I will never complain about the US Postal Service again

I will never complain about the US Postal Service again. I will never complain about the US Postal Service again. Ever.

This afternoon I took a “Xerox box” (one that holds ten reams of paper) full of things to ship home in a taxi to the Durban, South Africa, Post Office. Cab is waiting for me since you can’t just get a roaming cab here. Box is all double taped, ready to go, weighs 11 kg (about 25 pounds). Security “air lock” doors to get in. (You go into the “air lock” and can’t go through the second one until the one behind you latches) Ok, I get that. No worries.

Figure out which line is for mailing things and not for vehicle license plates, banking, or other things. Eight people in front of me. 2 of the 12 “post office mailing stuff” windows open. Almost 20 minutes to get to one of the two clerks, as almost everyone is doing complicated things. The lady clerk says she can’t take it like that, it has to be wrapped in brown paper. Says it could be sliced on the strapping tape and stuff taken. I say OK, and figure I’m stuck. Oh well. She says she can give me paper and tape, and I say great. She confirms I won’t have to wait in line again (now over a dozen people) but can come back to her. She goes away and after five minutes comes back with a big piece of brown paper and a roll of cheesy tape. I take it over to a counter to do my wrapping, but the tape is just tough enough it won’t tear. A nice young lady sitting there takes her ball point pen and pokes the tape to tear it. As I continue to wrap and tape she keeps on holding the paper for me, “cutting” the tape, and so forth, never saying a word. I also used her pen to fill out the customs form. I then went back to the same window and only had to wait a couple minutes for the transaction to finish. Now she says it has to be tied with string as well, but she will do it. She takes the box away and comes back after at least five more minutes with it all tied in string. Whatever.

I tell her I want it to go cheapest surface mail. And insure it for 1000 Rand (about US$140), mainly because that generally reduces chances of pilferage (though with tape and string and paper and tape that doesn’t seem likely). She goes away again to talk to someone and comes back to say they don’t think it can be insured for that much to USA. I say OK, insure it for 500, or 100, or whatever. She goes away again and after several minutes more talking with yet another person says it can be insured for 1000 Rand. Great. She fills out more forms and sticks them on the brown paper. All seems good. I ask if she would rather have a credit card or a debit card. She says whatever card will give her money for the postage (about 600 Rand). She decides she wants a debit card, which has worked fine in several countries. It says it won’t work in South Africa. What? We try it three times. No luck. She won’t take US dollars (which I have). Their banking area won’t exchange money. Banks just closed. She says there are no ATMs around the Post Office. I say OK, I’ll just take it and go.

She tears off all the insurance and other papers, gives me the box, and I go. The cab driver is still out there waiting. He’d said he would take US$, so he asks if I want to go to an ATM. No, thank you. With hindsight, should have done that first, but oh, well. He took me straight back to the ship, paid him US$25 for his 50 minutes of almost all waiting, and went back to find Gail in the cabin, worried that I’d been lost, robbed, murdered, or something. I was fine, just frustrated. Maybe in Cape Town. We’ll see.

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