Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's in the mail

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  Fond memory, that’s all I’m gonna say.

What’s weird is that in Brazil the postal service is really an afterthought. Nobody, it seems, uses the post office. Although, come to think of it, there is always a slow-moving line at our neighborhood office.

I worked in a business office in Rio for nearly a year and we probably mailed a half dozen letters the whole time. We were always using messenger boys, faxes or personal delivery. Around the holidays I suggested we send a (constituent relationship management) Christmas greeting to our clients and my boss looked at me like I was off my rocker. “Through the mail?” he wondered. “Why would we do that?”

One big difference between here and back in the States is that one does not pay ones bills via the mail. In fact I’ve been told that it is specifically illegal to send money/checks through the mail. Bills arrive in the mail (often with one day left before the due date!), but people pay them at the ATM machine, at bill payment storefronts (always a long line) or via the internet.

Days can go by and we will receive nothing in our mailbox. There is practically no junk mail. Imagine.

Package delivery can be hit or miss. My mom has remarked more than once that she believes her packages sent from Florida are transported via canoe.

I once had a phone conversation with an US IRS representative to settle an outstanding situation and she concluded: “OK then, we’ll expect to get that in the mail within two weeks.” I just laughed. “Honey,” I said, “I’m calling from Brazil. NOTHING happens in just two weeks – especially a postal delivery!”

If we are really concerned about something actually getting to its destination we send it ‘registered’ (which slows it down even further). But in general we have joined the masses that utilize other means for most deliveries and communications.

Carlos – if you are reading this – we sent your bathing suit two weeks ago. And Jake, that World Cup jersey we promised… it’s in the mail!


Danielle said...

Yeah, the mail system is pretty weak, but it actually doesn't affect my life that much with today's technology (and with the fabulous option of paying the bills at the ATM).

I'm not sure if this happens in Rio, but here in our small town, the alternative to junk mail is junk stoplight spamming. People stand at every single freaking stoplight in the city and hand out fliers for local businesses (the kind of things that would get stuck in your mailbox in the US). It's irritating, but better, in a way, because it's not wasting tax dollars, and you can always just reject it.

Ben Ellis said...

Oh, and I thought that it was fanatastic when I read this post from Paulo Coelho's blog.

Ray Adkins said...


Just fyi, the Brazilian Post Office is year after year considered the 2nd best in the world for reliability and efficiency( USPS is always 1st ).
The delays caused by the international parcels is due to the Brazilian Customs, not the post office.
If you consider the size of Brazil and the geographical difficulties it is no small feat.



Jim said...

Danielle - here I mostly see young people distributing new housing develoment propoganda at traffic signals. Not too much else. Their lack of enthusiasm is always worth a chuckle.

Ben - that's amazing. Being famous has its perks.

Ray - I certainly do not want to be gratuitously disparaging the postal service here. If you are correct, I think it says more about all the other systems than it does to crow about the Brazilian postal service. We have had more than our share of never-delivered items, registered items held at the local office because they claim they tried three times to deliver them (even though we were here the whole time) and LOTS of stuff delivered after due dates, etc.

But again -- I am not here to be critical for its own sake. Thanks for the counter voice on this topic. Best to stay balanced.

Fabio Bossard said...

My friend from the States and I from exchange books, magazines etc through the mail. I always send it registered, cause that way I can, at least, track it down. But I'm always worried that it gets lost. The first package I sent him was funny, cause I mailed it on a Friday afternoon and on Monday when I got home my package was right there on my bed. I went back to the same post office, talked to the same lady and explained what happened. She was confused and didn't understand why it was sent back to me. So she wrote in red ink big letters "DESTINATARIO" and drew an arrow pointing at my friend's name.

Jim said...

Great story Fabio!!

Dan said...


Thanks for the post. I'm a lot less anxious now; I sent a package to a friend in Sao Paulo last month. It will be 3 weeks tomorrow since I sent it, 10 days stuck in Customs.

Good thing it was sent 'Priority' Mail!!

Jim said...

Good luck Dan!