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Monday, February 21, 2011

What-What: La Poste

La Poste.  Living far away from home the difficulties are abundant, one such problem is the issue of receiving or sending packages all the way across the world.  Recently, I went into La Poste to pick up a package my mom lovingly bundled up and I noticed how truly different La Poste is compared to the United States Postal Services.  Not just the prices (which I will discuss later) but the concept that La Poste is not actually owned by the government.. and USPS is.

While France is highly socialistic in several of their tendencies (state health insurance, huge amounts of social aide to students/families, subsidies for farmers and subsidies to small businesses) the post office itself is actually a private business who works on profit/revenue.  In the States, our USPS is owned and ran by the US Government, which sets caps on the pricing for mail services and all employees are hired by the Govt.  While the US has a lack of public services... France has one big difference in this department.

La Poste was not always a private affair, it was just last year (March 2010) that they became private and a profit run business.  This is why, if you've lived in Lyon since 2010, you'll see the huge differences happening in the offices.  Everyone now holds a smiling face, uniforms are key, brightly colored signs portray which line to stand in.  The strangest is the specialty desk that sells just 'timbres collections' or stamp collections.. specialty stamps for those who collect.  The goal was to generate more profits for France and their government... Much more like a Home Depot than a public service, La Poste has even expanded into 'subsidary' realms:

-Post Immo
-La Banque Postale
-La Poste Mobile

All of which are services offered within the original post offices that were once owned by the state.  Why is this important?  The prices are reflected on this privatization.

For example, let's say I want to send a little bit of some French chocolate to my mom.. I buy about 1 kilo worth of candies and chocolates and bundle them nicely into a box.  The costs (according to the Colissimo website, their subsidiary) is about 16e.  16e for 2 pounds of stuff.. that is very expensive considering in the United States we have a service which enables us to send about 5 lbs for 10$ international.

Here's the average costs for sending to the United States:
500g  or  1lb  -  21.38 €
1 kilo or 2lbs -  25 €
2 kilos or 4lbs - 28€

etc, etc.

I still haven't sent any gifts back home because of the ridiculous prices.. and example of how privatization is really not a good idea, especially for public services.


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