The Postal Service is Alive and Well

by Emily Kemme
Forever Stamp

Good bargain before price increase

The United States Postal Service recently announced that it is raising the price for its mailing services on April 17th; from a consumer’s point of view, this looks to me a little like a ponzi scheme.  Let’s stock up on those “forever” stamps, for “whatever” they may be worth, because they’ll be worth more in the future.  Buy low, sell high.  It’s a great investment.

The USPS states that it is once again necessary to raise their prices because of competition in the postal arena, even though the rest of us are recovering from a horrific recession.  This may be partly my fault, since I’ve tried to avoid mailing anything at all if possible; my method has been to channel the intended recipient whatever it is I’m trying to communicate through mental telepathy.  This hasn’t worked as well as I’d hoped; I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the phone and credit card companies trying to convince them that I really meant to pay their bills.  Oh, the price of innovation.

Nevertheless, the postal service has a point as far as competition.  As we all know, Federal Express has a psychoanalysis-worthy logo (but don’t get too close to a delivery truck while driving; it may cause dizziness and loss of orientation attempting to figure out where the arrow is.)

Fedex

Do you see the arrow?

Fed Ex even earns enough money to advertise in movies about their packages, even when their shipments get “Castaway” and Tom Hanks has to tear up raw fish with his hands to eat it.  Thinking of that, I’m wondering if Tom Hanks has a penchant for taking on movie projects that he must know will irritate mail deliverers.  Now that he’s got Fed Ex and email methods of communication under his belt, what’s next?  Facebook is taken; maybe Tom’s new movie will be called “Twitterpated”.

This is just conjecture.  All I know for certain is the last couple of times I’ve been at the post office, the line stretched out the door, with twelve people in front of me, and six behind.  Granted, it’s partially my fault, since, despite the best intentions, I never seem to get to the post office before noon.  What I’ve noticed, though, is that there are people buying stamps, sending certified letters, and most important of all, sending packages.

I know that you can send a package through whomever you ordered it from.  Bed, Bath and Beyond will be happy to mail that wedding present.  All you have to do is pay shipping costs and they’ll send it on its merry way.  If you’re feeling extra warm and fuzzy that day (or decided to be cheap and skip out on your daily Starbucks addiction, thereby saving $5.00) you can even have them wrap it for you.  But why?  There’s always this thought bugging me, something poking my back and saying, “are you sure they’re sending exactly what you want?”  Or worse, “what if the item the store sent is broken and then the recipient (for whom you only have good intentions!) will think that the giver (me) was being a cheapskate?”

And then, there is the care package.  You see, there’s no substitute for a hand-chosen, hand-packed (generally, stuffed-into-box) care package.  It isn’t as if the places where I might send care packages haven’t tried to substitute their wares, though.  I regularly receive glossy mailers from the kids’ summer camp and college, reminding me that I will be a better parent if I send my children something other than just plain old money. Money isn’t something that your kid can share around the dorm, in theory.  What he needs is a 10 pound container of red licorice twists.  I’m serious here, and also guarantee that such a thing will break you financially.  Which is exactly why the USPS loves care packages.

Anyway, the items suggested by the camp and college (c & c) are fairly tame and pedestrian, by my kids’ standards. For example, the most recent package of goodies sent off to my son in the American heartland contained, if memory serves:

–one family-size box mac-n-cheese (he likes regular mailings, so one is all that’s needed)

–one box Cliff bars (ditto)

–8 honey sticks from Sprouts

–A neoprene laptop sleeve that went missing last August when my son was “packing” up to return to school (I put “packing” in quotes because it is only loosely associated with what you might dredge up in your memory as being activities one does when one packs, ie; a suitcase is a great beginning, much better than “let’s open up the back of the Suburban and start stuffing things in and when it’s full, I guess we’re done.”)

–A lime green shark squirt gun to enhance dorm parties (my daughter’s inclusion)

–A large and floppy sun hat made of Mountain Dew cans stitched together with red crochet yarn, which was something my daughter was convinced would be a great accessory to wear while engaging in shark squirting (see above item), not to mention that its floppiness could assist in hiding the wearers’ identity

–A large tube of Crest Whitening toothpaste (because they don’t sell toothpaste in Iowa, I guess.  At least, that’s what my son told me. . .)

The point is that (a) I knew exactly what was going into that box; and (b) I knew exactly what condition it was in. Moreover, while I stood in line waiting to mail said package, I saw two people I knew and said hello.  It was also waiting time loaded with shopping potential:  I had the opportunity to purchase, in addition to your basic book of stamps, greeting cards for all the people whose birthdays I’d forgotten and shipping supplies of every shape, color, texture and size.  In addition (and this was the most valuable of all) I had ample opportunity to draft this post, while considering the conundrum of whether I should pursue a philatelic hobby.

And, I worried:  was the shark squirter going to get much use?  Bed, Bath and Beyond can’t do that for me.

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1 comment

Kay O'Donnell March 5, 2011 - 6:27 am

U.S. postal service priority mail is great. You can order boxes, and pay for the postage over the internet, and print out the stamp. Then just hand the box to your postman. You don't even have to stand in line -unless you want to.

I've even used the box for parcel post-just cover over the priority mail parts. All the rates are posted on-line. If you're not in a hurry, parcel post is cheaper. I sent a package to Ellen in Chicago and it only took three days.

Just as easy as Fed-Ex or UPS.

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