Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Post office blues

I do unfortunately depend on the nearest post office. And now there is only one in town.

It wasn't always like this: there used to be a little one near the swimming pool. It was inconvenient for me to go here so I never did, till one day an elderly lady knocked on my door and said that they collect signatures against the proposed closure of the little post office. Of course I signed and also decided that next time I will go here - thinking that having one more regular customer will probably help. It happened that next time I had quite a lot of parcels with me, including horrible pictures and curtains which the previous owners left in the house. I've sold them on Ebay for 5 quid + postage, then being clumsy as I am I broke the glass and had to pay 5 quid to a framer for its replacement (I am a great business woman, I know!) I also had a large life drawing I've sold for about the same price to America. It was done on thick card so at first I send it as it was at my regular post office. It came back (to my enormous surprise) with note that it's too large for the Airmail. Now I've been sending paintings and drawings of this size for years and never had a problem with that. I went to the main post office and they (a bit unfriendly for my taste) told me that the rule always was here... Surprise again. And its my fault that because I pay the postage online. I managed to roll the drawing and was ready to pay the postage price for it again.

So I entered a small post office smiling to the lady who was behind the counter and putting my numerous parcels in front of her. And then I've seen an evil flame in her eyes. Apparently the reason was that I bought half of my postage online. I've been doing this for a long time - since living in Long Eaton where extremely nice people at that post office never told me there was any issue with this. I repeat the people were really wonderful and helpful at that place but... unlike in Wales I had a number of parcels which were never received by their recipients.

The lady with evil eyes was refusing to accept my parcels because she didn't like the idea of online stamps which people print at home. She thought the post offices are closing because of this (forgetting that the people still HAVE to handle their parcels and letters to post office workers). I don't drive and I just walked to that little place, tired, loaded like a mule with my profitless load - and specially to help her... If she told me "could you please buy you stamps from me next time?" I would certainly said "yes"! Instead she brought me to the brink of bursting into tears by her angry words in front of silent but curious queue. I bet they haven't been on the side of a strange lady with foreign accent and a horrid word "Ebay" almost written across her forehead. Ebay keeps of mounting hidden fees and treating low-profit sellers like unwanted dogs - and then you also get this looks at the post office. Yes, I know I could just take things to a charity shop, but 1) I have this crazy hope that something we've got but don't need may actually turn to be valuable for somebody else (it actually happened twice with books); 2) kids love to get some pocket money after their old book or toy is sold (they were unlucky with that since Ebay introduced its "free postage" rule), and 3) lot of our stuff is too unusual if not weird for a little town charity shop to handle. Finally the post office lady agreed to take parcels and they all (to my disbelieve) arrived to their destinations OK. Yes, I can't stand hostility and I know its bad to be so sensitive to it. But that's the way I am...

I never came back to that little post office. I even wanted to file a complain because I'm sure it was illegal to refuse posting things on that ground. But then few months later, walking to the pool I've seen that post office have been closed for good and I couldn't refuse an evil smile...

Now we only got one post office in the town. They have a strange practise here: a large shopping trolley is put in the middle and, after stamps have been put on parcels, they are thrown across the room to that trolley, including ones with red tape all over and large letters saying "FRAGILE" on them. Recently the glass on one of my paintings I've sent by post was broken and I wonder if this was what did it. But what can I do? Putting things in large boxes, going to another town or using alternative postal service would increase the cost of postage a lot, and with my artwork not being too expensive it will just put an end on selling it.

I do mostly sell artwork unframed to avoid high postage cost and broken glass but there is another danger - parcels get bended. Once even a thick framing mount, which I though will protect the drawing sufficiently, got bend in half. Few years ago I've accidentally got from my framer a couple of pieces of white corrugated plastic: lightweight and easy to cut with scissors yet very difficult to bend. I've been told this is what state agents use for their "for sale" boards. If anybody reading this post know how to buy this (but not in industrial quantities) - I would really appreciate.

Meanwhile I'm stuck with my only post office. As far as I know any alternative postal services are only suitable for businesses with high volumes of mail and SOME profit (maybe I'm wrong?) I can't really argue with my post office staff for fear - perhaps irrational - that my parcels will be damaged on purpose when I don't look. Add to this also that I'm horrible at doing things neat and tidy - like good package should be, I'm slow, and I have little accidents with tape and scissors all the time. At home we haven't got a special table to do packing so I just kneel on the hard floor for an hour 2-3 times a week to get the job done.

Yet I am actually glad that I am where I am. I don't have to seat in office all the day and I am home when kids are back from school. My artworks find their owners and I get lots of happy emails from people. I've even found a first exhibition venue after two years in Newtown, so a couple of my narrative figurative paintings should be at the Hafren Theatr at the moment. Perhaps I should think more about exhibitions (but memories of having to carry by myself about 30 framed artworks to 3 personal shows I had in East Midlands still a bit scary). Anyway it is really great to be a "free artist" and I am sure in any occupation there are difficulties you have to learn to overcome - blame to the imperfection of the world!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I'm thinking if the online postage is legal, then USING it is legal!! My GOSH!
    People like that postal employee are why there are stores in town where I never use my WIC card ("Women-Infants-Children", it's kind of like food-stamps if you're pregnant or have a baby). There's one chain, just those stores, where it's always a hassle and I've had managers get rather snippy with me (over, say, the brand of juice I have!), and it's just not worth it. And as a result, I don't hardly go there for anything, because I usually pick up the rest of my groceries when I do WIC. It would not sadden me at all to see a couple County Markets go out of business.
    Some people just shouldn't work with the public, I suppose.
    Maybe there's a place online that supplies that corrugated plastic. I know what you're talking about, I've seen it used for crates, but never sold in stores.

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