Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Little Things in Life: First-Class Letters Now At 41-Cents A Whack, and Size Really Does Matter

What is it about the human psyche that I can dread the rise in human postage stamps more than the rise in a gallon of gas? I know it's insane, especially since I use cell phones and e-mail more than ever, pay most of my monthly bills by automatic draft, and feel much more of a dent in my checkbook from higher gas prices, than I ever will from rising postage.

Still, knowing another 2-cent rise in standard first-class postage stamps is coming always fills me with some kind of uncanny sense of impending disaster. I dread having stamps left-over and unused, forgetting to use the right stamp after the deadline, having a letter returned for more postage, or worse being sent, unbeknownst to me, to the dead letter netherlands for all eternity.

That, of course, leads to the fantasy fear of a bill not getting paid on time, or at all, and then my home being sold on the public square while I'm out-of-town.

All because of ridiculous 2-cent rise in a postage stamp.

I know it's petty, but I think it's because it makes me feel older since I vividly remember when a first-class stamp cost 3-cents, then 5, then 11, a fortune to me at the time.

And now it's 41-cents! Where will it all end, after 13 rises in 32 years and another projected by next year? Did you ever wonder why stamps are always priced at odd numbers? What, praytell, could have been the rationale for it?

I begin to runinate on how long I will live, not in terms of biological age, but based on the cost of a stamp at the time I meet my Maker: 47-cents? 55? 1.11? 2.03? It's starting to sound like gasoline. Come to think of it, a stamp today costs what I can remember a gallon of gas cost when I was a little girl.

This morning, first thing on my to-do list was to run out to the post office and buy several sheets of stamps. Like a packrat, I like to stash them everywhere---in the car, my wallet, in kitchen and desk drawers, in coat pockets. Like stockpiling cash or gold, or whatever else other people like to have in reserve, I have this need to always have a few extra stamps in case of emergency.

Who knows, maybe the time will come when I can barter some stamps for a loaf of bread, or a cup of coffee or a pair of fingernail clippers.

While I was at the post office today, I asked my postlady what else I needed to know about the upcoming rules of the postage highway. We talked about the proposed "forever stamp," a way to lock in the cost today of a mailing a letter at a fixed rate anytime in the future. The plan is fraught with problems and possibilities, and will have to be dealt with in another post. But I see a huge market in stamp "futures" in our future.

I also see a growing market in custom stamps like the one below, printed to co-ordinate with an fancy invitation to the local symphony charity earlier this year (see below for link).

My postlady reminded me that odd sized first-classed letters take extra postage, and the USPS is going to get tougher and tougher in enforcing these rules: all square cards and envelopes cost extra money, along with thick 3-D cards, larger rectangular envelops and any letters weighing over 1 ounce. Anything with deficient postage will be spit out and back at us, so be forewarned.

Some trendy fine paper and stationery stores in town inform their clientele of the extra cost to send their unique shaped cards and invitations. They also advocate having custom stamps designed and printed at Stamps.com which cost even more to send, but which many stamp and stationery lovers say they are well worth the cost.

But as for me, I'm just interested in getting used to 41-cent stamps and stashing a few away for a rainy day.

1 comment:

Pam said...

I'm laughing at how you used your sense of humor to work through the trauma of the stamp! Enjoyed reading this so much.