Where Not To Buy Stamps in Paris

vocabulaire quotidien: mentir – to lie; for example: l’homme qui m’a vendu les timbres a menti! Picture this: a sweet, innocent American girl in Paris decides to send some postcards to her friends and family back home to show them she is thinking of them in this enchanting city, only to find that a nasty, cheep Frenchman has schemed her into overpaying for stamps that are in fact only good for sending letters in France! Shocking, I know. But this is the reality that I have faced. I had bought some stamps from one of those souvenir kiosks on the street because I had been meaning to buy some for weeks now but kept putting it off, and finally when I passed this stand I thought it was about time I sent the stamps I had written almost a month ago. I spoke in clear French to the man, asking him if he had stamps I could use to send a postcard to the United States. He told me I needed to use two stamps for each card, so I bought 20, figuring I would be sending at least 10 postcards over the next few months. They cost 14 euros, but what did that mean to me? What did I know? When have I ever needed to buy stamps? How should I know how much they cost, which ones to buy, or how many to use in a country that I’ve only been living in for a month? I don’t even know those answers regarding stamps in America!


Anyway, I had a half an hour today while my clothes were washing in the laundromat, so I finally got myself over to the post office to just double check that I needed to use two stamps for each postcard. It’s not that I was considering that the man lied to me; I just wanted to be certain I had understood correctly and that the letters would arrive to their intended destinations. But as it turns out, the man sold me stamps that can only be used in France! And I paid a lot less at the post office: only 9,80 euros to send the 10 cards, as opposed to 14 euros on stamps that are now useless to me.


You know, I’m not an oblivious person. Just because I’ve never made a habit of lying doesn’t mean I am ignorant of the fact that other people do it regularly. I’ve never really been good at lying, but more than that I’ve never been inclined to lie. I don’t like it. I don’t like when people lie to me, I don’t like when I lie to other people, and I really don’t like it when I see someone lying to someone else and I can’t do anything to share the truth! (This may be why I’ve always hated dramatic irony in books and movies. And it’s probably another quality that identifies me as a journalist…or future journalist.) A lie is like an itch in the back of my throat that I can’t quite scratch or a puzzle where two pieces are switched. It’s so irritating no matter which end I’m on.


Still, maybe I’ll just choose to believe that the vendor made an honest mistake and it was this carelessness that caused him to spend his days behind a counter selling snow globes and key chains. Le pauvre.

  1 comment for “Where Not To Buy Stamps in Paris

  1. Lori
    December 11, 2014 at 6:28 am

    I would like to think he made an honest mistake. Take the stamps which are useless to you and see if your host family or someone you know who lives in France can use them. Maybe it was an innocent mistake.

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