I dedicate todays’s blog to all Americans who complain about the so-called poor service provided by their postal service.
Today I have to mail a letter to America. I dread this experience! Postal workers in Italy do not pick up mail at homes, they only deliver. Lines at the Post are long, and service snail-like, and I learn all over again to appreciate my postal service in the states.
Italian post offices are nothing like what is found in the states but a more complex affair, more than the mailing and picking up packages. It is a government mailing and banking system combined. The colossal problem is that most everyone pays their sewer, lights, gas, water, and television tax bills at the post. Not only do we pay bills here but while standing in line, one can view a catalog of goods where they can be purchased through the mail clerk. Purchases, such as a cell phones complete with monthly service, a television set, bicycles, lawn furniture,and even kitchen appliances are offered. The Post also receives the payment for a Bolletino Postale, one of which I purchased last week to take to my driving school as a receipt for the test I will take soon. (Much more on the driving test later on)
The progression of all these transactions is not streamlined, made worse by computers, although semi new, run slowly, and so this battle royal, becomes a human traffic jam. You would think the populace would revolt, but this is not how Italians are wired. They accept the tedium, the squandering of time spent waiting for their turn. They all stand, stare at the floor and wait obediently for their timely lucky number to be called. We all have window seats on this ride!
The process for paying a bill takes at least 4 minutes per bill. The computer sucks up the bill, runs it back and forth several times, then it is printed on, and cut in half The clerk signs the bill, pounds it with a slam of a rubber stamp, counts your money, and all paper money is run it thorough a counterfeit checking machine. People with more than one bill, cause a repeat of the same process. Imagine a line of 15 people waiting to pay bills and you arrive as individual number 16.
But wait, there’s more! Retirees have their monthly retirement money held by the Post, where if chosen this way, so they can withdraw money for their weekly expenses. A post office and a bank! Never go to the Post on a payday!
My major grievance with the postal system here is the price of sending a letter to America. Ah the old days where buying a post card cost more than the stamp to send it to the states. Nowadays the price of a postcard is 30 cents, and a stamp for a postcard to the states is $2.85 euros, which is close to the same amount in dollars. A letter of two pages would cost even more as they carefully weigh a letter and charge accordingly. If I get a letter or card from the states I notice that the U.S. stamp has cost a whole lot less.
Another squabble I have here is that the post is open on Saturdays but they do not deliver mail. I won’t be hearing the sound of my delivery lady’s motorbike.
Our post offices in the big cities are not user friendly. Just last week I had to mail a letter in Padova. Upon entering the office one must use a push button to choose which of five services I needed and then receive a small piece of paper with a reservation number. It is difficult to figured out which button to push. I have seen Italians who, like me, also have some difficulty knowing which button is correct. There have been times when finally reaching a clerk, I have been told to go back and try another button.
I hope more than a few dissatisfied and cranky patrons of the postal service in America who have the sudden inclination to grab their pitchfork and get revenge read this blog. You’ve got a good thing going!