Thursday, January 29, 2009

Going (going, gone) postal

I think we're due for another "sign of the times" downer post. Lots of news swirling about the U.S. postal service this week, and none of it very promising for us lunatics who still get unnaturally excited about pens and paper and film in this brave new digital world.
  • First, word that the USPS is considering petitioning to deliver mail only five days per week instead of the currently mandated six, the other no-mail day being determined according to traffic analysis. Bad news if your birthday falls on a Tuesday, as that has been cited as a particularly slow day. No cards for you!

  • Next, delivery routes are being consolidated, too. If this was last summer, you could probably blame fuel prices for the hit, but now it's the good old recession to blame. Don't worry, gas prices will go back up this year, and we'll be able to drag the old scapegoat back out of the pen.

  • Finally, in anticipation of this year's first-class stamp rate increase, word that the classic coin-operated stamp machines are going the way of, well, anything coin-operated really. Citing expense of maintenance and general lack of interest from the public, they're being phased out in favor of the high-tech stamp-and-ship-and-weigh machine that's always out of order. I smell a collecting opportunity here, folks. Who will be the first to rescue one of these old machines and creatively repurpose it? (Olivander, I'm looking in your direction.) I'm thinking it's a short hop from stamp machine to coin-op gum dispenser.
The grand irony, of course, is that I was just reading a Consumer Reports article (in a paper magazine, delivered in the mail) about how the USPS has the best deal going in terms of overnight shipment, better than the commercial carriers by far. Commercial carriers aren't saddled with declining interest in their main service -- door to door mail delivery -- with a revenue stream that's rapidly drying up -- advertising and catalogs.

Have a swell day!


CStanford said...

No more coin-operated stamp machines?! But how am I going to get my presidential dollar coins now?

Mike Speegle said...

My wife does all of the shipping for her business through USPS. Whereas I cruise through Sunday, thinking about what I am going to cook that night, she sits anxiously on top of a pile of packages that need to be sent out. Same-day shipping is kind of her thing.

Please don't tell me that there is going to be another day of the week like that.

Oliver said...

Sorry to say, our city was one of the first to do away with all of the stamp vending machines. It seemed to happen overnight, with no explanation. When I asked one of the postal clerks about it, they had no idea why they had been removed, either. They only knew that HQ wanted them removed nationwide. That was almost a year ago.

I think there is still a deactivated wall-mounted stamp vending machine down in the subway underneath Mayo Clinic's lobby, but fat chance getting my hands on it. I'm personally coveting the old-school employee storage lockers with the fancy numbers that have been awaiting removal to the Salvation Army for several months now.

I, too, used those machines as a source of dollar coins. I'm more annoyed by the fact that the closest PO to get stamps is seven blocks from my office and has irregular hours.

mpclemens said...

Our own P.O. blocked off their stamp machines some time ago: the big one that could have easily done service as a snack vending machine has been replaced by a blank piece of sheetrock, and the smaller wall-mount that dispensed 1st class, postcard, and 1 cent stamps has sported a closure sign for even longer.

Of course, our habit of only really using the mail to handle birthday cards, property taxes, and ballots doesn't help. I'm still sitting on leftover Christmas stamps from 2006. Even NetFlix comes postage-paid. Guess that puts me solidly in the "part of the problem" camp.