Know your French stamps

Photo of French stamps, copyright LeFrancoPhoney blogDid you know that French stamps come in three flavours? Since October 2011, there have been different classes of mail in France. I doubt that my monthly rental cheque — which, after I post in the box in Saint Jean de Sixt, goes to Annecy for sorting, then back up to La Clusaz for delivery — ever makes it to its destination within the 24 hours that the red stamp aims for, so I try to send it early. For years, I’ve been using the red ‘next day’ stamp without confidence. I could have been using the green stamp (called ‘lettre verte‘ or ‘ecolettre‘ in French), which offers 48-hour delivery and more ecological methods of delivery by using alternatives to airmail. I’m not convinced about the 48 hours, by the way. This is, after all, the country that delivered me a Christmas card in June and then delivered my own package that I’d posted three days earlier (accepted by the post office man and rejected by the sorting office).

But wait, there’s more.

The grey stamp is even cheaper, and offers delivery of up to four days. Just what sort of alternative are they using that would make it slower than the green stamp? Are they using donkeys? I just wonder if buying a grey stamp is what people do when they don’t want something delivered. Time to pay your tax bill? No worries: add a grey stamp and that cheque you’re sending will probably never be cashed. Don’t like your fiancée’s best friend? Not a problem: add a grey stamp to that wedding invitation and prepare yourself for that discussion — “Oh, you didn’t get the invitation in the mail? But I sent it a month ago”. Job done.

But wait, there’s more.

You must be as curious as I was to discover how much money can be saved by using a grey or green stamp. Brace yourselves. The red stamp costs 60c. You will save an entire 2c on a green stamp and a whole 4c on a grey stamp. Yes, brace yourselves for how ridiculously pointless these cheaper stamps really are.

Anyway, I must go: I need to stick this red stamp on my rental cheque and post it so it arrives before the end of the month.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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4 comments on “Know your French stamps
  1. John says:

    I love the logic of the differential mail delivery options, even if practice does not quiet keep up with logic.
    What does the 20g mean on the stamp?

  2. Wendy says:

    I guess the logic is that it works in favour of La Poste! My expectations of mail delivery aren’t nearly as high here as they used to be in Australia and the UK. The 20g means you can send up to 20 grams of weight on one stamp. Any more, and you need to add stamps.

  3. So true! I used to depend on the mail many years ago to deliver my translations. I was so pleased when modems, then email arrived. I didn’t know about the grey stamps though. The lady at the PO in Blois was trying to push the green ones the other day. I replied that it was important that my clients actually got their bills and that my payments arrived in time. She actually laughed! In Paris, it’s slightly more efficient. We live near the big central PO at the Louvre which helps.

  4. Sue says:

    HA! Don’t even go near the Italian postal service..

    The local posties are fine, but go anywhere near a big sorting office… A few years ago a senior trade unionist was reported in the press trying to justify thefts by saying how poorly paid staff were. I wanted to ask him at what point in the salary scale he thought theft could no longer be justifed, and what his honest members felt about his statement…

    I dropped an earring (Aussie Ironstone as it happens) at a friend’s and she posted it on to me. Half-inched from the envelope probably because they thought it might be gold. As for speeed of delivery – random, it can be reasonable but if the local postie in a village is away they don’t always think of getting another one in to do the job.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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