Universal Postal Union & International Reply Coupons

i got an invitation to a wedding in Canada (congrats!) and included was one of these, an International Reply Coupon (Coupon-RĂ©ponse International) for the response card. all you do is take it to your local post office and exchange it for postage. so cool — i had no idea there was such a thing as (basically) a stamp gift certificate, or even a Universal Postal Union. i’ve always wondered how international mail works in terms of payment (like, if i send a letter from here to Croatia, and it stops and gets transported through several European countries on the way over, who gets paid for what), and the UPU wiki article has a brief but insightful explanation. can you imagine an era of having to buy and affix stamps for each country your letter transited through? yikes! (though granted, snail mail is becoming less and less relevant in today’s world, and i’m not really lamenting it, but that’s beside the point.)

what got me, though, is that English is not the official–or even secondary, given the text on the reverse–language, which is something that as a native-English speaker you take for granted (and, admittedly, expect). i think it’s things like this that got it into my mom’s head that i should take French instead of Spanish (which i did).

i hope they don’t mind me posting a picture of the coupon — i added the VOID just in case.

ohhhhhh now i get it. i thought it was weird that on the front left center they said UN is contre le changement climatique (“UN is against climate change,” with English “is”), but it’s Unis contre le changement climatique (“United against climate change”), with a stylized UNis to signify UN involvement. clever!

UPDATE: I took it to the post office to redeem and neither of the two ladies knew what to do with it so I ended up paying the 85 cents for a stamp to Canada.

4 Comments on "Universal Postal Union & International Reply Coupons"

  1. What a quinky-dink, I hadn’t seen one of these myself before I recently got one from my German insurance company, now that I live in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, they had been so clever as to staple it into the return envelope.

    Apparently, mail is one of the few domains where English is not (yet) the international lingua franca. On a related note: http://pinyin.info/news/2012/botanical-descriptions-english-at-last/

  2. When I was a shortwave radio hobbyist, one of the things that we did was send reports away to foreign radio stations in order to get back what is called a “QSL card”, basically an acknowledgement that your report was correct and you heard the station. This would be from around 1970-1990, in my case. In order to get some impoverished radio stations in East Slobbovia to send back a QSL card, you would have to include IRCs. The first time I asked to buy one, the Post Office didn’t know what it was. Once they discovered them, I could buy as many as I wanted. You might want to suggest to the PO manager that everyone should be trained in how to redeem them (basically one IRC = the first unit of unregistered surface foreign mail; that would be 49p here in the UK, I think). If I wanted air mail QSLs, I’d have to send more than one IRC.

    • oh that’s cool! hm, i’m definitely thinking of writing a semi-nastygram to the postmaster general or something.

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