Long-term readers may remember the postcard I blogged about which was addressed to my friend with the wrong address, the wrong post code, the correct village and the wrong surname. More recently, there was the realisation that mail does not get into a letterbox unless it has the recipient’s name on it. And last weekend, I discovered that in France, oversized envelopes, bubble wrap, padded envelopes and basic brown paper are not available at the post office or the typical outlets you’d expect. That sounds ridiculous, right? Well, they’re kind of avaialble, but not really. Let me explain.
I know some post offices around the world (like in England, for example) demand that you buy your padded envelope — from the large selection — from the separate retail purchases counter. You can then take your envelope home to pack, dance with it, do what you like with it, or you can add some goodies to it right there in the post office, then head to the official postal service counter and pay for postage. Other countries (like Australia) provide post offices where you can buy packaging to suit your needs at the same counter, then quickly bundle up your items while chatting to the staff if there’s no queue.
France, however, doesn’t seem to stock packaging products at any of the places you’d expect. I needed to send two parcels last weekend. At 10 in the morning, I tried the post office, but the only packaging there were postage-pre-paid boxes and tough-bags and one pre-paid padded envelope, and all these options were expensive because the postage (to Europe only) was already included. Why on earth would I pay €30+ for an envelope which I then have to pay for postage to Australia on top of that?
So, I left the crowded post office and hit the supermarket. There were some standard A4 envelopes, but no padded envelopes and no rolls of brown paper. I then tried two news agents, but they didn’t even have a standard letter envelope for sale! Where do people go to buy padded envelopes here? I need to know.
With the pressure of the post office closing at midday, I desperately needed to get these gifts sent so they would arrive before Christmas and a birthday. Finally, at another supermarket, I found two metres of brown paper covered in cartoon santas and other festive images. No worries: inside out and it became normal brown paper. I used the whole lot. A friend has since told me about a shop which may stock padded envelopes. If they do stock them, I’m going to buy up big and consider opening a stand outside the post office.
UPDATE: I wrote this entry before I went shopping this morning. By this afternoon, I had discovered that rolls of brown paper can be found at Ikea in Switzerland, and supermarkets in Annecy stock very small padded envelopes. I guess the local supermarkets here stock containers of grass for cats and stuff instead. Yes, I bought a container of grass for my cat.