I got into a snit with the postal worker (all this was after a snit with the cook in Westcott's refectory on an unrelated matter) yesterday because they were trying to charge a commission for cashing a traveler's cheque. Besides the fact that I had been in there more than once and never had to pay that processing fee before, they were trying to tell me they had to make a commission. I replied that that was silly because I was going to buy almost 17 pounds worth of stamps, so they were in fact making a profit and that a 5 pound processing fee was in fact a 25% commission on a 20 pound cheque that I was trying to use to buy stamps. I finally said the heck with it and went to the SPCK bookshop and bought a card, and then went back to the post office and bought stamps, so they didn't get their 5 pound commission.
Caveat Solicitor I suppose.
That got me to thinking about how the postal systems work in Europe. Because they are largely different than the US Postal systems.
I also learned a few things when I was in Rome. I was told if I wanted to mail anything, to use the Vatican post office because the Italian post office had a penchant for making mail disappear. Unfortunately, the post office in the Vatican was closed on weekends, so I had to mail my Rome postcards when I got back to the UK. The Vatican (an independent state) post office actually ships its mail out to Switzerland (where it also gets its bodyguards) to avoid the Italian post office corruption. Go figure.
I have also had some interesting run ins at the British post office. Apparently, the British post office has largely been privatized. The US post office is strictly a federal endeavor, hence the fact that the USPS is constantly in financial trouble. With privatization in Britain, the Post Office is more like a Walgreens of sorts. You can pay your bills, by various office and Christmas supplies like wrapping paper, exchange currency, etc. I even saw computer printers for sale. There's also a lot of waiting in lines.
Being a free market capitalist, I appreciate this. Its much more efficient I think than the USPS, and the government doesn't come and arrest if you try to mail a letter through UPS or FEDEX which they can do under American law thanks to federal monopoly. However, the downsize is that apparently many rural post offices in the UK are close to going out of business because they financially aren't making a profit. I am bordering on political discussion here, so I may need to move this over to my offblog blog, but I have found this an interesting thing to observe.