In the United States, the debate has been going on for years about the uncertain future of the Post Office. The public has been told about the loss of revenue and the problem does not seem to be solved by raising the cost of a stamp. It is no surprise to hear that people are using the post office less often, as the Internet has changed how we communicate with each other. There was a time when I was writing letters every week, and now almost all of my mail is email. As I left America, the discussion was still going on and there was no definitive answer to this increasing problem.

In the Netherlands, I quickly learned what a “private post office” really means. In 2009 it was announced that all of the post offices would close. Right now there are 14 post offices left and the last one will close in October, the post office in Utrecht. Basically, the government run postal services are now considered semi-private. Since I moved here, I have not been in a post office. I have done all my postal business in a “sales points” location.

There are 2400 locations throughout the country where you can do all of your postal business, from buying a stamp to mailing packages. These locations are grocery stores, book stores and convenience stores. There are two places that I frequent: one is in a book store and it is large enough to have a special section of the counter just for postal needs and the other one is a dinkie little store where you can buy a stamp and a newspaper at the same time.

The interesting thing about this is the delivery system. Mail is delivered to your home, Monday-Saturday, IF it is in an envelope or a magazine—something with your name and address on it. This mail is delivered by someone on a bicycle. Circulars and all other sale items are delivered by another company, they are usually young people walking up and down the neighborhood with a bag of ads to put in your mail box. Everyone is given stickers to put on their mail box, if you do not want to get any ads, you just say so and they will not be delivered. Packages are brought to your home by a delivery company, but they will not leave packages if you are not home. If you live in an apartment building, the package can be left with a neighbor. If not, the package will have to be picked up by you at a selected location.

You can designate a “pick up” place when you order something online, if you know that you will not be home from 9-5. And this I find most interesting: there are places are all over the community that are designated package pick ups, like a gas station, as they are open more hours than most stores. You can also pick up your package at a hardware store, grocery store, or a video store.

Basically, in one day I could get three different companies coming to my home: bringing me my mail, the sale circulars and a package. And so far, I have not had any problems. The locations are very handy as they are all over the town or city. If the store is open, then you can do your postal business.

From what I know, the transition from the two types of post offices in the past few years has gone pretty smoothly. I cannot find any huge negative aspect of this change, except for those people who have lost their jobs. The human component to this situation should not be forgotten. In America, a major change would be devastating to thousands of federal employees. As many Dutch people have had to face the same challenge.

But from a customer’s point of view, it does not seem to have impacted services. And as it is typical Dutch, the people here have adapted to this new way of doing business. For practical reasons, the changes were made for economic reasons. Whether it is popular or not, I have no idea. But I can tell you that I do get my mail, it is just done a little differently.

Recommended reading:  84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

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  • Jane Moore Goughton  On September 30, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Interesting! Wonder if the US could go to this type of system or if it’s been considered .

    My favorite part: hearing you say “dinky” again in my head 🙂

    Happy weekend!

    • Loree Griffin Burns  On October 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      Ha! Jane and Jane … I heard “dinky,” too!

      (And what is up with “Goughton”?)


  • Aledys Ver  On October 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    It is true: the transition seems to have been working well, except I wonder what’s happened to those people that have been laid off. The slow death of the postal service as we know it is sth that cannot be stopped, unfortunately… I don’t think I’ve written snail mail in the last 8 years or so… except for the occasional greetings card that I still prefer to send in the old fashioned way, I manage everything over email or online.
    I suppose that the postal worker will become something of the past very soon… it’s sad, isn’t it?

  • Alison  On October 14, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Considering the main post office in Utrecht is just down the street from me, I’ve just always gone there. Having it close it kind of freaking me out, because it seems weird to think I should take my christmas packages to Albert Heijn to get them mailed off!

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