6/12/2008

When I am King: Stamp of Disapproval

When I am King...

Postage will become easier to manage.

Every year or two, the U.S. Post Office raises the price of a standard letter stamp. This seems reasonable; the price of everything is going up, and that includes letters. I'm sure my words and bill payments are more valuable this year than they were last year, and I bet my Mom appreciates her birthday card 3 cents more than she did 12 months ago.

It's not the price increase I mind, but rather the means of changing it. Here's how it usually works: You have about 67 stamps in your office drawer at home, perhaps because you didn't have as many friends to mail holiday cards as you hoped. Then the price of a stamp goes up. This makes all of your old stamps about 2-3 cents shy of what they need to be, so you go to the post office to get a roll of new stamps, plus some penny stamps to use with the old ones.

A few months go by and you look in your desk for a stamp and come across the old ones and the new ones, but you don't know which are which. That is, you don't know which ones cover a letter now and which ones are just a ticket to a 'return-for-postage' experience. And here's the best part: *the price is not written on the stamps*. That's right, the post office apparently thinks it's a good idea to avoid putting numbers on many standard letter stamps. Maybe they find it tacky and are shooting for the experience of the menu in a fine and unaffordable restaurant.

You muddle through this situation (maybe like I do, by simply avoiding sending any letter), a couple more months pass, and the post office again declares a new stamp price. You go through it all again, and pretty soon your desk is full of stamps of arbitrary value, none of which you can distinguish from the other ("Do I use the wavy flag, or the really wavy flag?"). Every occasion of mailing a letter becomes an ordeal as you try to sort out the postage and end up putting a couple of random stamps on the letter, hoping it's enough, but knowing that it's probably much more than that letter is worth.

We're not becoming an email society because email is faster, or easier, or even free. It's because we can't stand the stress of dealing with stamp uncertainty any longer. And those postal workers that went nuts with guns a few years ago? They were probably just trying to stamp some letters.

When I am King, there will be a solution to this madness. Instead of arbitrary stickers that represent money, letters will be stamped with actual money. Coins will be minted with sticky backs to make them easily affixable to letters. No longer will you wonder how many stamps you need to get to 47 cents; you simply paste 47 cents onto the letter. This adhesive coinage will have other uses as well, such as preventing the annoying sound of loose change in your pocket, since your coins will all be stuck together in a single metal lump. As postage prices rise even more, envelopes will become a thing of the past and people will simply write letters on dollar bills, prompting the Hallmark slogan, "If you truly love someone enough, say it with cash."

Sending letters should not be this complicated. This stress and confusion must be stamped out.
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