How do I find out where to get general delivery mail?
November 2, 2014 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I've got a friend in Waterloo, ON, Canada that doesn't have a safe way to pick up packages. I'd like to send her something. I've used General Delivery (Poste restante) when in a rural area, but have no idea how to do it when in a city.

My friend is fine going to a post office to get it. When I was living in a rural town that only had mail go to the post office, I used General Delivery/Poste restante when I was in a small town with one post office, but Waterloo has a bunch of post-office type locations at Shoppers Drug Marts. How do I tell which one the mail will go to? I see on the Canada post website something about a Station or RPO for Retail Post Outlet, but how do I know what to write there? I had her ask at the local Shoppers location and they claimed she'd need a PO box.

So, is there a central actual post office she has to go to, or was the person at the shoppers just wrong? How do I find out what to write on the letter?

posted by Canageek to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Generally speaking, if a package cannot be delivered, the recipient will get a little tag on their door informing them at which station to pick it up the next day. It isn't always (at least in Toronto) the geographically closest, but still it'll be close by.

Basically you just address as normal. If the package can't be left securely (e.g. the only option is on a porch), your friend will just get a little note telling them where to go.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:28 PM on November 2, 2014

If your friend lives in a neighbourhood anything like mine, Canada Post don't even bother trying to deliver anything that needs a signature (I intercepted the postie once; he said he didn't have the parcel in the van, as they deliver them straight to the pick up point). They just deliver the door tag, and expect you to do the pickup from the nearest Canada Post counter.
posted by scruss at 6:35 PM on November 2, 2014

I've done this (sending and receiving) in Seattle. I'm assuming your friend may not even have a mailing address otherwise? Usually the postcode on the package along with the general delivery indicator should get it to one individual specific location. That said, I don't know if this is true in a) Canada or b) outsourced type postal locations. If your friend has any friends at all who could receive a package during the day (say, at work) it would be a more secure method than trying to get her a package in this way, was my (US) experience.
posted by jessamyn at 7:20 PM on November 2, 2014

Assuming your friend has an address and gets regular mail, but no real way to get packages, I would assume Canada Post will just leave the door tag with the package at the post office. They'll need to show some identification to pick it up. If you send it with tracking, they'll even know when the tag was dropped off, and if for some bizarre reason they never find the tag on their door the online tracking will tell them which Post Office the package was delivered to. From there they should be able to just go to that Post Office (with ID) and explain there's a package for them but they don't have the tag.
posted by cgg at 9:10 PM on November 2, 2014

In the US, you address it to
CAMBRIDGE, MA 02142-9999

Then you go to the 02142 Post office and you tell them you have a general delivery package. They will ask you for ID, and you will pick up your package. The 9999 is a special +4 that tells them it is general delivery. I would NOT do this unless I talked to the post office people first. Some are okay with it, some are weird.

I suspect this is exactly how it works for Canada Post, too. The post office will tell you exactly what you need to do. This is not as uncommon as you think.
posted by bensherman at 9:39 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

The key is to send your package with "signature required". If you send something that requires a signature at delivery, the only options available are that your friend is home and thus signs and accepts the package or your friend isn't home, so they leave her a note and she has to go pick it up at the local store/post office location.
posted by VioletU at 6:04 AM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My understanding of the question is that there's no address for deliveries, not that the person isn't home. So "let them leave a tag" won't work. And for US commenters, Canada doesn't have many places that are just post offices. The overwhelming majority of post offices are a counter in either a drug store or convenience store. When I've explained this to Americans before, they think I mean selling stamps: no, these are full service post offices. If you want to overnight a package, if they left a delivery notice on your door, you go to the local drug store to overnight your package or pick-up your package you won't home for.

So, to answer the OPs question, don't ask at the Shoppers, call CanadaPost and ask them: 1-866-607-6301
Residential: Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. ET Saturday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. ET . There ARE a few standalone post offices. These are post offices attached to the front of sorting stations. I'm guessing that's where the general delivery will go.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:20 AM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all.

Yes, the problem is that she doesn't have a safe address to send her packages too, (i.e. she doesn't trust her housemates not to mess with it.) The package would get left at her place just fine, she doesn't trust what would happen to it after that.

bensherman: That is similar to how you do it in Canada, expect to add a line about what Station or RPO you want to send it to, instead of modifying the postal code. However, I'm not sure which post office within that postal code would get the package.

If only I had a penguin...: Thank you, I'll try that. There appears to be only one of those in Waterloo, so it might not be the same postal code though. I'll phone and ask.
posted by Canageek at 1:04 PM on November 3, 2014

Best answer: We do have one actual post office here (and a routing station in Kitchener). According to the Canada Post site it is "Waterloo Station"

This is located on Bridgeport Avenue, at the King Street intersection in Uptown Waterloo. "Near the Heuther" if they are reasonably local, or "Near Fox and Fiddle" if they are an undergrad or "near Chainsaw" if they are either and like cheap drinks.

This is the place your friend should go to get the best information.

Alternatively, memail me. I work in what is effectively a coworking space in downtown Kitchener and if you and she trust a random internet dude would happily act as an intermediary.
posted by cCranium at 4:38 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

As onerous as it might now seem to use Canada Post, I tried to get something delivered to my old house in Waterloo (via courier) and it got re-routed to a centre in Cambridge, which is just silly and far. Just a word of warning.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:46 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks cCranium: I was hoping to avoid making her have to go all the way out there, but if calling doesn't work I'll direct her there.
posted by Canageek at 11:37 PM on November 3, 2014

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