We are leaving our current rental soon, so I made one of my very infrequent visits to the local branch of the French post office, La Poste, to activate the change of address I had made online. I should add that this service had a price, 30 euro, which I think is a lot.
Nevertheless, I find La Poste a happy place. Branch staff have always been extraordinarily polite and helpful when I’ve failed to understand the French system for getting the right stamps or sending a registered letter, so I don’t have the feeling of dread going there as I do other places of business, say, the bank. (I have been contemplating a post on French customer service, but I want to avoid a rant.)
They are there to serve! To make your life easier! You can use La Poste as your low-fee bank, and your email box. Hundreds of branches across France are sites for economically taking your driver’s test (“passer le code de la route”). It provides a digital safe for the many important documents required for one reason or another on a regular basis by the French bureaucracy (identity card, proof of residence, pay slips). For seniors, La Poste offers a simple, app-enabled touch-screen tablet with a SIM card for WiFi everywhere.
And there’s more.
For older seniors, there’s a new amazing service called “keep watch over my parents.” Sign up, and a postal delivery person (“le facteur”) will make an in-person visit to your parent every week. They will have a chat about what’s new, how things are going, what problems the parent might be having, and consequently the facteur will summarize the chat to the adult child subscriber. Combined with the in-person visits is a 24/7 hotline for emergencies. And the parent gets a monthly magazine, Famileo, customized with personal news and photos. You can get all this for as little as 20 euro a month. What a wonderful supplement to the measures adults take to keep their elderly parents safe and healthy, and in their own homes as long as possible.
La Poste is a vital part of a French neighborhood, a community hub of sorts, an administrative service with a human touch. Would this approach work in the US?