As most Americans have probably noticed this week, the price of a first-class U.S. postage stamp rose one penny, to 45 cents for the first ounce. This is not a financial strain so much as it is an extreme inconvenience: Your letter could be returned for being one cent short just as quickly as if it had no postage at all.
Unless you’re the type to stockpile one-cent stamps, even those people who were aware of the change and didn’t mind paying an extra penny were stuck. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could simply tape a penny to an envelope? But no, you have to go to a post office (or some other outlet that sells stamps) and stand in a long line to buy a new sheet of stamps or a bunch of one-cent stamps.
And don’t whine and point to USPS.com as some kind of salvation. The U.S. Postal Service site is a help, but if you’re at your place of employment, you’ll have to use the company equipment to print out the postage, or else enter you credit-card number into a non-secure computer. It’s not fun.
Also, the USPS could not have been more annoying on Monday: USPS.com was… er, “helpfully” selling packets of two-cent make-up stamps. Not one penny; two cents. You want to alienate people? Make then feel like you’re setting them up to be ripped off. The rate increase has been planned for months, but the only “make-up” stamps I can buy cost twice as much as I need? That’s crazy — and a case of the USPS needlessly shooting itself in the foot. People already point and laugh at snail-mail as outdated; the USPS can ill-afford to be seen as greedy in this economy. Especially when the best ideas the postmaster general can come up with to save money are to slow down delivery, boost prices, and shutter offices and stop Saturday delivery.
I don’t really mind at all when postal rates go up a couple of cents; I don’t mind being forced to buy new stamps. I do mind being stuck with a stack of old stamps that cannot be used until I go out and buy more stamps. Don’t fight me when I’m trying to use your products.
In 2012, it’s all a question of convenience. People would use the USPS if it weren’t such a pain in the ass. Make it easy, and you’ll get more business. Nobody likes to walk into a post office and see a long line snaking around one open window, while 15 others are closed. And, worst of all, a bunch of postal workers are standing around “on break,” laughing and having a good time. I know there’s a reason postal workers are treated with kid gloves (and it rhymes with “going postal”) but it’s not good PR to parade the non-stressing workers in front of overly stressed customers. Postal employees should take their breaks out of sight of the general public.
And the Postal Service itself should think about the public. You’re not really helping matters by raising the price of stamps one cent this year and then two cents next year. You’re just frustrating people by sticking them with useless stamps they then have to upgrade (at additional price) to use. Pick a year and raise rates by a good chunk and leave it alone for a while. The public perception is that stamp prices go up every year, and the postmaster general still whines about losing money. The average person wonders where the price increase is going. And was it one cent or two this year? No, that was last year, right? Don’t nibble the public to death with pennies; inflict a price hike that will have a noticeable affect and then leave it alone for a while.
Make a stamp 50 cents for the next five years. That will provide the USPS with a windfall of cash and let the American public slow down and forget about rate increases for a few years. After I buy stamps, I don’t really pay attention to the denomination when I’m slapping ‘em on envelops. The USPS should take advantage of that blasé attitude and make some necessary changes. That kind of forward thinking would earn a stamp of approval.