Gold coin scams, and other scams too, at British post offices

[First published 19 February 2019. Lightly edited.]

A guy working behind the desk in a British post office, who happens to be the postmaster, splashed a hard-sell on me today, trying to persuade me to buy gold coins. Yes, gold coins. In a post office. After seeing me idly peruse some coins in a display cabinet while queuing, he handed me a box containing a sovereign and said the mint mark on it meant a lot “if you know about sovereigns”. He said the price was £450 but they were selling for £500 on Ebay. He must have thought there was a good chance I was born yesterday. He was basically saying I could make myself £50 if I handed him £450.

He also pointed to a huge five ounce coin offered for more than £8000. (It was my attention to this one that had triggered his sales effort in the first place) Yes, £8000 for five ounces, even though the spot price for an ounce of gold is only about £1000. That would be £3000 for a worthless picture of a monarch. “It’s one of only 120 that were struck,” he said, “And I can’t sell you two because we’ve only got one. We’re not just an ordinary post office.” Sure, mate.

He was using all the techniques. And in fact it was an ordinary post office. It isn’t in a super-rich area or anything. I’d gone in to pay my electricity bill.

If he goes any further, he’ll be asking each male customer whether he prefers blondes or brunettes and he’ll say there is a room upstairs where the said customer can take advantage of a special offer.

Or he will be offering bags of “special sherbet”.

I’ve been in post offices where somebody approaches you in the queue trying to get you to “change your phone supplier”. The first question is a “yes” hook such as “Are you with BT?” (In bank branches, they can ask “Have you got a car?” before they try to sell you car insurance.) I’ve been to other post offices where a video display is positioned at the front of the queue advertising “payday loans” straight into your face. Those are the short-term loans at interest rates that can exceed 1000% per year.

Often the main floor of a British post office and its general dirtiness and poor organisation are reminiscent of the third world, and there will be a separate and much cleaner area either in the same room or in an adjoining room where punters get worked on by sales personnel if they are naive or desperate enough to ask in a post office about a loan.

Meanwhile the windows at post office counters are often festooned with advertisements for lottery tickets, printed in bright colours and fonts that would be more suitable at a children’s party.

Then there are the lying posters in post offices that advertise foreign currency “with no commission”. The actual commission, which is to say half of the spread between the buy price and the sell price, is somewhere around 4%. No commission would mean that if you bought 500 euros for British pounds and then changed the euros back into pounds you would get 500 pounds back. In actual fact you’d get about 460. No moneychanger offers a no-commission service, for obvious reasons. The moneychangers who proclaim “no commission” are aiming at complete and utter morons. Post offices charge commissions which are sky high.

This is what it’s like in Britain nowadays.

Those who run Post Office Limited even lie to people who want to renew their passports. “We’ll check your form for you,” they say, “if you give us £16 [1], and then it’s less likely you’ll have your application rejected”. They call it “Check and Send”. Can so few British citizens read and write and fill in a basic form nowadays? Don’t they know how to put an envelope in a post box? In any case, staff are trained to tell customers who avail themselves of this “service” that they don’t “guarantee” that the application won’t be rejected for not having been filled in right. In other words the deceiving moneygrabbers are too greedy to train their staff to be able to check the completed forms properly, which is precisely the service they are taking money for. In short, they are asking for extra money from people just to accept letters which could just as easily be dropped in the box outside, the same way that most other letters can be posted – and people are willingly paying.

Welcome to Scam Britain.

Can somebody tell me which political party you can vote for if you’re against this? Which newspaper should you read if you want to read articles by somebody else who has even noticed it?


1) This is the current price charged, on 9 May 2020.

Leave a comment

Please type your name and email address, and a web address too if you wish.