Saturday, January 15, 2011
Austria-isms: The Pony Express
Today I headed to the post office, something I've been meaning to do all week. I had some things to send to a friend in the US. I packed everything up, even thinking I was clever to sub-divide it into two boxes so that they wouldn't be too heavy, and made my way down to the main post office.
After waiting patiently in line in the "Pakete" line, I was greeted by a postal worker who's a dead ringer for John Waters, lankiness, skinny tie, moustache and all. I explain I'd like to send these two boxes to the US, and he asks me what's inside. Clothes, I say. And he asks me for the list, and I reply I don't have one, but that if he gives me the form, I'll fill it out by hand. "No! By machine or komputer!". And I say, I don't have by machine or computer, I will just have to fill it out. "NO! By machine or komputer ONLY!". So we go back and forth, and his best advice to me is to go write it on a machine or computer.
Sigh. I'm already half an hour invested in this debacle so I refuse to not be able to mail these today. I end up in some weird internet cafe around the corner, where I don't much fit in as I am neither a balkan "import/exporter" nor teenage gamer and I find something tawdry about paying for internet use by the minute. But anyway, I type out my list and march right back to the post office to the John Waters lookalike and proudly handover four copies of the list (even though he only asked for it in triplicate). But my glory is short lived...He hands over a form, and tells me to now fill in the list of contents by hand anyway!
GRRR! As icing on the cake, we then get into a debate about how to send the packages. I asked for normal post, and John Waters replies I can only express mail it. I say no, I would like to just regular mail it as express mail is going to cost me a small fortune. He says "No, you can not send to US regular mail...because of the terrors.". Another sigh. Definitely not going to win this one, now that we have the terrors and US policy involved. I try with his colleague, and it turns out you can in fact send regular parcels to the US, but only if they are under 499 grams - I briefly consider taking my parcels - which frankly are over 4kg in weight together and subdividing them up into mutliple smaller parcels, and then, after much more sighing, call it a day by throwing (a lot of) money at the problem and just sending them express.
So for those in Austria looking to send packages to the US, here's how to save yourself some grief:
1. Bring a printed copy of your name and address, sendee's name and adress, contents and approximate value in triplicate for each parcel. Remember, by "machine or komputer ONLY!". I'm assuming "machine" refers to "typewriter".
2. For parcels under 499 grams, you can send them parcel post - incidentally, 499 grams runs about 6-7 euros to the US.
3. For parcels over 499 grams, you can only send them express mail (EMS), which is basically the equivalent of DHL - be prepared to give a contact number/email for you and the sendee on the form.
4. For latest post regulations and rates, see: http://www.post.at/en/personal_sending_parcel.php