The next day I took in two other packages for surface mailing across the Atlantic. The packages were an economic posting price. I asked for a card to be sent surface mail, and made a point of showing the counter clerk that I had already put a twenty pence stamp on the envelope, to be offset against the total cost. She whizzed through the parcels administration, and stuck a bunch of stamps on the card envelope like it needed a whole stock of them. I reminded her it was a surface mail item just as she was about to put on an airmail sticker. "oh yes, so it is," she burred and looked a bit embarrassed. All the items were rushed to the post bag before I had paid. When she returned I asked for a receipt for the posted items; I said wanted the itemised costs. By her reaction, the clerk clearly did not expect this request. She disappeared again, returning with the three items of post; without the details she could not do as requested. I received three pieces of paper, one for each item, which, unfortunately, I did not examine till ten minutes later. What I had been given were 'proofs of posting', which do not give any itemised cost details, they are definitely not receipts.
Blast! I had to go back and queue again to get to the counter to speak to the woman. She was ever so busy doing important stuff like getting the post bags tied up to shove out to the collecting post van. Nevertheless, we discussed her mistake. Her mistake! Heavens no! People who ask for receipts usually mean proof of posting....oh so it was my fault then for using the right terminology for what I wanted. "So, what should I have called a receipt?".......... No clear answer.
Thus began a circular question and answer session, from which, no receipt was forthcoming as all the post was now gone; my mail could not be retrieved for weighing etc to obtain one, the clerk said. This whole nonsense, I felt, was a crude subterfuge. I was very unhappy.
Once home, I registered a complaint with the Customer Services section of Post Office Counters Limited. A week or so later I received a letter explaining how the complaint had been dealt with, with profuse apologies from the counter clerk, etc. etc., and half a dozen first class stamps were included as compensation for the episode. What made the letter particularly implausible, was that the writer constantly referred to 'he' throughout. They could not even get the right gender for the person who, they say, they had contact with.
The post script to this is, the card which was meant to be sent surface mail, arrived in New Hampshire USA, four days after posting. I believe this tells me what the defensiveness and offensiveness at the post office counter, was all about. I rest my case.