asked me if I´d like to send it quickly or slowly and I told him that minimizing cost was the primary consideration rather than speed. He told me that it would cost $25.00 “certificado”. I protested that the estimate had been $10.00. After some consultation with an adjacent postal worker he agreed to check the price for sending it “regular”. It was $23.00. Apparently the weight of my padded envelope caused me to exceed the magic 1 kilo limit and bumped up the price.

I sprung for the “certificado” paying twice as much to ship my dominoes home as I had paid to buy them.

1 Comment »

  1. For some reason, when I started reading this story, I thought it would be really interesting. The way you presented it, it seemed like it would go somewhere. And as I came closer and closer to the end, I began to worry that nothing very interesting was going to happen. But by that time I was already so close to the end, and had invested a certain amount of time, that I had to go ahead and finish it.

    Sure enough, it ended on kind of a soggy note. I mean, it just sort of ended all of a sudden. No resolution. No climax. What the hell?

    I’m not saying I expected it to be some mind-blowing story. I wasn’t looking for it to have amazing insights into the human condition or anything.

    I wasn’t expecting you, for example, to suddenly pull out a Colt 44 and stick it up to the postal workers head and say “I was quoted 10 dollars, amigo, and 10 dollars is what I’m paying!” and then go to the bar across the street and bang the hot cocktail waitress on the table while her boyfriend stands by helplessly. It didn’t have to be as exiting as all that. But geez… I mean, SOMETHING could have happened. Something besides you overpaying for shipping an item.

    Listen: You’re probably an interesting guy - you’re some kind of entrepreneur, apparently, and you travel a lot, so you can’t be too boring, I guess. But your stories could use a little “spicing up”.

    Next time, try to include a little sex and violence. Or maybe a UFO or something. Know what I’m saying?

    Comment by Uncle Phil — December 20, 2006 @ 6:00 am

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