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

Friday, October 22, 2010

Post office riddle

I'm a big fan of post offices, mine in particular. The staff are (usually) friendly and helpful and they are starting to get to know me now. At first I was shy about offering up my pieces of mail art... wondering if there would be a comment, or some scathing remark about the problems my glued-on bits or unusual addressing style would sstuff up the mail sorting machines. But there's been nothing of the sort. One bloke in particular is always very careful about where he places the customs sticker or the airmail stickers so as not to mess up my design. I really appreciate his thoughtfulness.

The thing I find baffling about post offices is that they no longer seem to see post as their core business. It would be easy to think that post offices (in Australia, at least) exist so that you have somewhere to pay your bills, do your banking, apply for a passport, and by a gift... all in your lunch break. But post a letter?

Well of course you can mail a letter... but it's unusual.

Standing in the queue today I took special notice and watched as each person in front of me in the queue took care of all kinds of business in the post office. I was the only one sending mail.

I also saw DVDs, yoga mats, wedding planners, gardening kits, joke books, calendars, cook books and aromatherapy candles offered up for sale - just to name a few. But where were the letter-writing sets or notecards? Nope, none of those.

It almost seems like post offices are a bit ashamed or embarrassed to still be in the business of sending real life mail... especially personal mail.

Australia Post just reported a record loss, due to falling mail volumes. Now, I'm not naive enough to think that a few letter writers are going to save Australia Post, but still wouldn't you think it would occur to someone that maybe they should be a bit more enthusiastic about letter-writing?

Telstra (a major phone company here) has been running a campaign to remind people to ring their mum. I'd love to see Australia Post promote and advertise letter-writing similarly: as a way to meaningful connect with family and friends.

Oh well... I'll just keep on mailing my letters...

Love from Kaz

PS I'm away camping for the next few days so won't have internet. I'm due to draw another giveaway winner on Monday but it will probably be more like Tuesday or Wednesday... depending on when the kids and I decide to mosy back home.


  1. I live in a very rural part of Texas in the US, and live halfway between the two nearest towns, so I visit two different post offices. Mail is the only service offered here, except at tax time, when tax forms are available. For a while, the post office offered a lot of stamp related gift items, but I haven't seen anything lately.

    When I first started writing letters again, and wanting nicer looking stamps for my overseas correspondence, I was reluctant to ask to see what was available because I didn't want to be a bother. But I finally did ask, and I was surprised at the warm reception and interest in MY interest by the post office clerks. One of them pulled out everything she had to show me, and I had the impression I was talking to an artist displaying her own work.

  2. In Spain you can buy stamps both in Post Offices and at a kind of shop that, unfortunately, have no translation in English. The most similar term is "tobacconist's", but in Spanish "estancos" you still can buy, besides stamps, tobacco, bus and subway passes, postcards... and some other stuff like pens, lighters...
    The point is that lately I tried to buy stamps to Europe and to the rest of the world in these shops and they told me they are not selling those anymore because no-one is sending letters. I was shocked! Now I have to go to the Post Office which is less convenient to me as it is far away from where I live. But that is not the main problem... What it is scary is that these shops are stopping selling stamps and that never, never happened before! Does it mean that the end of stamps in this part of the world is near? I really like real stamps, not those stickers that some Post Offices put on letters so I would be so sad not being able to purchase real stamps anymore!

  3. I live in a small town of 1000 people and have used the local Post Office since I was a child (except for when I moved away for a few years). It has been a constant in my life as a letter writer. I used to walk into the very same post office when I was 10 years old to send a letter to my Aussie penpal. Now, 30 years later, I just mailed a letter to you, Kaz!
    Julie in rural Canada

  4. Our US post offices sell some mailing boxes and things but it is pretty much all limited to mail as far as I can tell. At my PO I seem to get a very warm reception and lots of help with postage and stamps from the clerks. They seem to enjoy helping with my mail art. (And my letter carrier sure notices and comments on what I receive). With all the stamps I have been buying and postage I'm paying I think I am keeping at least one post office open.

  5. we don't have the sme kind of shops as you describe in Spain but having traveling in Europe I know what you mean. Not carrying all kinds ofstamps! anathema! I hope they still carry the stamps for within country mail service????

  6. When I go to the post office in town (Aberystwyth), I'm always asked if I want to top up my mobile 'phone or get insurance or other things. I just say no thanks, just stamps. They're a bank as well, but I'd never bank with them as the queue is often out the door. Mind you, they do sell lots of packaging materials and some writing paper etc. So it's not all bad!