Italy’s Postal Embarrassment

Complaints are common about the Italian postal service, but I thought things were getting better. And maybe they are, measured strictly against la posta’s own previous service levels, which have always been dire.

But consider these events:

I needed to mail two packages from the US this summer, one to Ross in India, one to myself in Italy (too much luggage!). I was staying with friends in San Francisco’s Mission District, so I went to a nearby shop that specialized in sending packages, money orders, etc. to south American countries.

The woman at the counter took the box for India without comment. Then she looked at the box for Italy.

“Do you want insurance on this? ‘Cause the postal service there is really bad.”

(The package did arrive safely in about two weeks, Ross’ got to India a little faster. Can you see where this is going?)

Just now I was on Amazon, ordering a book and a DVD that I want to share with Ross when I get to Mussoorie (a hill station in India’s Himalayas). I’m leaving in 14 days. Should I have them shipped to Italy or India? I looked at both options. Amazon’s “Standard International Shipping” from the US to Italy was estimated to take “9-36 business days”. Recent experience shows that this is about right – some books I ordered from Amazon ~Sept 14th arrived in Lecco ~Oct 18th (and I was charged €6 customs duty, the calculation of which is probably what held up the package).

Far too long for me to get these items before my departure, but the 2-4 day courier service would cost $40. Not worth it.

So I put in Woodstock’s address. “Standard international shipping, estimated 10-16 business days”.

A package from the US will get to a remote hill station in India almost three times faster than to Lecco.

Welcome to Italy, third-world country.

Jan 4, 2008 – Both Amazon packages, plus my new Moo cards, arrived in Mussoorie on time and intact.

31 thoughts on “Italy’s Postal Embarrassment

  1. Judith in Umbria

    There seems to be no will to correct this nor any recognition that Italy is missing out on an enormous commerce outlet because no one trusts the post. You see film on the news of Post workers rifling the mail, then nothing.

    I have at times had my birthday packages pilfered by customs. They reseal with their tape. Two to three items are missing.

    Is anyone paying attention? Sure doesn’t look like it.

  2. ...Lord Zarcon

    Le Poste sono indecenti.

    Aspettavo una lattera mandata con raccomandata A/R… ci ha messo 2 settimane per arrivare.
    Stessa cosa per un acquisto su ebay, invio tramite posta raccomandata ci ha messo 8 giorni.

    Altissima serietà invece dei corrieri.. mi è capitato di comprare un portatile da CHL un mercoledì pome, io giovedì all’ora di pranzo già lo stavo utilizzando. (partenza milano.. arrivo napoli)

    Per non parlare di tutte le spedizioni smarrite dalle poste. 🙁

  3. marchino

    A me il postino invece di consegnare il pacco ha lasciato la cartolina per il ritiro in posta (e io ero in casa, non ha nemmeno suonato il campanello), comunque, per il ritiro non puoi andare lo stesso giorno dei aspettare anche fino a 48 ore, e poi, nella fretta il postino non ha compilato la cartolina (ha messo solo il mio nome e non i riferimenti della spedizione) e in posta hanno avuto il coraggio di arrabbiarsi con me perchè la cartolina non era compilata correttamente alche ho dato fuori di matto finché il pacco non mi è stato consegnato.
    Anche i corrieri non sono molto affidabili comunque.

  4. Eva

    WOW! Now that is shocking…. Even India has a better postal system than we do in Italy.
    Shame, shame, shame.

  5. vangie

    Less than 2 weeks ago, a friend and I were at a “Mailboxes Etc.” in Monfalcone attempting to ship 9 bottles of Friulian wine back to the US since we didn’t know how we’d get it on the plane the following day with Ryanair’s baggage restrictions.

    I’d already read your initial report on how bad the Italian Post is, but decided to try it anyway. We learned that it was going to cost 79 Euros to ship 3 bottles. With the dollar at an all-time low against the Euro, it was going to be insanely expensive to ship 9 bottles, for which we’d paid 5-8 Euros apiece. We decided to buy the styrofoam bottle protectors for a few Euros, bought a huge hard-sided suitcase at a mall and figured we’d still come out ahead.

  6. Grace

    However, I am currently frustrated with India’s mail system. My daughter sent five or six letters last month from Mussoorie to the USA and none have arrived. One letter sent to her boyfriend was returned to her last week opened!! The letters and packages we send usually get there in two to three week. (that is USA to India) I really want to read the letter she sent to us and so does her Grandma.. I am very glad for email!!

  7. webmaster

    I do order from Amazon UK for preference – faster and cheaper on shipping – but sometimes the items I want are not (or not yet) available there. On the other hand, the way the dollar is going, there might be a net savings in ordering from the US and paying the customs duty…

  8. Kelly

    I was told it would take 7-10 working days to send a small package from Australia to Reggio Emilia. Six weeks later it arrived!! It may just be one of those things, a one off event and Australia is far away, but it is still only a 20hr flight and I know that here it would have only spent a maximum of two days in sorting in Australia. Just sent another similar sized package on Wednesday, been told it should arrive 2 weeks at the latest. See how we go on that one before I get overly judgmental! At least so far I havent paid anything extra.

  9. Michelle

    I think the poste are getting better in some ways (well, the post offices “look” prettier and now there are actual lines to stand in) but what is up with everything going through the dogana now? Before it was hit or miss and seemed to only affect boxes. Now they are also targeting envelopes – which actually used to arrive in a week from the U.S. via regular post. The fact that they now go through the dogana means you wait a month or more AND have to pay. A true vergogna!

  10. Ann

    That’s even if the post office even notifies you of the letter. On a few occasions, whether it’s a letter from the States or even within Italy, sometimes it arrives, other times is returned to sender.

    I’ve also ordered from Amazon UK and up until now have had no problems receiving things I have ordered. Yet when I’ve ordered things off of Ebay UK, I have received everything no problems, except for one package that I ordered at the end of November, hoping I’d have it in time for Christmas. No such luck.

    The Italian postal system’s bad rap is even known in my hometown in South Dakota. Last time I was back (2005) went to send a box of things to avoid paying excess baggage. The man was like “You want to send this where!?!? Let’s hope it gets there!”

  11. Old Jacques

    You done right furshur.

    I ordered 6 pieces between books and DVDs on Nov 17 since an American friend for whom I played tour guide sent me an Amazon.COM gift certificate.

    Being pre-Christmas, they split it up into 4 partials (3+1+1+1, even though ALL were listed as “in stock, immediate delivery” and I opted for a single shipment), which had expected dates Dec 14, 20, 27 & 28. The 14 Dec package came Tuesday 8 Jan, with almost €15 di Dogana (of which 9 was actual customs+IVA [you also have to pay 20% IVA on the customs charge!] and €6 “customs handling charges” by the dogana and the Poste). The second arrived (no charges) yesterday, and the other ones (shipped Nov 22 & 25) have yet to show, and being girl’s DVDs I suspect they may never make it anyway…

    Almost funny thinking of the poor postal worker who gets it home and discovers his DVD player won’t do Region1 and his kid hating him for not being able to watch Disney Princesses or Hilary Duff…

    My family also sent Christmas presents TO Italy, and of three sent in late November, one got here the 21st, on the 30th, and one has yet to show… Another sister (always the procrastinator) sent her packages the 19th using DHL 2day service, which arrived the 27th (one we discovered actually sat in storage with a Mysterious Customer Hold Order from the 21st [no one was ever able to explain why it was there or how to break the spell, except to say “sometimes when we have a lot of packages, some get put on customer pickup by the warehouse people(?!?)”]), since “they were really backed up from the Italian teamster’s strike” (which was successfully concluded two weeks before the package was ever sent…) and “they were really swamped this year since lots of people were sending Christmas stuff”, to which my only thought was “After 2000+ years of knowing about and making a fuss over Christ’s birth, you’d think that at least the Italians, having the Pope here and all, at least they would be expecting Christmas to turn up *again* this December here, wouldn’t you? How could it be that DHL isn’t prepared for the Holiday Season to get busy?”

    Mah!

  12. Old Jacques

    I did, but it has been jumping through all sorts of hoops and over and onto all sorts of boxes like some dog and pony show.

    Part was sort of my problem, as the credit card used in november expired at year’s end, but whooda thunk it would matter, or that I would be doing this two months later, or that they couldn’t just use some internal accounting method (gift certificate refund+charge), as the original credit card charges ($6 over the gift certificate for the residual shipping costs) didn’t even cover the second partial order lost. You see, they don’t just replace, they send and charge you for a new identical order and then refund the same amount. Too much trouble, methinks. And all handled by anonymous customer service forms.

  13. caroline crawford

    My mother sent my christmas present in October, it still hasn’t arrived. I have lost all hope. I wouldn’t mind but it appears that she has suffered a lapse of her usual appalling taste and actually sent me something quite nice – we may never know.

  14. Karin Wolfe

    I mailed a 9-pound box of Christmas gifts to my daughter in Torino on Dec. 5, 2007. She had not received it my Jan. 11, 2008 so I had the US post office trace it using the customs declaration number. A week later it was delivered to her and she had to pay a 75 euro customs fee! Since it cost me $58 to mail and she paid approx. $112.50, the total cost to mail a box of opera CDs and opera and ballet DVDs was $170.50!! Crazy. This was a not a commercial importing mailing, it was personal gifts, I cannot find any info explaining the Italian ‘s charging so much…can anyone shed any like on this? The box had my personal home address, not a business, on the box and it was insured for $400. Thanks.

  15. Old Jacques

    I received the original Amazon shipment that I was expecting (and which had been already replaced with the identical substitute order) a couple of days ago. Funny thing about the Italian Postal System (Poste Italiane)…
    The replacement arrived first (mailed after 6 weeks of waiting for the original order) and had a €15 customs charge.
    The original order (of exactly same value) arrived a week+1/2 later without customs charge, but needed to be picked up at the Central Post Office, because it was hand-written labeled as “ingombrante” (bulky), even though the entire package was roughly 8x10x15 inches, and less than a pound (two [relatively] light books + 1 DVD), and the replacement was delivered “a domicilio”.
    And the day before I received a notice that a Christmas package from my Sister needed to be picked up at the central post office because it was “ingombrante” (12″x12″x8″). Go figure. The best reason they could offer was that it was rainy seasin and they didn’t want my package to get wet carrying it by boat from the central post office to the local area. What happened to “Not rain nor sleet nor…”

    And I am still waiting for two other DVD’s from the same order, already resent as replacements as well. Neither original nor replacement has arrived…

    As to the €75 customs on $400 value, it doesn’t seem out of line, as I believe (but am not positive) that there is an upper limit on custom free gifts, which should be under €100 if I am not mistaken. After which there are 20%IVA + customs charges + surcharges + overhead + fixed costs + service charges + ecc. + ecc.

    My other sister had her Christmas package sent 48 hours via DHL, and I paid €30 customs, after 8 days (sent 19th Dec., arrived 27 Dec.). No idea how much it cost her… but not what it was worth, if not thought value.
    Declared and insured value $100, but real value, probably something less (I’m guessing $70-80), plus it was someone from the mailroom that sent it out, and didn’t bother writing “personal” or “gift”.

    Such is life in Italy…

  16. Kelly

    2kg Christmas present took another 6 weeks, to get from Australia to Italy recently posted a letter, around the 7th of January, to Forli, hasn’t arrived, my friend’s Christmas present to me which was sent the week before Christmas hasn’t arrived yet either, 3 months later…What can we do?? I almost don’t want to bother sending anything any more

  17. Grishnakh

    I think the main problem is the people of the country, and the fact that most of them are Catholic. This usually translates to a total lack of ethics on the part of the people, and allows extreme corruption to take over the government. Here in North America, we have a very similar country called Mexico. The government is utterly corrupt, and you can’t do anything there without bribing someone. What does Mexico have in common with Italy? Simple: everyone’s Catholic! Countries which don’t have the Catholic Church in control simply don’t have these problems, because people in those countries are more ethical. Why are Catholics so unethical? I have no idea. But you can’t deny the correlation.

  18. ryan

    nov 4th i posted a letter from the uk to italy today dec 2nd, i recieved it back, why? because “il destinatario è sconosciuto”, eh, i know the address and recipients name are correct wtf??

  19. John

    TO #19 Grishnakh,
    Dont know where your family originally came from, but your racism and stupidity stand out.
    How could you possibly sum up that religion
    is the cause.
    I hate to sum up too, but look at all the
    crosses on headstones of soldiers in WWII cemetaries in Europe and Asia.
    I am proud that my family fought and died
    in WWII so you were able to emigrate to North America and be free to give your opinions.
    John

  20. Donna Bionica

    It’s rubbish! It’s just a gamble. I’ve been living in both Italu and the UK for years…sund somethinh from Italy to the UK no probs! Order something from the net or get something sent from family. It’s 50 50 you might get it!!! Once again my stuff has not arrived and like the lady say’s this country does nothing about it. It’s totally corrupt.. Pretty though!

  21. Coco

    Seems like the Italian post is still fumbling along. I sent a birthday gift for a friend from the US to Rome on June 1; it’s now July 25 and she still hasn’t received it. I’m sure it’s in the personal collection of some corrupt postal worker.

    Forza Italia!

  22. Still sucks big time

    Even more amusing are the ebay customers who expect refunds because a package is taking its sweet time arriving, is it my fault you live in a third world country? royal mail won’t even offer signed for in italy, the tracking just ends at the depot where the package lands…usually rome.

    sent on the 28th august….now the 16th september still not arrived thats for a letter sized package of no possible interest.

  23. Annie

    My boyfriend was ordering some chilies sauces (special hot chilies) from UK last spring. However, his package was never arrived. After 2 months waiting for the package, he called the Poste Italiane and logged a report. He received a reply from the Poste Italiane saying his report was not complete and due to that they were not able to find his package.

    My boyfriend was very sad because he never received his favourite sauces.

  24. s e harvey

    Iv’e lived here for 6 years and it is truly like being in a third world country…….something I ordered from the USA last year was sent back. I was told the address was wrong, no, the courier couldn’t find me, we are not off the map, they just couldn’t be asked to reach me. If the item made it past the thieving sods at dispatch it must have been thrown at anyone with a set of wheels but no inclination to do the job!
    I have had to pay more postage to have it resent. A trace showed it had reached Italy again but the bad weather meant the van couldn’t get through. Now the roads are clear I live in hope, I’m asking the post lady to investigate for me. I keep her sweet with a Xmas present each year so it may turn up yet. All it is is some large size tops for my holiday, first for last year now for this. I have yet to see any Italian women my size whose husbands may work for the postal service here.
    What with a corrupt government, central and local, a moribund Vatican which does nothing about the country’s lack of moral direction and the ‘every man for himself’ attitude I despair of the place…..We are selling up as soon as we can, can’t stand it any longer, lovely scenery or not.

  25. Deirdre Straughan Post author

    Just a note: the Vatican is a different country from Italy, and has no legal basis to say anything about Italy’s morals. The separation of church and state is mandated in Italy’s constitution much as it is in the US.

  26. Lupo

    ok, so here it goes. I’m doing the paperwork for my italian citizenship, as requested I sent to the dept. of state, my background chek to be authenticated… this happened in april…. so I called the DoS by te end of may and they told me they hay already sent the document since may 19th, today it hasn’t arrived yet, july 18th. I’ve been to the post office to ask for help, no one seems to know where exactly the letters arrive, they’ve been sending me to three different addresses, one for the distribuion, another for the postman etc… thing is I’m doing all over again this time with Fedex, but here’s another problem, here in italy aparently you can’t send a prepaid envelope so that the DoS doesn’t pay for the returned mail. first thing they told me at fedex here in Italy was, “we’ve never done that before, we can’t do it”. how’s that for customer service!!!???

  27. Tony

    completely agree, the Italian post service sucks.. people are too lazy taking their “pisolino” (nap) instead of thinking about working.. it really sucks, please try to avoid doing any transactions with or through Italy!!

  28. George

    Its a shitty country, noone works. Country in ruins. lazy bastards. My parcel left Cyprus to Malta on the 11th Sep and till today 22nd has not arrived. China post is better and faster. But why am i writing? EU rules do not apply to this Mafia ridden country. EU take note maybe you wake up.

  29. Allen W Thrasher

    I have lived a total of four years in India in three separate stays and sent endless letters and packages both ways and never had any troubles.

    My uncle worked tor years tor the Ford Foundation in Mumbai and Delhi and told me that after fifteen years he still could not figure out what determined what worked well in India and what didn’t.

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