back to article Can you download it to me – in an envelope with a stamp?

I was only trying to collect a package from the counter. No, officer, I don't know why the post office is littered with broken glass. And teeth. Yes, officer, it might help if I start from the beginning. Let's have a look back on how it all started... … a look back… look back… back… [SFX: rippling video, sweeping of harp …


      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Deliberately obnoxious

        I've had many conversations like that in France; me speaking French and the French person speaking English. They liked to practice their English as much as I liked to practice my French. Many younger or professional people have a good grasp of English. I always took the view that French was obligatory for me to learn and speak while living there. From day 1 we watched French TV and that was a great help.

        One thing made me smile. There were so many Brits moving to France and not learning the language that the French started an initiative offering free French lessons. You had to phone a specific number to arrange to attend the lessons. There was only one catch. The person on the other end of the phone only understood/spoke French. A typically French bureaucratic catch-22 situation.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Deliberately obnoxious

          And of course, the advertising for it was also only in French.

        2. Rol Silver badge

          Re: Deliberately obnoxious

          On the way back from the pub the local police drove up alongside and muttered something unintelligible at me. I replied "J' ne parle pas francais" to which they then responded with "Where are you going?" I replied "Me voy a casa" To which they shook their heads and ushered me on. I gestured goodbye with a wave of my hand saying "Au revoir" as they headed away.

          That little passage might make more, or less sense when I tell you I was in a small town in Southern Spain, and needless to say, very, very, very drunk.

          Hats off to them though for not taking umbridge with the clearly confused and bordering on insulting English drunk.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Deliberately obnoxious

        On a family holiday in France 40 years ago we stop at a petrol station. Service, so a bloke walks up to the car to fill it up. Dad panicking leans into car, "quickly, what's french for 40?" My brother answers "quarante".

        Dad: "Quarante gallons of petrol s'il vous plait."

        Close enough I guess...

        Dad was of the louder and slower generation of foreign speakers. So I'm actually quite impressed that he was willing to bend so much as to even know the capacity of his petrol tank in such a disgustingly non-imperial measurement. But I guess was disadvantaged by not knowing the correct french word for litre...

      3. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

        Re: Deliberately obnoxious

        > French post bloke: Three stamps then?

        Here is what a coworker of mine experienced in France (long ago). At a Hamburger stand. Apologies for mangled spelling, I don't speak French.

        He: Un hamburger, sil vous plais.

        Seller (very unfriendly): We don't speak English here!

        He: ??! (and left)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Deliberately obnoxious

          It makes sense. I can say "I don't speak XXX" in several languages.

          In some of them I neither speak nor understand them, in a couple I understand them but can't construct sentences.

          1. matthewdjb

            Re: Deliberately obnoxious

            That reminds me of the Big Train sketch (Do you speak English?).


      4. ICPurvis47

        Re: Deliberately obnoxious

        Many years ago, on holiday in Belgium, we had a tyre destroy itself on the Autosnelweg. We made into a suburb of Brussels and stopped at a tyre depot that was, inexplicably, open on a Sunday morning. Lots of fractured french and gesticulation later, the owner said, in a perfect cockney accent, "Oh, you want a tyre, eh? Why didn't you say?" Apparently, he was from Stratford (east London), about three miles from our home in Ilford, and had set up a subsidiary of his tyre business in Belgium because he could buy tyres there cheaper than in England, load them in a lorry, and drive them to his Stratford depot without having to pay the enormous import duty imposed at that time.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Deliberately obnoxious

      Our neighbour in Lisburn (N Ireland) was in the "Greenfinches" (rather like PCSOs today). A group of French tourists parked in the control zone where you're not supposed to leave a car unattended in the middle of town & went shopping. When they returned they insisted, I'm not sure how, that none of them knew any English. My take on it was that they should have discussed calling the bomb squad to deal with it, i.e. blow the bloody doors and boot lid off. I reckoned there would have been a miraculous recovery of linguistic skills.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Deliberately obnoxious

        I was in a posh hand-made soap shop in Covent Garden a few years ago. Don't judge me, I was looking for Christmas presents. 2 rather chic young ladies running the place, very elegantly turned out, french accents asked me if I needed help, then quietly continued chatting at the cash register as I browsed.

        Then a couple walk in, and one went up to the counter and asked the price of something in french. To which the response was, "I only speak english mate." In a very Essex accent.

        Although in this case, the not speaking french was undoubtedly genuine.

        Although I admit I can't count to ten in french.

        I have a huit allergy.

        [gets coat]

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Deliberately obnoxious

          Some people really have a neuf.

          1. dak

            Re: Deliberately obnoxious

            And some folk just make dix of themselves.

  1. Rudolph Hucker the Third

    Coincidently, my extended EEC family includes several cousins, outlaws and colleagues all living in South West France, and they all report similar "fun" with French postal services and courier firms.

    The best solution? Befriend the best local cafe / pâtisserie / wine bar. Be a good regular customer, then ask for a small favour.

    Je suis peut-être absent pendant quelques jours. Puis-je recevoir une lettre ici?

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      The best solution?

      Better solution is moving to another country.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly this.

      Though I never managed to get it across to a certain German speaker that when in Italy, if the mail doesn't come, you don't go to the post office and bang on the counter. You go to the post office and tell them you are a poor student, you are not getting the mail, and your mother back home is getting very distressed. They will then fall over themselves to deal with the problem because they all have mothers.

      The answer to all problems of this kind is cultural sensitivity. Unfortunately some people consider it's for wimps.

  2. Mage Silver badge

    Post Codes

    Ireland recently got Post Codes. Co-incidently the number of cards "Collect your parcel at Depot as you were not in" has risen, often posted when we were in.

    Curiously before Postcodes (creation & management outsourced to a private company) delivery was no problem, even letters from abroad with only name an nearest city arriving. An annoyance then were websites insisting on Zip/Post code (everywhere except Hong Kong and Ireland had them). My wife put NA (for not available) and the package went via Namibia. The kind people in the Namibian post office didn't add any "Postage Due" either. The address did end in Ireland and the originator was in the UK.

    Bureaucracy is a terrible thing, in a Democracy or Dictatorship. However the solution is reform, not privatisation.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Post Codes

      When I was in Hong Kong they did have postcodes - though probably more like Japanese building codes, they were often stencilled on the side of the building. I lived at RKT/12/C/601, the 'KT' bit stood for Kwun Tong.

    2. Spamfast
      Thumb Down

      Re: Post Codes

      Ah, post codes.

      The sneaker-net equivalent of scrapping DNS in favour of raw IP addresses.

      Worse, actually, because you still have to put the textual address on the envelope as well as the post code.

      Post codes should be retired now the OCR is good enough to read printed text and handwritten block capitals and most hand writing on-the-fly as the letters go through the machine.

      You need to put the county on there of course in some cases to disambiguate - Landshut(Bay), Nykøbing Mors, Gillingham Dorset etc.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Post Codes

        "Post codes should be retired now the OCR is good enough to read printed text and handwritten block capitals and most hand writing on-the-fly as the letters go through the machine."

        So how you would deal with 12 High Street, Marton, Yorkshire and 12 High Street, Marton, Yorkshire and 12 High Street, Marton, Yorkshire, not to mention mis-reading 12 High Street, Malton, Yorkshire. The thing is, postcodes are unique, addresses are not, whereas both DNS addresses and IP addresses are unique.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Post Codes

          ...and not to mention that just a door number and a postcode will almost always get a letter or parcel to where it's intended.

        2. Spamfast

          Re: Post Codes

          You disambiguate with the nearest town or enclosing area name. 12 High Street Marton, Burton Constable; 12 High Street Marton cum Grafton ...

          UK post codes aren't unique to an address and things can and often do get delivered incorrectly when the postie batches things up by post code. US zip codes & German post codes are even less precise.

          I live at Flat 2 <house name>, <street name>, <town>, <postcode>. Quite often I get mail or delivery failure cards for No. 2, <street name>, <town>, <postcode> because the deliverer assumes the number & the postcode uniquely identifies the property.

          If you want an unambiguous code, you should be arguing for something like what3words.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Post Codes

      "However the solution is reform, not privatisation."

      Reform of a unionised government institution? You must be joking. Sometimes the ONLY option is privatisation. At least then the government can wash their hands of the "issues" when the strikes happen due to the needed reforms.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DHL, uh yes

    Sounds like TLA had same standard elsewhere in world. Long ago I built a standard server for an overseas site where in fullness of time it would arrive and I would install the system, set up local admins, printers blah blah. Server dropped off to usual pickup site for official government freight 2 weeks before I was due to go so plenty of time for it to via airfreight, outsourced to TLA Remote site had not received it in a week so I started looking. Two days before I was to travel I found it. Server was still sitting on loading dock at TLA local freight yard. My condolences, Dabsy. Nice Hulk references. Caused a few chuckles.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: DHL, uh yes

      Drop it, Hide it, Loose it.

      Been there, done that, lost the t-shirt.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan

      Re: DHL, uh yes

      Sounds like TLA had same standard elsewhere in world

      A long time ago and an employment far, far away[1] we went to our office in Bergen to install some Sun E450 boxes. Said boxes were in France so the sequence was:

      1. Fly to our Paris office and check all the kit to ensure it was OK.

      2. Send the servers via Air Chance shipment to Bergen while we fly there on a (separate) flight.

      3. Our flight goes via Amsterdam and when we get there, we discover that the Air Chance pilots have downed tools and the connecting flight won't be until tomorrow (at the earliest). Not a problem as Air France end up having to pay for us to stay in business-class rooms at quite a nice local hotel.

      4. Somewhat hung-over, we take the next day flight and end up in Bergen and go to the office, expecting our servers to have already arrived. No servers.

      5. Our French colleague phones the Air France cargo department to find out where the servers are. After several hours on the phone (international call!) he discovers that someone put them on the wrong plane and they are currently in Milan.

      6. Some excited comments in French follow. Air France promises to send them via expedited delivery later that day.

      7. After 3 more days the servers eventually turn up. By that point, we should have been home so we have to go to more expense to change our plane tickets. I refuse to use Air Chance and instad book my return flight to Heathrow on SAS.

      8. Two days later, I have a very nice relaxed flight on SAS and discover the joys of Akavit and get my taxi back from Heathrow to Wiltshire.

      Since that day I've refused to ever fly Air France. We calculated that they ended up having to pay us about 10x the cost of our tickets and shipping of the servers as compensation. Which just about paid our Bergen bar bills..

  4. Denarius Silver badge

    public serpents

    Now you've done it. Someone in current Oz Federal admin will see French public servants as an example to be followed by best practice private sector and State governments. Too late for banks as they achieved this bureaucratic nirvana decades ago. Public sector upper echelons motto could be summarised as "We are not happy until you are miserable." judging by the increasingly petty bureaucracy.

  5. Nick Kew

    Going Postal

    Surely I can't be the only commentard to have read that thinking you want the services of Mr Lipwig?

    Oh, and re:

    "Does anyone here remember ..."

    I presume any such question is intentionally rhetorical? If we start on what we remember, it won't take long to to become Four Yorkshiremen.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm french and

    I deeply acknowledge how utter shite our postal "service" is. It's amazing.

    For the last decades, I've seen and still see today:

    - stuffing 2 dozens of ads papers *at once* in my mailbox, every couple of weeks

    - putting all the street address mail in my inbox, just for me to do the distribution

    - not receiving my weekly newspaper, probably someone else got it ...

    - those cunts at the postal service, whenever I'm posting a parcel stealing from customers. 2 examples:

    * this old lady buying a stamp because "I'm sending a letter to my sister" and the post idiot selling the most priced stamp and lying to her: "Oh so, this is important, so we need an, express stamp so it will arrive in 24 hours". I'm in like, desperate to scream "NO IT WON'T YOU IDIOT, EVERY LETTER TAKES 3 DAYS IN FRANCE FFS !!! WHATEVER THE STAMP"

    * this poor young chap closing his banque postale account (jolly good idea BTW, you're not putting your money at a robbers place, no ?) and the postal idiot requesting he'd leave 90 euros on the account before closing it. I was close to tell him in front of the queue that whatever he'd leave would be stolen ASAP.

    So, yeah, Dabbsy, postal service in France, you've put the difficulty bat quite high !

    1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: I'm french and

      Yikes. Thanks for the heads-up. I knew about the stamps thing: if you ask for a stamp, they try to sell you an elaborately preprinted envelope that’s always the wrong size, then once you’d chosen one, they tell you they don’t have any in stock.

      1. baud

        Re: I'm french and

        For stamps, I've always found better to just use the selling machines in the post office, since it saves from having to interact with any employee. It even weight the parcel/letter, so you don't have to buy too many stamps.

    2. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: I'm french and

      I've lived in France for over 20 years and never had that much grief with La Poste.

      Pamphlets in the mail box aren't La Poste. It's inde contractors in beaten up old cars.

      There are different postage classes. Eco Verte being the cheap slow one.

      I'd have thought a French person'd know that.

      Anything I post to the UK arrives super quick. Stuff that gets sent to me from England however takes its own sweet time. Go figure.

      Maybe A/C is confusing France with England?

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: I'm french and

      "the postal idiot requesting he'd leave 90 euros on the account before closing it."

      When closing any deposit account anywhere, drain it dry before telling them you'll be closing the account. I've run into the nonsense about a bank requiring some nominal amount of money to be locked in for a few weeks to cover any outstanding checks/charges. Blow that. When I'm ready to fire some bank, I am firing them right the F now, I'm not giving them 3 weeks notice.

    4. Trygve

      Re: I'm french and

      To be fair, I lived in London for 20 years and had Royal Mail do every single thing you've listed apart from the banque postale thing, but additionally in my last house they would leave me the post for a similar numbered house in a nearby street so often that I would regularly pop round to them and swap post.

      Plus for some reason Royal Mail postmen generally look like tramps.

  7. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Faxing the UK PO and taking a map to the Orange store

    When I moved to France 13 years ago, I wanted to change the delivery address for my forwarded UK mail. As it turned out, the only way to do so at the time was to submit the form by fax, luckily I was able to print to their fax via my spanking new XP install and its built-in print-to-fax driver. Luckily I had been able to set up a free French dialup ISP account before I left the UK, and there was already a working phone at my destination.

    More fun came when I wanted a working phone line at my next place (a rented bungalow). It already had a line installed, but it had been deactivated for years and required an engineer visit to activate it (apparently). After several attempts at calling out an Orange (recently ex-FT) engineer without them showing up, them claiming on at least one occasion that they couldn't find my address, I eventually resorted to taking a Michelin map into the local Orange store to help them out. An engineer visited and activated the line the next day.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Faxing the UK PO and taking a map to the Orange store

      When I lived in Hong Kong I had to fax some mortgage documents to my bank in the UK. After several failed attempts, I stayed up until bird-squeek* to phone and tell them their fax machine wasn't working.

      "Oh, we turn it off outside office hours."


      *The time difference seems to be wrong for this, but it's 30 years ago and my memory is something something.

      1. Alumoi Silver badge

        Re: Faxing the UK PO and taking a map to the Orange store

        Romania, 2018 A.D., public sector: "E-mails will be received only during 08.00 - 14.00. Any e-mail sent after 14.00 won't be received and you must send it again the next day during specified working hours".

  8. Alister Silver badge

    Does anyone here remember the tedious regularity of having to persuade your terminal software to pick up an interrupted upload/download from where it left off rather than starting it all over again from the beginning?


    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      What you mean is:


      +++NO CARRIER


      +++NO CARRIER


  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    A year or so ago I ordered a left hand door mirror for SWMBO's car.

    Despite being in all day when DPD were supposed to deliver it there was no sign of it and shortly after it was due to be delivered a note appeared on the web site saying that there was nobody in and they'd left a card. There was no card in our letter box. I reckoned that the basic problem was that we have no house number but a spelled out number is in the house name and the site ordered from had no concept of an address without a number. I realised they'd attempted to deliver to a numbered house down the road.

    After much effort I finally got a phone number for DPD that didn't immediately drop through to an automated system that told me the package had not been able to be delivered (the first time I keyed in the package number; all subsequent attempts to any DPD customer disservice number would recognise my number from CLI and not even bother asking). The parcel was then sent out with the corrected label. At the appropriate time courier with an anonymous white van turned up so I went to meet him to ensure he didn't escape. I was handed a package. Not, unfortunately a DPD-shipped package but another one I was expecting. I went back indoors and found the familiar note on the website - not in, left card. I'm sure it was the same white-van man contracting for both firms and, presumably recognising the packaging and not bothering with the label, attempted to deliver to the same wrong house.

    Despite the fact that they'd never actually attempted to deliver to the right house DPD insisted I'd had the due number of attempted deliveries and took it to the collection point miles away. I drove over there, picked up the box and took it home. I opened the box and found a right hand mirror.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I opened the box and found a right hand mirror.

      Perhaps, somewhere in the multiverse, there is an almost-but-not-quite-the-same mirror universe where this sort of thing doesn't happen [1] :-)



      [1] Yes, I know.

    2. Graham Newton

      I had a similar problem with wing mirrors.

      Both wing mirrors were stolen off my ancient Vauxhall Cavalier. I ordered some from a scrap yard and they didn't turn up. I enquired as to where they were and was told they had got lost in the couriers system and they would be delivered next week.

      Then the car was stolen, the next day I got two wing mirrors.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Then the car was stolen, the next day I got two wing mirrors.

        And, the way this thread is going, no doubt we will shortly hear that you got a left-handed mirror to go on the right side, and a right-handed one to go on the left.

        1. swm Silver badge

          Re: Then the car was stolen, the next day I got two wing mirrors.

          A relative had a junk car that wouldn't run parked outside their house. While deciding the cheapest way to get rid of the car someone stole it. So they received insurance money for the car. The still wonder how a non-running car was stolen and for what reason.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Then the car was stolen, the next day I got two wing mirrors.

            Spares. And a lot of running cars are also stolen for parts.

            Some people may remember the Morris Marina. A solicitor I wot of bought one for an articled clerk to get around in. It was so awful he left it in a side street in central London with the key in the ignition. It was stolen.

            Before they were even able to claim on the insurance, it was back in the same place with the key still in the ignition.

  10. LeahroyNake

    I didn't know

    That I could play 2 x YouTube videos at the same time on a mobile browser. Thanks for that, didn't sound that bad towards the end lol.

    When I lived in lovely farmhouse (building site would be more accurate) in the south of France the internet was as useful as the local shops. Worked seemingly on a principle of inside knowledge and secret knocks on windows. Good job the neighbours were nice, I ended up paying them with the use of my pool / pond and cigarettes to use their WiFi and they would accept my post and deliver groceries. Very nice people the French if you avoid the cities. Their infrastructure excluding roads is bloody atrocious though.

  11. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    "Even the crappest robot will do"

    Is that any way to refer to "your plastic pal who is fun to be with?" The latest versions with "genuine people personalities" would certainly be distressed. I can just imagine what will happen when you go to the post office and find the place staffed by a robot: "Here I am brain the size of a planet and what to they ask me to do?... Pick up a piece of paper."

  12. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Thanks for the stories, guys!

    I look forward to your next series of posts about the United States wherein you compare it to a Third World country. I'll just post a link to this thread and laugh.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Thanks for the stories, guys!

      Why would we compare it to a Third World country? It is the first (and so far only) country in the world to have reached Fourth World status.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thanks for the stories, guys!

        Well, it used to be that just the Postal workers went "Postal". Now everyone does it. But at least we can get a frigging package on time..

  13. MachDiamond Silver badge

    PO Box in the US

    It's the same in the backwaters (US) in terms of getting a postal box. The form states that two forms of ID are required and one of them needs to be a government issued photo ID. No sweat, I hand over my driver's license (US) and my passport. The ditz behind the counter tells me that I need some other form of ID. ?? I should read the requirements again. I do, no words have crawled from the page so I should be solid. Nope. She tells me I need a utility bill or something. Where does it say that? She can't be bothered to read the regs. This goes back and forth for a bit. Finally, I root through the car and come back with a auto insurance bill and that works. I am who I say I am, for a given value of proved. I've learned how this mold works now so when asked about a physical address, I just fill in the police station's address next door since I can see the numbers through the window. The address comes back as valid in her computer although she must not have seen what is at that address, just that it checks out.

    I have all of my post sent to my box and none to my home. At the time I was renting the box in the story, I was staying with a friend until the house I was buying was vacated by the tenant that was living in it and I was also going to need time to work on the house before I moved in. Switching the mail to the new house wasn't going to work and after the tenant moved out there wouldn't be that much time before I moved in so pointless to switch everything twice. I did need to clear out of the box I did have one town over as it was no longer near my work and a chore to pick up mail and packages. I can empathize that often times when you need a PO box, it's because you aren't living in long term accommodations but still need a place to receive mail. I'm an old fashioned trog that still likes to get bills in the post on paper. I mostly pay electronically, but it gives me a paper audit trail as I will write the payment information on the paper bill and file it away. It will get tossed out in a year, but paper files can still be very fast to search if organized. I also have a folder of bills due that is a great reminder.

    There are a couple of big upsides to a postal box. In the US you can have the box address put on your driving license rather than a physical address. The police can pull up your physical address on their computer, but if you get pick-pocketed or otherwise lose you wallet/keys, you aren't giving away where you live. The same goes for car registrations and insurance cards. It's getting hard to steal cars, but if somebody can break in shortly after you park someplace where it's obvious you are going to be for a few hours (airport, beach, amusement park), they can have your address off of the registration form in the glove box and the garage remote and take their sweet time looting your digs. If it turns out you have a home alarm they don't want to deal with, would you be too suspicious if your garage remote went missing but your car was still locked up? If you move house a couple of times, you start erasing your physical home history if you only use a rented postal box. UPS, FedEx and DHL all keeps vast databases on people and their address. That's great if somebody sends something to your old address and it gets forwarded, but those companies also sell/rent/license those databases. If you have a PO Box in the US (maybe elsewhere) you can have packages delivered to the post office's street address with your box number appended and they will accept them for you if you fill out a form, for free. I believe you waive some liabilities, but a box from the computer supply company sitting on your porch doesn't come with any protections. How many times have you found something on your porch that should have been signed for?

    Having a postal box is worth the expense. Even if you aren't receiving checks or valuable items, it can cost plenty if somebody grabs bills and notices that will cost you in late fees, etc. I find it also useful that I don't have to hand out my physical address all over the place and even if somebody shoulder surfs me and sees my ID, they won't see where I live. Since I travel on short notice, the box also prevents people from seeing that I'm not home. I often wouldn't have time to file a vacation hold at the post office and that would add yet another thing on my get-out-of-town list each time.


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