Monday, January 31, 2011

The Intricacies of the Romanian Postal System

Even after living here for two years I still am learning new information about the Romanian postal system. And yes, I'm usually learning because I'm doing something wrong.

Here's the deal.
My "local" post office is about a 7 minute walk up a hill. It's not the closest one to me, but it's the one to which I receive mail. Some kinds of mail. I receive regular letters at my house as we would in the US. But if I would receive any kind of domestic packages or large envelope from anywhere (like, say a padded envelope from the US in which someone sends me some candy), or if I receive a box from anywhere that has BOOKS in it, that is what's different. All those things go to my "local" post office. But those are not actually things I often receive. So I had no idea about any of that for the longest time. Or that that post office even was "mine".


When I receive a package (as I've blogged about before) I get a little paper notification in my mailbox at home. On which is invariably scribbled something indecipherable, telling me that I have a package and where I should get it, which was for the longest time always at the customs post office across town, so I assumed that was the only option. Over time I learned all of the aforementioned differences as I received envelopes vs boxes, books vs not-books, domestic vs international, and all the combinations thereabouts which would determine whether I should go to the "local" post office or the "customs" post office. Which are on opposite sides of the city, so it's preferable to go to the right one the first time around. So I think (but am not entirely SURE) I understand the processes for receiving mail.

Until the other day, however, the only itemss I've sent from here are individual letters and large envelopes filled with letters. Little did I know that the world of SENDING is as complex as RECEIVING. However, I naively assumed that because I have sent envelopes that it would all be the same. Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids. Firstly, because I had always been able to send padded envelopes from any post office, I assumed the same was true for boxes. Oh but no. You can only send boxes internationally from ONE post office, the customs one, the one on the other side of the city. When I tried to send the box from the post office at the mall near my house (which I always go to when sending mail) a woman was helping me in my confused state, but the man who works there was ALSO speaking to me. All I could make out from what he said as I tried to simultaneously understand both of their Romanian was "You're old. Why don't you understand?" And I was all, what does he even mean that I'm old? I'm not old.

Then it hit me- I'm "old" in the sense that I've been in Romania for a long time. Which of course they know because I'm the ridiculous person who goes in there all the time invariably causing a bit of ruckus with my kindergarten-level Romanian and wanting them to do things like fax 3 pieces of paper to America. So why do I not know how to send a box? Noted, sir. I probably should know that envelopes and boxes have different sending protocol. And that if I want to send a box it must be covered in white paper. Except I don't.

And even though the customs post office is open until 6, if you show up at 4:50, having taken a cab across town in order to get there in time in case they actually close at 5, you can't send your package. Why? I don't know. And I didn't try to figure that out, because I found out something NEW and more urgently requiring my attention. Namely that there is a new rule that says you can only send packages to America that are under 1 pound. Including the weight of the box, stamps, and paperwork. Nothing more. No exceptions. Seriously? Seriously. Apparently it's because the Romanian postal system doesn't have something sufficient to scan the box contents, and since America is not so much interested in the possibility of drugs and bombs entering its borders, they make rules like this. 

But you see, I've already purchased 12 small Valentine's Day gifts for a little exchange with some friends back home, and written 25 letters to various individuals, all of which I want to send in a box together. Too bad Lizo, cause all that weighs 1.3 pounds. So now I need to send the letters in a large padded envelope, which has an unlimited weight allowance, but is only supposed to contain papers, and then send the V-Day gifts in a smaller box. But not now, because the customs office is closed before they're closed. Which is apparently written somewhere in Romanian in small print on the door. Again, I probably should know these things. But I don't. 

The next day I find out that while the 25 letters in a padded envelope plus a few of the gifts (totaling .8 pounds) cost 16 lei to send, the box with the remaining gifts (totaling a half pound) costs 56 lei. Yes, yes indeed. Why you may ask did I not just send it all in the padded envelope, if it is indeed cheaper and doesn't have a weight limit? Good question. Because some of the items would not fit in an envelope. And I was concerned they would send it back, since I was told envelopes could only contain letters. It may yet be returned, since I did stick in a few extras. We shall see. In the end, I just won't know until I know. Which seems to be the way things work around here. And ya know what? That's ok.

1 comment:

cwatts said...

The postal system- yes! And it's not just the Romanian postal system with that 1 pound rule. A friend in Russia is trying to send me a book, which weighs over 500 grams, so they wouldn't let her mail it. The Russian postal people said it's a US rule. Which seems silly because a few years ago we could ship boxes of clothes/books home if suitcases were too heavy. Sad day! Fedex must be making a killing.