This month marks four years working in the Post Office. I don’t know whether that deserves celebrating or despair, but the time spent on the post office counter has yielded some of the more bizarre experiences in my working life. Some of the stories are too good to simply rattle around in my brain, so the more interesting ones will be published here.
To start with, I’ve got a real thriller - one of the few moments I’ve ever worried about my safety at work.
A few months into the job I get a phone call that went something like this.
”Post office, Patrick speaking.”
”Hi, do you have a parcel under [surname] there?”
I go find the parcel on the shelf. It’s a small box about the size of two bricks. Experience tells me it’s got something pretty valuable in it. “Yep, it’s here.”
“If they come in to pick up the parcel, I want you to call the police.”
Her direct tone leaves me speechless for a moment. She continues, filling the vacuum of silence.
”My husband had his wallet stolen a few weeks ago, and somebody has ordered all this stuff in his name. When they come in to pick it up, I want you to call the police.”
This is well outside of anything I’ve been trained for. I transfer the call to my manager, who can deal with it. She makes a few phone calls and quietly hides the parcels in the back.
I think nothing more about this situation for a few hours. The manager keeps making calls to figure out exactly what she should do with the parcels, and then he arrives.
The fraudster is about a foot taller than me, 50 kilos heavier and has a genial expression. He’s here to pick up the parcels, and hands me a drivers license with the guy’s name on it. A three year old could tell this license is fake. On the surface it all adds up, the photo, the name and address all match, but the card looks like it was printed on an inkjet printer. But most of all it’s flimsy - I could bend it in half with two fingers - whereas the licenses in my state are pretty thick.
"The parcel looks something like this," he says, reaching over the desk and pointing at a similar parcel on the shelf."
I mumble something about going to check in the back, then rush in to the manager to tell them he's here.
"Stall him!" she says.
I pretend to look for the parcels on shelves, going through practically all the parcels. Meanwhile my co-worker conveniently disappears into the back, leaving me alone to deal with the fraudster. I'm trying to keep all the other customers calm without giving anything away too.
After a few minutes of this fairly obvious act, the fraudster becomes restless. "If you can't find it, I can come back later if you want," he says.
"No it's ok, this happens all the time. We probably put it under the wrong name or something. Let me check in the back."
I go tell the manager what's happening. "Keep stalling him! The police are on their way."
Bloody hell, it's easier said than done. I do my best to reassure him that we'll find his parcel, while serving a few other customers to clear out the rapidly forming queue. He's getting more restless by the second. I'm frankly amazed he's still buying the act I've put together.
After what seems like hours, I see two police officers walking up the store. Never have I been more relieved to see a cop. They're sneaking up to the counter until one of their radios squawks, alerting the fraudster to their presence five metres away.
He turns around slightly and seeing the police in his peripheral vision, quietly starts to try leaving the shop. The cops have blocked both aisles, there's no escape. He's hauled out the shop by both officers, who return shortly to take the parcels, the license, the CCTV and our details.