The internet age has not been kind to postal services worldwide. Amidst a two decade wave of staff cuts, reduced hours, and closed branches, one nation is trying a novel approach to bolster their mail service. In Russia, post offices have begun selling beer.
The move was first announced on the popular Russian social media service VKontakte. (Yes, Vkontakte does appear to be shamelessly ripped off from Instagram and Facebook.)
A user representing the Murmansk regional account posted, “It seemed that the Post of Russia was already disgraced as much as was possible in principle. It turned out: no.”
The disgruntled postal customer then described how he expected a quick pick up of his packages, but was soon disappointed. “There is one “cash desk”, where there is already a prolonged consultation on bed linen, colors and materials of manufacture,” he described. “Judging by the new “position” for [beer] sale in the post offices, we will soon see drunks from nearby houses. And they can significantly increase the queue.”
The comment section is hilarious for those who speak Russian (and the rest of us can use our browser’s translate function.) For example, with enough Russian existential angst to make Tolstoy proud, Anstaya expressed her embarrassment.
“Prokop, you need to understand that our parents come to the post office in Russia and receive a pension, and maybe a bar will open, horror!!! Where Putin looks V.V. or what, too, gets his pension, yes, he dabbles in beer and plays dominoes on the bench!?” she wrote. “Our people are not splochennye as before, would not have made a move for such Ugliness!!!”
Anyway, the post soon went viral. The Pochta Rossii (Russia Post) PR department kicked into gear and quickly explained that the measure is aimed at keeping the service in the black.
“[Beer is sold] mainly in remote branches, there are 40 of the 152 branches in the Murmansk region,” explained postal spokesperson Olesya Golushkova. “Low-alcohol drinks have been sold since January 2019. The sale of products with low alcohol content will increase the profitability of post offices and attract additional funds to modernize the post office network.”
#SpoilerAlert: The Russian government then tried to spin the matter. issue. Another Russia Post spokesperson, Daniil Skidan argued that the move is actually intended to fight alcoholism. “The main emphasis is on rural branches that provide the population access to high-quality, certified alcohol products,” Skidan, a spokesman for Pochta Rossii, told a Moscow radio station.told Govorit Moscow. “Every year more than 1,200 people become the victims of poor-quality alcohol and its surrogates.”
In fairness, while the concept of protecting people from poor quality alcohol may sound laughable, the issue is dead serious in Russia. In one high profile 2016 incident, 78 Siberians died as the result of poisoning from one bad batch of moonshine.
A little cultural context is necessary also. Keep in mind that although numbers are murky, Russia is widely regarded as the world’s number one vodka consumer per capita. In comparison, beer is relatively low proof.