Have just returned from popping to the post office with a bagful of orders, all carefully packaged, labelled and documented, ready to post.
Actually 'popping' suggests a short visit, 10-15 minutes max. Back in February it would have been just that, but following the closure of our nearest local post office we now have a 5 mile round trip, by car then a nightmare parking scenario, all for the privilege of queueing for up to 30 minutes to post a few packages.
We have lost 4 post offices in Hastings over the past few years, with the obvious result that the remaining ones have become very much busier. Often, the queues stretch out the door and down the street.
Now, I don't mind queueing. The ability to queue is what marks the British from many other nations on earth. Not for us the anarchy of a mass onslaught on the nearest available counter.
No, we quietly submit to standing in line, shuffling forward towards the holy grail of the post office queue, the yellow and black chevron tape stuck onto the floor which marks the front of the line.
This lengthy wait gives us ample time to size up the other people in line, and make an educated guess as to how long their respective transactions will take. I know my heart sinks when I see anyone with large carrier bags full of small jiffy bags, each of which will have to be weighed, then a stamp printed out and stuck on, followed by a proof of posting receipt which requires the assistant to decipher the handwritten postcode.
Even worse is when the bagful of packages are destined for 'forn parts', and each destination requires a lengthy discourse about customs labels and declarations and airmail stickers and relevant documentation.
I blame eBay.
Years ago, pre-eBay, the most anyone wanted to post would be a birthday card to auntie Ethel, or perhaps a cheque for the gas bill.
Nowadays, the world and his brother sell stuff on eBay and have to post it all over the planet.
Now wait a minute. I sense the accusation of hypocrisy hanging, unspoken, in the air.
Yes I do sell things on eBay and from our website and yes we do post packets to destinations far and wide.
And it is a significant BUT.
I carefully package every item in appropriate packaging,.... jiffy bags, double wall cardboard boxes, card-backed envelopes.......all sourced specifically for the purpose.
I carefully print out a clear, spell-checked address label for each package, and include a return address label on the back.
I check whether the country of destination requires a customs label, and weigh it to check that it is within the guidelines for the particular postal service chosen, completing any additional documentation which the country specifies. I keep stocks of Airmail labels, and the various different international mail slips.
I write on the front of each package the precise postal service I wish to use.
I complete a certificate of posting for each package, with the full name, address and postcode of the recipient. This is not strictly necessary, but it does save valuable minutes at the PO as the assistant doesn't have to type the postcode into their computer for a printed receipt.
I have stood behind people in the post office who send obviously delicate items packed in little more than a black bin liner, with a few sheets of newspaper as protective packing and then have a major go when the package is rejected as being unsuitable for mailing..
Ditto people who regard a Tesco carrier bag, turned inside out, as a fitting external mailer. I'm all for recycling but this is just rank stupidity.
Ditto illegible, scrawled addresses, written in felt pen on the outside of the plastic bag, which not even the writer can decipher, much less the poor post office assistant.
Ditto completely oblivious to the need for customs labels, airmail stickers, return address labels.
Ditto asking for details of every conceivable method of postage, in duplicate, for each of 20 packets.
It's not rocket science.
It's just sheer laziness and general incompetence.
I don't mind people posting lots of packets.
I DO mind if they take a half-assed approach to everything to do with the procedure, wasting their time and mine in the process.
There is definitely a gap in the market for a "Preparing Stuff for Posting for Dummies' book. Which should be available free at all post offices.
They'd be doing everyone a favour.