Saturday, December 10

Italian Post Office Blues

I have been sending out copies of my book recently to places far and wide.  And incredibly, books were delivered to the person intended in under four days - and these were to places as disparate as outside Milan, the Siena hillside, London, and Calabria.  So much so, I thought maybe I'd have to eventually eliminate the chapter in my book, The Postman Never Rings (even) Once.  
In fact, with all the talk these days of the U.S. Postal service eliminating saturday delivery, it looks like I might have to republish the chapter in a book on the USA.
While discussing the post office and all the terrific things one can do inside this update of the Ancient Forum main square, one newcomer to Italy remarked to a colleague that he'd never set foot inside an American post office in his life but after moving to Italy, he'd already been there five times in under 2 months!  
Another Italian friend was totally bummed out because he had to step inside the post office  to make some transactions.  He was worried about the wait.  I had never thought of it, but that's because it was the first of the month.  The elderly would be mobbing the joint to collect their pension checks.  So that's why I sometimes found that I was the youngest one at the post office!  Certainly - the young immigrants now use call centers or Western Union outposts to wire their money home...
And while it looks like these days money might buy efficiency (it's now €5.50 just to send my light book outside Italy), I'll stick by my comment under the book entry entitled, Going Postal:
For any expatriate or any Italian who has lived abroad                                          Post Office horror stories are legend:  true legends.
 Feel free to post yours!

6 comments:

Jacques said...

(Very) recent Poste Italiane Horror Story:
Recent trip to the poste (early this week, before the Immacolata, so Pensionati a GoGo for me too) to send a Christmas package to the States.
First time elder daughter will be away for Christmas, so 2,4KG of stuff for her. Look on-line, and of all the various options, I discover that the presumably cheapest but most sadly abbreviated Pacco ordinario Estero (POE) requires you to call toll free (not from a cell phone) to have information about prices and times range greatly based on any number of unlisted (and seemingly undiscoverable) factors, the operator informs me.
In the end, it looks like Internazionale EMS is the best solution: da 2 a 5 giorni lavorativi; €37.00; and tracking of the package. Disadvantages: there are a lot of countries it doesn't reach (USA is one it does though), and some post offices can't accept EMS.
Check on-line and my ufficio di zona is listed so I'm set (yeah right, this is "un thriller italiano").
Wait in line, as the wicked old miserly lady at the front gives me dirty looks anytime I near the window to ask for the modulistica, interrupting her collecting what looks like 50+ €100 bills of pensione counting them out and recounting for safety, and when it's my turn, it turns out they aren't where they should be. Look around, ask the colleagues, look around some more (two of them together). "Must be "finiti, we hardly do EMS any more, sure you don't want PaccoCelere it's only €9 more. I can order more forms but they might not make it before the 'ponte'", so I get them to call the next closest ufficio (from which they inform me they get restocked anyway) and they say "good to go, she has them".
Trek over there 15 minutes away, wait in line to avoid other ornery pensionati, but manage to slide in between one and another just to ask for the modulo EMS but she has to go dig then out so I need to wait my turn anyway. Two more people and then its me, and the Signora goes back and digs in one pile, then another, then a third, and "I was sure I had some, but they must be finiti". "Ma Signora" I exclaim, explaining I had them call just to make sure before making the trip specifically for that. She answers, getting less patient with the Americano that insists on using one of the postal services advertised by the Italian Postal Service... "Well, I was sure, but I can't be going and checking anytime someone asks me to check something for work or I'd never get any work done!". Upon my repeated insistence, she calls (she realizes it is the only way to get rid of me without a scene and maybe a "reclamo" about whoever took the last modulo not re-ordering and creating problems for her next upcoming "premio produttività") and talking to the Main Post Office (another 10 minutes away) this time she says they actually checked. Let's hope so.
Over there, this one has really big lines (they even have an electronic number board they are so big), but I manage to ask when a distracted number doesn't go up soon enough, and get it. Go to fill in the forms and wait my turn (25 minutes' wait in the Ufficio Grande) to find out they only take cash for postal services unless you have a PostaMat BancoPoste BancoMat, while all the other stuff you can pay with any old bancomat. Just manage to scrape by (no coffee money left until I get to a Bancomat) and the guy in the end says, why don't you just send it PaccoCelere Internazionale, as with EMS Internazionale there is only tracking until the Italian border. "What?" what good is tracking on an Internazionale unless you can track that it arrives? For four days now (hopefully it is only because it is still "ponte lungo") I have the last tracking entry as "LA SPEDIZIONE E' PARTITA - Milano Gateway Poste Italiane".

cuzliz said...

The one that still makes me chuckle is while living in Santa Maria Degli Angeli, I opened a savings account at the post office. It was a small office with "tellers" using computers to help customers with their bills. When I showed up to do banking they did not look my account up in the computer; they had to search through stacks and stacks of file folders piled up on tables. Needless to say, I waited quite a while and did as few transactions with them as possible, opting instead for the ATM.

Anonymous said...

Having said that - I haven't had my book delivered to Tizzola yet?

Francesca Maggi said...

Anonymous...I don't know who you are! Have you ordered a book & it never arrived?? Please contact me thru paypal...

Meanwhile, yesterday I spent an hour watching the clerk put dozens of stamps covering the entire envelope on each book becuase her machine didn't work (so I thought)... She had to figure out how to get to 5.50 using .60 1.20 & .75 denominations.

I finally discovered that the machine just didn't print labels above 3 euro. I asked...so why don't we just print 2 labels in a matter of seconds, one for 3 euro & another for 2.50? Instead of gluing, calculating, over-sticking, under-sticking?
Naturally, my comment fell on deaf ears (as I say in the book...the glass is so thick they can't hear you anyway)...

Francesca Maggi said...

I just read in the Italian Insider a journalist's horror story over her Xmas hampers filled with goodies to her grandparents in England.
She ended up going back three times, once because she showed up at closing, the second time they refused the box cuz it had writing on it, and the third, they took it after she put tape over the writing...
Still, the cost of the shipping was over the cost of the goods inside!
Always do internet purchases - and buy locally!!!

Francesca Maggi said...

@Jacques: two things

1) I can't believe your p.ofc doesn't distinguish betw letter senders & financial transactions! I thought that was national by now...

2) Ya gotta find out where the nearest Suisse Post or Vatican is for stuff like that...same price but surer service!

As for me, I'm giving up sending pkgs anywhere. The rates are so high they take the pleasure straight out of it!