Gambling on stamps

Submitted: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 5:34am

The Postal Regulatory Commission proposed an interesting idea Monday. While calling for a two-cent postage increase that would push the price to send a first-class letter to 41 cents, the PRC also encouraged the United States Postal Service to create a so-called “forever stamp”. In other words, if the increase to 41 cents goes through (it’s one cent less than what the USPS wanted, by the way) and forever stamps are created, you could buy as many stamps as you wanted for 41 cents and use them even if postage increases again.

My guess is that the PRC is banking on a lot of people buying a lot of stamps while they are 41 cents then never using them. Think about it. It makes sense from a consumer standpoint to buy a large quantity of a non-perishable item at a low price. The problem, though, is that you might lose the stamps or forget you even have them. Even if we don’t, if we buy a lot now with the idea of using the stamps later, it would help fill the Postal Service’s coffers.

While we’re talking about fuzzy math, let’s think about why the Postal Service needs a rate increase. Two of the biggest factors the USPS requested the increase more than a year ago were the increasing cost of fuel and the increase of online activity, like e-mails and paying bills via the Internet cutting down on the amount of business we do at the Post Office. But wouldn’t those two things cancel each other out? If fuel prices increase while the amount of mail the USPS needs to transport decreases, is it really costing them more money?

Regardless, you can pretty much count on paying more for postage perhaps as soon as May. That, of course, will encourage a lot of people to increase their use of online payments for bills, send even fewer letters and use other delivery services to send mail and packages. Then we’re back where we started, with the Post Office claiming it needs more money through another postage increase. In the meantime, it will still likely take 12 days for a package to arrive in our area from Columbia, SC, as happened to me recently. By the way, that’s a hearty 17 miles a day to make the 200-mile trip.

So go ahead. Stock up on “forever stamps” as soon as they’re available. Just remember where you put them. You wouldn’t want he Postal Service to get the best of you.

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