How were letters sent?

The land of pen pals : Nobody sends as many letters as the Germans

Shortly before the beginning of 2018, one document will probably still be sent exclusively by hand: the wish list. Santa is not known of any emails, and if he has a cell phone number to send WhatsApp messages to, he'll keep it under lock and key.

A number of envelopes addressed to Santa Claus have already been received in Himmelpfort in Brandenburg. Measured by the number of letters - last year it was around 281,000 - the Christmas post office there is the largest of its kind in Germany. Deutsche Post operates seven such "Christmas writing rooms"; more than half a million letters were recently counted there. Volunteers answer, thank and comfort if not every wish can come true.

In 2017 the number of letters hardly decreased

But adults are still sending letters in December. Although singing and flashing winter greetings are being received in many electronic mailboxes these days, the post office nonetheless sends twice as many letters every day during Advent as on normal days - an impressive 100 million. People give reports on the year that is coming to an end or delight each other with Christmas cards: carefully selected, formulated with care.

In fact, even the absolute number of letters in this country is still astonishingly high: while in the neighboring countries of Italy and the Netherlands, for example, only half as many letters are sent as ten years ago, and the amount in Denmark has decreased by a full 70 percent, it has fallen here in the same period by only a fifth. For 2017, the Federal Network Agency even reported this week: “largely stable letter volumes”.

Obviously, people in the land of poets and thinkers, Goethe and Charlotte Stein, Bettina von Arnim or Rilke and Paula Modersohn-Becker, hold on to the letter longer than elsewhere. Nobody has to write a letter anymore - of course not. That turns it from a disdainful messenger to a luxury good. Perhaps that is why he is able to express appreciation more than ever.

Delivery only once a week?

It is true that the core business of Deutsche Post lost 3.6 percent compared to the previous year. Competitors such as Berliner Pin AG, which has been shipping across Germany since March of this year, are taking customers away from the former monopoly. In the past, the declining mail business served as an argument for four consecutive increases in postage: The amount is falling, but the effort is the same.

In view of such price increases, many customers are angry that the company is toying with the idea of ​​not delivering letters every day. After all, Germans not only like to write letters, they also like to receive them. "Deutsche Post offers customers in selected delivery districts a test in which alternative delivery options for receiving their mail can be tried out." The aim is "to find out more about the possibly changed needs of customers in an increasingly digitized communication world," explains the enterprise.

The recipients can choose to receive their letters every two days or just once a week. Swiss Post emphasizes that all participants take part voluntarily. A "takeover into regular operation" is currently not planned. With some Berliners, however, the impression has become stronger that they only receive mail once a week without being asked.

Swiss Post cannot find enough staff

The Post admits that there were delays in the Berlin districts of Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf in autumn. Unexpectedly many cases of illness, not least of all storms, would have meant that not all households could be reached as usual. In the meantime, the delivery is stable again. The Deutsche Post, once an authority, has to deliver letters six times a week, according to the “Post Universal Service Ordinance”.

Before the start of Advent, the company hired more than 100 additional postmen in Berlin. A total of 84,000 mail carriers work for the market leader throughout Germany alone. On high days like these, that's not enough. "We are still looking for suitable new employees," said a postal spokeswoman when asked. So it doesn't necessarily fail because of goodwill. In comparison, the company offers the most attractive jobs “with secure, collectively agreed employment, high industry wages and modern operating resources.” Nevertheless, it is still a challenge to meet the need for good staff.

Because not only the Post and Pin, Hermes, DPD or GLS are looking for messengers, Amazon is in the process of establishing its own delivery structure, Zalando is also making itself more independent. There are also classic couriers and food delivery services such as Foodora or Deliveroo. In view of the rapidly growing online trade, the logistics industry is one of the most demanding and dynamic of all.

From regular soldier to postman

Anyone delivering letters should be able to speak German. And also physically fit: hardly anywhere does the correspondence for the residents of a street fit in a shoulder bag. Especially on Saturdays, when masses of advertising mailings are being delivered by discounters or furniture stores, the deliverers move tons of paper with their bicycles. In Berlin some old buildings don't even have mailboxes in the hallway, just slits on the apartment doors.

The postman's profession may also have an image problem. Even in the age of start-up millionaires, many little boys still want to become firefighters or police officers. But postman? Deutsche Post is therefore taking unusual approaches. She recently started a cooperation with the German Armed Forces, which aims to make entry into the postman's life attractive to former regular soldiers. The global group has long been working with external service providers who, for example, empty crates.

There is no delivery guarantee

If you want your letter to be under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, you should mail it by December 21st at the latest. As a rule, according to Deutsche Post, 95 percent of all letters reach their destination on the following day. A little less in Berlin, as the answer to a member of parliament's written question shows: 89.7 percent. Everything takes a little longer here.

However, there is no guarantee of delivery for letters. And a letter is only considered lost if it does not arrive within 20 days.

Goethe was used to longer running times. However, because nowadays irritations can quickly arise if a love vow remains unanswered for weeks, glowing letter writers should perhaps better follow up by text message in case of doubt.

Currently in the department
Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page