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Thursday, December 25, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2000

The price of mail

For those benighted folks who still appreciate the virtues and personal touches afforded by what the nerd generation refers to as “snail mail,” the dismal news is that first-class mail is going to rise by a penny shortly after the Christmas card season ends.

That, in itself, is a distinct improvement over the pricing practices of the oil barons, who thoughtfully hike gasoline prices just about every weekend and every holiday to reap the dividends of increased motoring.

The advent of the 34-cent first-class stamp is no cause to stand on the steps of the Capitol, the city hall, or the Chicago Board of Trade to proclaim the doom of the republic. There is no need to wring your hands over this latest treachery from Washington.

True, the price of stamps does go up with what seems annoying regularity, and the Postal Service never seems ready for it because for an awkward interval first-class mail users must buy “makeup rate” stamps with a letter rather than a price. But for the most part the hardest hit are those industrious folks who send out credit card offers with staggeringly low interest rates for three months.

It wasn't always this way. People used to write long, chatty letters that you could cherish and even reread from time to time. Nowadays, the preferred method is to send out e-mails, the vast majority of which seem to be jokes sent and re-sent endlessly through cyberspace. Some people simply delete them without opening up the attachments. E-mail has its place when timeliness is important. But how often is that the case?

Banks would be happy to relieve customers of the burden of sending out checks by means of the magic carpet of electronic fund transfers. No thank you.

At times, the Postal Service doesn't manage to deliver mail in snow, sleet, or other adverse weather conditions, but for 33 cents, or, soon, 34 cents, you can send a letter to Point Barrow, Alaska. Mail service is spotty in some places, usually where manpower is insufficient to get the job done, and the Postal Service, a quasi-public agency these days, makes its share of dumb mistakes.

Still, U.S. postage rates are cheaper than almost anywhere else, and consumers get six chances a week to receive that exciting travel folder, credit card bill, magazine, or an occasional welcome letter from a friend, relative, or old acquaintance as a diversion from the day's junk mail.

So pay the 34 cents and consider it one of the relative bargains offered by a governmental entity that actually turns a profit and, on the whole, gives consumers fairly fast service, from Rome, Ga. to Nome, Alaska, or from Honolulu to Key West. The nation's creaking election system should do so well.



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