I am fairly certain that most of the people who will read this will be American or at the very least non-British and therefore it will be a completes mystery to them but I am British and the last thing I would do would be to complain.

Can't do it.

No matter how disappointing the restaurant meal, no matter how rude the shop assistant, no matter what nonsense the man on the phone throws at me as an excuse, I can't complain or if I do, I suffer.

A fortnight ago I mentioned, almost in passing, that something, perhaps, in my opinion, wasn't quite right; there was something like a disagreement.  It has never been referred to but things are being done better now so I should be chalking one up to the good guy but instead I am racked with guilt.  I didn't quite complain but I disagreed and they took it as a complaint and now . . . 

I am stressed if I complain and stressed when I don't.


So, anyway, imagine the levels of stress I reached today when I went to post some mail.

Last week I vowed not to go to that post office again.  It had not been a happy experience.  But today I only had one thing to post and it was not my usual time or day and I felt optimistic for a moment ...

I was particularly pleased with the envelope but it will never arrive.  I left room for either a stamp or one of their beloved labels but, instead of using the space, the assistant slapped the label over the post code and my return address label, flung it quickly into the open post bag and stood looking at me with an expression that seemed to be daring me to say something; anything by way of a complaint.

I will not be going back there and haven't much of an idea where I can go to safely post things now.

I am certain that envelope is lost.

I feel just as lost.

But I still won't complain!

envelope with space for the label marked:

envelope with where the label went . . .

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Comment by Mary Anne on October 14, 2019 at 5:59pm

Totally agree.

I only know they haven't arrived because of this damn computer.  They may have been going AWL for years and I wouldn't know.  I never expect answers but I think I do expect deliveries.  Makes no sense really but there it is . . .

I had an idea that the labels are preferred, by the post offices, over stamps because they are not prepaid and lying about in stock books for months on end.  On the odd occasion the assistant opens their book up for a stamp, I notice that there are precious few stamps of any denomination inside, and hardly ever a 'special' (unless there has just been an issue).  It all comes down to economics.

On many occasions i would take envelopes into the PO with a row of my own stamps on them and the staff nearly always assumed them real stamps and would start counting up the values . . . They hardly ever saw 'special' stamps and had no idea.  Thus began my disenchantment with RM . . .

Comment by Alan Brignull on October 14, 2019 at 5:48pm

But look at it this way, the Royal Mail has already had the money for those old unused stamps. They've been earning interest on it for decades, why not make them finally provide a service for them? I believe that the PO branch makes a profit on the sticker machine labels, but not on the sale of Royal Mail stamps, which might explain their reluctance.

And consider this, some of your 'lost' mail may actually be with other people who also have piles of unopened new arrivals!

Comment by Mary Anne on October 14, 2019 at 9:40am

Dear Alan, I have a huge pile of 'new arrivals' but I have been so busy with glue and scissors that I have had scarce the time to glance at them all.  I like, in any case, to keep a few unopened envelopes, in case of unexpected glooms.  I am sure your Panarchy pack is here.  I haven't forgotten you but my unexplained loss of so much mail has left me with a fit of the insecurities and a suddenly expanded 'to do' list.

As for your comments about the counter clerk I fear you may be right . . . at least I can't think of any other explanation.  I have a vague hope that the envelope will be opened and my address found inside (she covered my return address label as well as the post code) so that it may turn up back here as ;un-deliverable'  Then, I suppose, I have the option of a complaint . . . we'll see.

There are now only three post offices in the town; one of them being an automated counter inside a local branch of a once famous news agency.  The General Post Office closed last spring.  The little post office I used to use has changed owner which is where my difficulties seem to have begun; all my tame, vaguely interested assistants have gone.

There are two minor things wrong with your posting instructions, wrong for me that is, not the rest of the sane world.

First, I like - or used to like - the random contribution made by the counter clerk; their choice of stamp, not mine; their positioning of it, not mine etc. etc..  Together with the unpredictable post-markings they added a little something to the end result that appealed to me.  I was a bit disorientated when they started using labels instead of stamps but I discovered that if I put one or two low values on the cover myself they would forego the dreaded label and make up the cost with proper stamps.

secondly, I find myself kicking against the lack of service everywhere these days, but that is my own problem I suppose.  I don't see why I should kit myself out as a post office and do the job myself just because of their profit margins.

Oh and another thing - you mentioned 'criminals' selling un franked used stamps?  If Royal Mail did their job properly - cancelled mail as they should with date and place of posting and everything plain and readable - then there wouldn't be a problem in the first place . . . moan moan winge winge . . . 

Comment by Alan Brignull on October 14, 2019 at 7:22am

Mary Anne, I'd say if that postal person put the label over the address they are either stupid or they have something against you or your mail. If you can't find another PO then do as I do and get a leaflet of postal rates, buy one of those 'Pricing in Proportion' rulers with measuring slots in (Helix make one), some digital kitchen scales and a lot of stamps of various values. If you can't face the PO counter then you can get stamps by post from Royal Mail HQ or mixed old values on eBay (make sure you get 'full original gum', there are a lot of criminals who sell used but uncancelled stamps). Then you can just pop it in the pillar box with no embarrassment. And like me, you can post first thing in the morning without  making yourself late for work.

Did you get my 'panarchy pack' sent on 27 August?

Comment by Sabrina S on October 10, 2019 at 2:52pm

Hm, not sure if it's a generational thing, as I also know older people that like to complain to the staff when something don't work as they want to... but you say it, madness, and struggling with our upbringing.... 

By the way, I avoid to go to the post office. Usually there is a long .que... I forgot how to write that word - and the staff also don't appreciate Mail Art but see it as some kind of disturbance of their routine. I buy the stamps online and put it into a letterbox. Sometimes the letters are to big and then I have to go to the post office. I hate that. 

And I also love your work! 

Comment by Samantha Price on October 9, 2019 at 5:54am

how unfortunate that the postal clerks seem so dismayed by MA-- especially urs, as i find it absolutely fabulous. 

i have my dad get 95% of all my outgoing mail hand canceled so they can enjoy it 2. as soon as he walks in2 the PO, they get excited by his presence & if its not 2 busy, other clerks gather around 2 check out the days offerings. its super important 2 me 2 have as many ppl in the postal system b apart of the excitement & so its a bit disheartening 2 hear that they don’t feel the same way about it across the pond. ugh.

Comment by Mary Anne on October 8, 2019 at 4:34pm

P.S. Sabrina; do you think it is a generational thing, all this nonsense?

Comment by Mary Anne on October 8, 2019 at 4:25pm

Thank you Sabrina for cheering me up!  I have been sat here doing, what my mother would have called 'dwelling', and getting no where by it.  I recognise the habit of complaining to the wrong person . . . isn't that just another type on not complaining?

We are all, it seems, struggling under the yoke of our upbringing, plus a hefty slice of national stereotyping.  That I suppose, is the price of civilisation; but, as you point out, the assistant was wrong, so I was wrong not to complain but . . .

Its madness, all madness.

Still, I was cheered for a moment . . .

Comment by Sabrina S on October 8, 2019 at 4:11pm

Oh my... first I was speechless about this, but now I have to say,  I had no idea that Germans and British are like... opposites. Complaining is some kind of sports among frustrated Germans and there are battles going on who is the most unfortunate person on the planet. But well, I have to admit, older people often don't address their complains to the right person, so they tell you that someone made something wrong, but you're not that person. So what to do with that information? My advice, to tell the right person, is always useless. They just don't do it. Whatever. In your case I would additional go mad because the person at the post office did something wrong. I mean, there are RULES for this! The stamp is in the right corner. Always! Incompetence is not tolerated in Germany. Tarring and feathering! 

Comment by Jayne Barket Lyons on October 8, 2019 at 2:53pm

I see the conundrum, Mary Anne! How unfortunate that the recipient may not get your beautiful mail.



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