Post 799: petulant postal clerks…

I like France. I love France! I’m glad I had a chance to visit France a few times to visit my friends Ralph and Deborah when I was stationed in Germany. France is a charming, beautiful country.

The French people are very nice, no matter what you’ve heard about them. Nice. Except for those in positions of minor authority. Like postal clerks, one of whom figures in today’s blog. I hope I remember the details correctly. It’s been 22 years…!

Back in America, I wrote my European friends often, always posting packages and letters with the latest US commemoratives. It was my way of waving the flag, I suppose, of proselytizing in the name of the United States of America. Besides, they were pretty, historic, folkloric, and loaded with razzle-dazzle. I believe my friend Ralph gave them to his godson.

Similarly, I carefully soaked stamps off letters from abroad so I could give them to the son of a friend at work, a boy who had a stamp collection.

” La liberté guidant le peuple”

For the most part, the French stamps my friend used at the time were definitives, that is, regular every day stamps, not particularly interesting, that featured Marianne or the French cock crowing. The US equivalent would be any of a dozen US flag issues or dull US Presidents. Yeah.

I think this is the exact issue, but can't be 100% sure for reason brought out in the text.

I think this is the exact issue, but can’t be 100% sure for reasons brought out in the text.

So, the day I got a letter from Ralph with this spectacular château commemorative on it, I thought he’d really hit a home run! What a thing of beauty. How French! How unique in size and presentation! Except…the stamp had at least half a dozen big, blobby postmarks all over it and, when I soaked it off the envelope, I discovered the cancellations had ripped it in several places. The stamp was worthless as something to give to a young philatelist. Besides, you barely could make out the design, it was smeared so badly with black ink from the cancellation stamp.

I was disappointed, disgusted, sad, and mad that this best stamp I’d ever seen, any country, was vandalized by the French post office! Didn’t they realize the letter was going abroad and that it was meant to show something very good about their country?!

Rendered on this definitive, Marianne is a bit tamer!

Rendered on this definitive, Marianne is a bit tamer!


In the spirit of full disclosure, I note one local post office clerk drives me crazy every time I try to do anything outside of her sense of what’s reasonable. The US Postal Service issued a international “Forever” stamp that featured a hologram picture of the earth. The stamp is circular. I wanted to send a package to England using commemoratives, including this stamp. She refused to sell me any because I wanted all she had left. I couldn’t talk her out of selling me even one!

Here’s a link to the USPS announcement for that international “Forever” stamp. The stamp is pretty cool, so you can imagine why I might want to use that instead of a postal meter postage label:

When I filled out the customs and “I haven’t put a damn bomb in this package, as though I’d tell you if I did” declarations, I noted the country to which the package was going was England. She couldn’t pull it up on her computer. She insisted there was no such place as “England”.

I showed her the address label from the package from England that I was using to address the package to England, noting that perhaps it was listed as the United Kingdom or Great Britain in her computer, though the package address label, written out by a citizen of this fantasy land that didn’t exist, stated the country was “England”…! But what did a citizen of that kingdom know? Damn English arrogance!

Seriously, I wanted to tell her that, but bit my tongue and suggested she try Great Britain, which, I think, was the way it showed up in her computer.

Jeez! You’d think someone working for years in the post office would know other possible ways to possibly bring up customs and other postal details for packages to Sussex, England!

I eventually settled for a metered postage strip, no commemoratives, and I changed the customs and “I haven’t put a damn bomb in this package, as though I’d tell you if I did” declarations to reflect whichever name the US Postal Service computer preferred for a Sussex, England address.

Now, if I want anything special, I don’t ask for it if she’s at the window, and, mostly, I send away to the US Postal Service’s Stamp Fulfillment Service if I want stinking special issues that one should be able to buy at the local post office no matter how many the clerk is willing to sell.


Then there was that clerk in the post office in Strasbourg who had a cow when I walked in with my camera around my neck. But that’s another time and place. I’m sick of postal clerks for today! That had something to do with it being illegal to take photos inside French post offices, something that generally is pretty difficult to do when the lens cap is on.

37 thoughts on “Post 799: petulant postal clerks…

  1. I thank you for the way you love France . This is touching .
    Someztimes the post office sells vollector stamps :
    I do not remember ‘ laa liberté guidant le peuple ” on a stamp bit I remember Chinon castle . I went there 🙂
    I am not surprised the UK are the only one name for the US post office . In France we can write “England ” on our package because of the history . We recognize Scotland from England . Besdes Elizabeth II is officially queen of England and queen of Scotland . Long History .
    Thanks for this post
    In friendship

    • France is an amazing, beautiful place! I can’t imagine anyone visiting France and not wanting to move there. I was fortunate, too, to have two friends living in Paris (later, Strasbourg and Hunawihr) when I was stationed in the US Army in Kaiserslautern, Germany, because that made visits to France more fun and meaningful than just visiting as a tourist would be. Anyway, I love the place! Vive la France, eh?! Vive!

  2. I can not deal with, and will not deal with morons any more. If they have no idea what they are doing I ask for someone else. I have gotten extremely short tempered in my old age when I have to ask the person behind me if I had stated what I wanted clearly enough, or ask a clerk if she/he speaks English. I am not above asking for a supervisor.
    They hate me in Walmart.

    • I remember talking with a family friend several years ago. I was in my 40s and she was retired, late 60s. She told me she was very impatient as a young person, that she couldn’t wait till she got older and more patient. Then she told me the exact opposite happened. “Not only did I become less patient, I became less tolerant of stupid people. The only difference between me then and now is now I am damn happy with the way I am!” LOL! Sounds a lot like you, Ruth! And me!

  3. Enjoyed the tutorial about the British Isle, Ireland, and related topics. That was fun.

    I once had a professor who said that if you want to find out what people were doing in a given era, read the laws made against it. Some laws are very funny (like not walking your pet skunk in town) I think the “no pictures in the post office must fall into that category. 🙂

    • It was in Strasbourg, which, of course, is near the French-German border. I think the intent is meant to keep the charming military potential of public buildings secret from the other guy.

  4. I go through this all the time it’s the sound in your voice or the look in your eye or the fact that you have two heads they just want you to be wrong while they are the only ones rite
    It’s not the stamp it’s not the package
    You are not suppose to know people in England

    • Yes, because mailing a package to England (or Great Britain…!) requires looking up customs requirements and filling out some forms. Clearly time wasters, people with friends abroad!

  5. You know the really sickening thing about this clerk? Not only is she stupid, rude, discriminatory and completely lacking in social skills, she represents the face of the federal government to any and all who come into that post office. An American receiving her service would disgust and anger us but if a person from another country were to try to use her services then it would be utterly humiliating representation of the USA. I would turn her in and file a formal complaint. For a postal worker not to know where England is located is inexcusable. Postal workers should be near experts in geography!

    I am afraid I would not have been as patient and amicable with the clerk as you were. Standing in any line for more than a few minutes begins to ramp up my pain level exponentially so when I eventually get to the clerk, my patience for utter stupidity is non-existent. Likewise, who the heck is she to deny selling you any kind of stamp? There is no legitimate reason for the stupid cow to deny selling anyone any kind of stamp for which they are willing to pay! She and I would have had a problem. I do not tolerate rude, incompetent people. Ugh! I feel your frustration and disgust as if it were my own. I cannot believe she is representing the United States, what a complete embarrassment. I would certainly file an official complaint with the postal service. Its hard enough for you to get out and about to run your errands and then you have to spend precious energy on someone so unworthy of it. Sickening, truly and utterly sickening.

    • I rarely go in to mail things these days. It’s just as easy to buy stamps from the USPS Stamp Fulfillment Service. You pay $1.35 shipping and handling for orders up to $50, and $1.85 for orders over $50. The stamps are availble as singles, plate blocks, strips, just about any configuration or number you want. You pay face value for the stamps. Any new stamp and many older issues (till they run out of an old issue) are available, and you don’t have to wait in line for a surly clerk. That’s my way to get stamps!

  6. Oh my…We listened to the recording of the definition of England and other British colonies…that are and used to be. OMG….how confusing. We saw it through as a school lesson as we are Canadian and we should know these things. All we can say is we hope that you aren’t going to quiz us about it! MOL

    (((Shoko, Kali and Jean)))

    • Hmm. Pop quiz Friday…! No, quiz, but I thought the explanation was as good as you’ll see, not to mention entertaining. I’m sure many people are unaware of the distinctions or think about the distinctions. Same with the Netherlands vs. Holland. Technically not the same, though conventionally we use the names interchangeably!

    • There seem to be public servants who are unfit for jobs where they interact with the public. I’m sure I was slowing things down when I asked for something other than a postage meter postage label fro the package, though I let several people get in line ahead of me because I realized I was going to take more time than usual. I can stand short times before I start to feel lots of pain in my legs, so I was being very noble!

  7. Having a day of it are you? 😉 When we were in Portugal, occasionally we would get an envelope that had travelled to Poland or once even Panama. I have to wonder what sort of exam postal workers have to pass. I know that Portugal is one of the least well known European countries, but for reals?

    • Letters from Amsterdam or to took three days, typically. Letters from the middle of the US, where I live, to the West Coast, where my brother lives, take five days.

      I’m with you: What knowledge do they have to bring into the job to get the job? Most clerks at the local post office are easy to deal with. Over the years, they’ve even been very helpful. It’s just this one that drives me nuts, and I turn around and leave if she’s at the window. If the second window’s open, I’ll go to it.

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