A blog for anyone who understands the joy of writing and receiving handwritten letters.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Postal misadventures

Sometimes, just sometimes things can go a little awry in the world of snail mail. For example, Queenie over at Queenie and the Dew keeps getting her own mailed letters returned to her by Royal Mail in the UK. Wouldn't that just drive you nuts?

I had my own little misadventure the other day, and it was to do with a Postcrossing postcard that I'd sent to Spain. I was happy to hear that my postcard had arrived safe and sound but was absolutely flabbergasted by  the comment from the recipient. She said she was 'disappointed' with the card because it wasn't a 'proper' postcard. She told me that postcrossing was about sending real postcards, not photos stuck to paper.

My immediate thought was "How rude!" Truth be known, I don't adore every card I get sent but I realise that the sender picked that card out for me, wrote on it, paid postage and mailed it - therefore I would never criticise them.

Is that just me? Are others more choosy? I'm still in my early days with postcrossing.... once I've received 500 postcards will I be more picky?

I had a few other responses, too! Particularly re her comment that Postcrossing was about sending proper postcards. Is it? I know that many participants are happy to send and receive handmade postcards (me included). In fact, I value anything a bit different, quirky or unique.

I also think that Postcrossing is about the spirit of friendship and generosity and reaching out to others around the world. To say it is just about sending proper postcards really minimises it, as far as I'm concerned.

So, what about the postcard I had sent her?

The thing is that my little town of Yass (pop. 5000) doesn't have a lot of 'official' postcards. The newsagents only stocks one that has an actual view of Yass, and that is a picture of the Court House. It's a big white building with grand stairs leading up to a portico and Grecian style columns. Nice, but after I'd sent about half a dozen of those I got bored.

I discovered a few more Yass postcards at the Tourist Info Centre... the only problem being that most of them had a ubiquitous picture of sheep or grapevines or a sunset. Any of those photos could have come from a hundred different regions in Australia; they weren't unique views of Yass. I resorted to sending postcards of Canberra, Goulburn, Young and other nearby towns (anywhere I went on my travels I made sure to pick up a few postcards).

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I went into a photo shop in Yass where they print photos and sell frames etc. I noticed they had a display stand of postcards that were very unique and quirky. They were all black and white photos of things around Yass - and yes, they are just a photo attached to a piece of card with the typical postcard lines and graphic printed on the back, and at the bottom it says Photo Image Yass.

Naturally, I snapped these up. I thought I had solved my issue of not being able to find postcards in Yass. The shopkeeper also told me they regularly changed the photos they used. 'Yippee!', I thought, "a regular supply of interesting cards."

No doubt you've guessed by now that it was one of these cards that I had sent to Spain.

The recipient and I exchanged a few messages. It seemed that her main problem with my postcard was that it wasn't 'store bought'. When I told her that it had, in fact, been bought in a store and pointed out the Photo Image logo, she apologised and offered to send me a postcard or two to make up for the misunderstanding. I also decided to send her a few more postcards (she is getting one of the Yass Court House, one of some sheep in a paddock that says Yass on it, and a Canberra one).

I am glad we managed to sort out the problem and make amends but I am still pretty astonished that there are Postcrossing participants who might criticise my choice of card. It makes me a little more hesitant to send anything a bit unusual or interesting, and that's a little sad.

Love from Kaz


  1. There are way too many Postcrossing members who have very narrow definitions of what "real" postcards might be. Some are top senders, some are just starting. I'm the second most active in the US and always in the top 50 for worldwide top senders, and I am not at all fussy about postcards. It really has more to do with the collecting versus connecting mindset the user has. I am a collector, but I am more excited about the connecting. Sometimes I think there are too many people who focus on just the collecting and that leads to the need to narrowly define what a postcard is.

  2. I've noticed on Postcrossing that a lot of people are very picky. I can understand not sending cards with ads on them and stuff, but the things that get me most are I want x, y and z but don't want a, b, c and I think that's a shame.

    For me, postcrossing is about connecting with people around the world, regardless of what cards you get. Yes, it's nice to get store bought cards, with big fancy pictures, but I'd be happy as hell to receive a handmade one.

    I made an account for my daughter just after I'd made mine, on the basis that she'd be able to make the postcards she'd send as she loves art and isn't very accomplished at postcard writing - the recipient would then have something from the heart, even if the message just said "hello from Wolverhampton, love Ronnie." The first two people she's been assigned both state they don't want to receive handmade cards; me being me I have got two purchased cards that Ronnie can write on, but it's taken some of the spirit out of her as she loved the idea that she could decorate them and whatnot. Seeing that you had a comment like this makes me all the more wary for when she does send handmade, because I don't know how I'd react to people if they messaged her like that.

    Anyway, I'm rambling... I think you should just continue to send unique and interesting cards, although I undertand completely why this may make you feel hesitant in doing so. It's supposed to be a fun experience and I think that if you stressed over whether you were sending something the person will love all the time it'd drive you batty and you'd end up not enjoying it as much, which would make it crappy for you. And that'd be a shame.

  3. PM - Hmmm, I hadn't thought about the collector aspect of postcrossing before... now it starts to make more sense... sort of. Btw, your comment about time travel the other day was very amusing. Reminded me of Back to the Future. My daughter just learnt about world time zones and is absolutely stoked that Australia is 'ahead' of much of the rest of the world. If only it made letter arrive quicker!

    CC - I know!!

    Es - I would absolutely love to receive one of Ronnie's handmade cards so feel free to send one this way. I could maybe get my kids to make their own and send them back.

  4. I've been a-thinkin'... Instead of letting this event deter me from taking postcrossing risks, I'm going to go to the other extreme. I'm going to try and send the most unusual, bizarre, crazy postcards I can find. If I'm going to risk people maybe not liking the cards I send, then I may as well revel in it!

  5. Love your attitude, Kaz! I stopped doing PostCrossing because of how picky people are...I am finding the mail art group much more welcoming. I would love one of your crazy postcards, Kaz. I am a photographer and make my own postcards. Most people from PostCrossing loved them and "favorited" them but the I would see "NO handmade cards"..and NO NO NO to a lot of other stuff and at about a US Dollar a shot for postage I thought....no thanks...

  6. What an interesting postcrossing experience. I, too, have gotten some bizarre responses, and it depends on the tone as to whether or not I respond back. If they seem picky and demanding, it is the best energy for me just to ignore it. I DO read profiles and I do try to honor their likes and dislikes - I have many postcards, and would rather the recipient like it. I myself am relieved by a long and detailed profile, because that makes it more likely that I will find a card the recipient likes. But in the end, Postcrossing is about serendipity. Essentially we are sending gifts to strangers, and I am happy for any time someone puts into it. The only thing that really chaps my hide is when someone doesn't write anything at all on the postcard, but c'est la vie. We all have different preferences.

    I DO like your idea about sending weird and quirky stuff! I, for one, absolutely love the weird and quirky stuff, but I get my weird and quirky fix mostly through swap-bot.com and sendsomething.net.

  7. I hadn't really thought of it being all about collecting specific things! I can't wait for my first batch to arrive, regardless of what's on them, I think it should all be about the fun of it!xx

  8. I joined Postcrossings recently and at first I thought it was just about sending postcards - just postcards and I thought it would be a great way to send out some postcards I've clung to over the years (for no reason).

    The first two were great, but then I started getting users with paragraphs worth of what they expected from anyone sending them a postcard (and one of the worst was from the US).

    The last person I sent to, I found myself actually stressing over which post card to send as to not upset them.

    I don't get to chose who I send a postcard to. In fact, were this some sort of pen pal swap I'd have quietly passed over a few of these because their requests were too constricting. And I guess that's why I am not jumping up to get some new addresses to send a postcard - the possibility of getting another address with a lot of restrictions makes me a bit wary.

    Now, let me say that I try to find something that I think the user would like but really, when I'm stuck with a person like Pam & Es mentioned... ugh.

  9. I think every member of Postcrossing has their own idea of what it's about - ranging from postcard collectors through mail art to communicators, and in some cases it leads to conflicting ideas. I find it hard when a profile has nothing whatever in it, so I've tried to keep my profile open while at the same time giving some ideas for those who would like them.

    I've had a few "iffy" handmade cards come my way but my refusal to say NO to anything was vindicated just the other day when the most beautiful card came from Australia. It made up for anything that had gone before.

    I've been a member almost from the beginning and I must say I think the good experiences outweigh the bad, by far.