Since March this year, I have begun selling things on eBay for fun and experience. I've been buying random loot from the site ever since I've had an income, but now I also sell loot there. Specifically, I've been selling some of my Pokemon cards as single cards as well as mystery packs. The feeling of owning and operating an online card store is great, but if there is one aspect of the hobby that is inconvenient and necessary, is actually posting things to buyers.

I wasn't experienced with posting products to customers, so my first few orders were a bit sloppy; I didn't check the buyer's shipping address was accurate, I didn't write a return to sender address in case the post was not deliverable, I didn't check the thickness/weight of my postage and underpaid in stamps, and the worst, forgetting to waterproof the envelope which ended up damaging/destroying the product in a few instances when it arrived at the buyers' door. I have had to refund customers a few times, learned many lessons about better packaging and improved my workflow to be more efficient since. However, there's still a couple of postal headaches.

Firstly, postage in Australia is fairly expensive, even domestically. Even just posting a single sheet of paper in a standard envelope costs 70 cents, which means if I'm selling smaller items (such as single cards), the postage could cost more than the product itself if the card is relatively low value. Once you go over 5mm thickness, you're looking at $3.50 per post. And if you want to post a box instead of an envelope, that's at least $6.50. As I sold more and more things, I began to only sell high value rare cards and increased the lot size of the mystery packs; optimising to minimise the relative cost of postage per "net profit dollar" of goods sold. (In reality, all other costs considered, I'm only breaking even. This online store really is just for fun and not meant to provide a second stream of noticeable income)

A second issue is related to postal protection. After an initial few postal fails, I began adding registered tracking and insurance to the postage of my sold items, which means I do need to physically rock up at a Post Office when mailing off orders. These outlets generally open in normal business hours, and given how far away my workplace is from the nearest one, I can only go after work. Fortunately there is an extended hours post office about 5 minutes drive from home, and so I've been frequenting that outlet twice a week as part of my weekly after work routine.

It's been almost three months since I've started this ebay store, and I've visited that post office a couple dozen times. One of the more delightful things about this postal routine is the post office ladies. Whenever I pass through the entrance of this particular outlet, even though the counter is at least 20 meters away and I have not yet turned my head in any particular direction, the lady at the counter would always notice me and already begin bringing out the paperwork and scanner needed for registering postage tracking and insurance. She recognises who I am and what I'm here to do. It gives me a warm feeling of being remembered and valued as a returning patron of this particular outlet, almost like I have become a part of their family, just as much as they have become a part of my routine.

Honestly if I didn't start selling stuff online, I would have had no need to step into a post office myself. Up till that moment when I had to buy postage stamps for my first round of sales, I almost deceived myself into thinking the brick and mortar post office is on the way out in our modern society. While a lot of their services (tracking and insurance add-ons) could have been digitised, they are the ones who showed me how to package my goods most securely and cost-effectively.

Technology may have grown in the past 20 years, but the post office is fundamentally the same as I remembered it 20 years ago. The only thing that has changed about the post office experience for me is self-adhesive stamps (i.e. no more need to lick or wet the stamp to adhere it to the envelope).

Perhaps the post office outlets will always have a place. As far as I can tell, we are going to continue to live in a physical world, and continue to buy and consume physical products that aren't available locally. There will always be a need to deliver something to someone, someone who is too far away, making self-delivery cost-ineffective. Sometimes it is easier and safer when you can deliver it with the advice and help of postal experts residing in these outlets. They know the rules, policies and processes more intimately than any online websites which are only periodically updated with latency. It was only through being the sender I regained an appreciation of them and postal services in general; they are as crucial to our modern world as clean water, electricity and medical services are.