A Post Box in Nairobi

In the modern world of social media, apps and emails, I do like to try and retain a little of Christmas tradition by sending out Christmas cards. I think there is always something special about having a letter come through the door with actual human handwriting on it, and then the little bit of joy in opening it up to see what is inside, to find a handwritten note intended just for you – no one else. The fact that someone has taken the time to actually sit down, write something to YOU, and then post it, must stand for something in this world of digital chaos.

I have family spread across the globe, so always make sure that I post my cards in time to reach them for Christmas. Sadly I have had to give up on posting cards to South Africa a few years now – simply because the post service there is in such a mess that your post either never gets there or arrives months after the intended event. I posted a Christmas card to my son there in October one year, come Christmas it hadn’t arrived, the card arrived when his brother visited in February the following year. I could have saved the postage and asked his brother to take it with him.

For my meager post office needs, we have a McColl’s shop on the top of our road, which is basically a convenience store, and they had a post office counter installed some years ago. My first attempts at international letter posting were painful, as I’m sure that they never have anyone posting things abroad, let alone serve someone with a foreign accent. The elderly lady who worked there had my sympathy as she clearly had never received proper training, so each visit was as unpleasant for her as it was for me. I would put my mail on the scale, and it would take ages for her to find the right postage – and I would always have to remind her to put the little airmail stickers on, and heaven forbid if it was a parcel – to give me a customs sticker to complete. But she was lovely, and we managed somehow to get the items sent off with a bit of natter in-between.

So, this year, I had my cards ready well before the postal service cut of dates for international posting – a batch of cards for Australia, and a card for my amazing niece who lives in Nairobi. Things get busy over Christmas, so in the rushing around decide that the best time to post my cards will be to ‘’quickly ‘’duck into the shop on my way home from work, which I do. I go into the shop to find – as usual – that there is no one in attendance for the post office counter, so a person is called, and I wait a few minutes. And here comes my counter assistant – a young man, looking a bit unkempt and flurried. So I say that I’m posting some cards abroad, at which point he says – as expected – to place them on the scale, which I do. He then asks me to pass him the card – his first reaction is to his colleague now standing next to him, poking the address on my card with his finger saying how expensive it is to fly to Australia ‘’an’ all’’. While he finds the correct postage on the till, the conversation about expensive holidays continues. Oh and then he sees how much the postage is to Australia – £1.45 – that is apparently very expensive, by the  heightened  tone of his voice to his colleague  it’s on par with the cost to the flight down under.

Next card on the scale is to my niece in Nairobi,  I pass him the Christmas card after been weighed, and he sees where it’s going to, so another round of discussions to his colleague ensues around the cost to fly to Africa.  Poking the address on the card with his finger in the process. He then starts looking up the postage – which seems to take forever, and then asks me for the street name, and it’s at this point that things start rolling downhill. Fast.

I say there is no street name, as there is a PO Box address only, so no street delivery. He then inputs more information on the till, and says, that’s fine, but can he have a house number? I say no – because there is no street delivery. Suburb he asks? I say no, there is only a PO Box address, so the mail is delivered to the PO Box. The street address for the PO Box he asks? I explain that the building which houses the PO Box may be on the other side of the city, and that won’t help anyway, as the mail will just be delivered to the main post office. Oh he says, but we need a street address. I say well in the first instance my  niece doesn’t live in the actual PO Box, so please can you just input the PO Box details on your system, because there is no street address. Well then, he says, I can’t send your card then, because you can’t provide me with the correct street address. I tell him that maybe he needs to call someone, because I’ve posted to PO Boxes before without any problems.

So – he takes out his mobile and starts searching, for what seems like a street address for the PO Box address on the envelope.  The internet on his mobile is really slow, so he then proceeds to poke his mobile quite hard to say this is taking so long now, and this is doing his head in he says. I’m not sure if he is referring to his own head or not.  He then gives me some random street names to ask if any of them sound right. I say that – to reiterate – this is a PO Box address only, there is no street involved, no house number, no suburb, just a box.  Well then he says – I can’t post your letter.

At this stage I want to pull this cocky little shit across the counter by his nose ring. Yep he has a nose ring. I actually want the nose ring to tear out when I pull it, and cause physical damage, such is my #postofficecounterrage…….but I remain calm.  I remember my yogic breathing and breathe….. deeply. I tell him to give me back the card, and pay for the items I am sending, and leave. If this is the youth of today there is no hope.

I seldom feel, if ever, that service is poor enough to warrant the time to write a complaint, but in this instance this is the first thing I do when I get home. The auto response from the post office is ‘’if your enquiry is complex it may take up to 10 working days to fully respond’’, shortly followed by another email of apology and ‘’ As a goodwill gesture I have today issued you with 6 x First Class stamps’’.  Clearly this wasn’t a complex problem after all.  In the interim of receiving the stamps, I use the kitchen scale to weigh my card, look online for the correct postage to Kenya, return to the same post office – different day – and just ask for the postage amount in stamps. Stuck the stamps on the card, and posted in the red letter box on the street. I now also know that I can buy the postage I need online. Note to self for next time – Don’t use a post office to post a letter


2 thoughts on “A Post Box in Nairobi”

  1. You are SO right about the South African postal service: I live here – accounts and official mail are delivered now and then and any personal looking mail (if it arrives at all) usually has a slit in the envelope where some hopeful peeked in, probably hoping for some money. I battle to get postage stamps and when I do, they are years out of date, as if found in the bottom of a forgotten drawer.

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