Postal rates going up in USA, and “forever” stamps

For my readers in the USA, postal rates go up August 29th. I find it interesting to hear about the post in other nations, so readers from elsewhere may perhaps find this interesting as well?

Here in the USA, our postal service offers a nice policy for stamps called “forever” stamps. It means the stamps you purchase remain valid even if the price increases. You do not have to add extra postage to match the new rate. Years ago this was not the case. For example, before the “forever” stamp policy, if you purchased first class domestic stamps and the current postal rate was .55 cents, and the rate went up to .58 cents, you’d have to get .3 cent stamps to make up the difference. But not with the forever stamp policy!  A first class stamp remains good for mailing a first class letter, no matter what the current stamp price.

The forever policy applies to stamps for domestic first class, additional ounce, postcard, and international stamps.This is something I did not know until earlier this year! I thought forever only applied to domestic first class and international (as these stamps have the word forever on them), and I did not know it also applies to additional ounce and postcard stamps (where I did not see the word forever).

I recently stocked up on stamps due to the pending price increases. Our international rates are going up .10 cents and I especially stocked up with those.

I order stamps by mail though the USPS because my local post office has a TERRIBLE stamp selection. This is nothing new, and has gone on for years. Just recently I was at my local post office to mail a package, and thought I’d see if maybe, just maybe, they’d have a better selection of domestic stamps on hand. WORSE THAN EVER. They only had flag stamps. ONLY FLAG STAMPS!!  Sorry about all caps, but this annoys me to no end. I mean c’mon, the post office should have…stamps!  And I do not live in a rural or very small town. This is a busy suburban area. The next two closest post offices up the road in either direction several miles always have a good selection of stamps, but not mine – walking distance from my house. Even a post office sub-station I’ve been at on occasion has a better stamp selection!

Anyways, here is a chart of the rate increases.

The power of the post in a digital age

A pen pal sent me a newspaper clipping because they know I like cats, but there was also a postal related aspect. A kitty went missing and the owner searched, put notices on the internet, and posted flyers in the community. No success. As a last ditch effort she paid for 500 lost pet postcards to be mailed to homes in the surrounding area. Success! She got 2 phone calls from the same neighborhood. She credits the postcards. People may not see a posted flyer or miss something posted online (not to mention that some folks only use the internet minimally or not at all) but it is hard to ignore a postcard in your mailbox!

I have several blogs, and for one of my other blogs (about Christianity) I decided to start postal mailing a bi-annual newsletter, highlighting content from it. I recently sent the second one, and have had real “success.” My goals are not monetary, but I got some helpful responses: two folks contacted me about leadership opportunities in the church, one person asked me for more copies of the newsletter to hand out to friends at church, and a couple people let me know they were encouraged by articles in the newsletter.

And the point is…In an age of digital technology sometimes going “old school” by using the post can grab attention. There is so much online today that good or important content can get lost in the crowd, never seen or found, so sending information by post can be a help. Of course, paper can get “lost” in a pile of paper clutter too, but in a digital age I think tangible communication can stand out!

The problem with effortless communication

A pen pal in England sent me a print article from a magazine entitled: “The lost art of letter writing. Why handwritten letters are enjoying a renaissance.”  It highlighted how COVID-19 has gotten some people back to sending messages by postal mail, and while digital and postal communication can co-exist, sometimes a letter is better! The article mentions the various tangible and personal aspects of postal letter writing that set it apart.

One point in the article that I’d not considered in such a direct way before was: connecting with people now-a-days is effortless. For example, you just click “like” on someone’s social media post or Instagram photo. And while a “like” can be valid and say “I see you” to someone, it requires very little of the person who clicked like. It is also impersonal, especially if that is the only way you respond to the news or photo that they shared.

The word effortless. Do we really feel cared for when the only way someone communicates with us is effortless? I’ve read articles about how there is a loneliness epidemic (not related to COVID lock downs, but before COVID too) despite all the so-called communication taking place with cell phones and over the internet. Many have likely not thought about why they feel lonely despite communicating so much, and I think it is the lack of effort and lack of a personal touch in relationships.

Someone quoted in the article says that when she moved away she wanted to keep in touch with friends in a more detailed and personal way. She wanted her friends to know how much they meant to her, and taking the time and effort to write postal letters would demonstrate that. Note: the time and effort. Giving someone “the gift” of your time and effort sends “a message” that you matter to them.

Of course, a postal letter is not the only way to be more personal and indicate that you genuinely care about someone. It is possible to make online or digital communication more personal. Instead of just clicking “like” how about…sending a private message, leaving a thoughtful comment, etc. This is at least more personal and takes a little more of your thought and time. Take it a step further and postal mail them a card, or make a phone call, in response to special news that they shared on social media.

There is a saying that “it is the thought that counts” but if your communication methods – of whatever type – require little thought from you and only a brainless click? Well, there is no thought to count!

Heritage Breed farm animal postage stamps

A comment was left yesterday that my posts were missed. (Thanks!) I’ve not had a post since March! Several times I’ve thought to myself “I should write about that on Postman’s Treasure” and then never did. Sometimes I wonder if postal related blogs go silent because, well, we prefer tangible communication – pens, paper, etc. That is partly it for me. But don’t worry, I plan to get back to posting here at least somewhat regularly.

One thing I’d meant to blog about was the farm animal (Heritage Breed) stamps that came out in May here in the US. These stamps have a connection to the county in North Carolina where my mom lives, so these stamps were in her local news.

Here is an article about it: New stamps trace lineage to Chatham’s Livestock Conservatory.

The article opens this way: “A Chatham County-based organization went to Washington last week to celebrate a rare victory. The Livestock Conservancy of Pittsboro joined with the U.S. Postal Service to mark the release of a sheet of 20 stamps showing endangered breeds of American farm animals on May 17. It was a rare win for the North Carolina organization because the Postal Service receives more than 30,000 suggestions for new stamps every year. Less than 100 typically win approval.”

Read the rest of the article for more details, but note that the Postal Service gets 30,000 suggestions a year for new stamps and less than 100 get approval. Wow!

A quick heads up…Did you know that postal rates are going up in the US at the end of August? More later.

Mail from several centuries ago…

“Three hundred years ago, before envelopes, passwords and security codes, writers often struggled to keep thoughts, cares and dreams expressed in their letters private.
One popular way was to use a technique called letter locking — intricately folding a flat sheet of paper to become its own envelope. This security strategy presented a challenge when 577 locked letters delivered to The Hague in the Netherlands between 1689 and 1706 were found in a trunk of undelivered mail…”

Mail delivery seems to be getting back to normal…

Greetings! I had 2 posts in January about problems with timely mail and package delivery in the US. My post on Jan. 25th highlighted a NPR report about problems nationally. I meant to share this news from my local area when I saw it in early February:

WYFF 4 Investigates: Viewers voice concern over late mail in Greenville
– Viewers complained about packages sitting for days inside the Greenville USPS distribution center.

From mid autumn through January, I did not find domestic mail delivery times to be universally slow but unpredictable – some mail arriving promptly and quickly, with other items taking a while. We encountered the same with packages as the WYFF report mentions. The tracking showed some packages sitting in a facility somewhere in the US (not just in Greenville) for as long as 1-2 weeks before finally entering the delivery stream. And like someone in the article, we also had a package arrive in Greenville, then leave Greenville for Atlanta, before coming back to Greenville! What in the world? Maybe the Greenville facility was just too full?

Since late January, mail and package delivery seems back to normal. Yeah! Now I need to get some letter writing done!

I mostly ignored the letters in my “to answer” pile in January.  Partly because I just needed a break. I sent or gave out about 130 Christmas cards in December, many of which also contained a brief note or a letter.

Valentine’s Day cards…

I utilized my rubber stamps, stickers, and other paper craft supplies to make Valentine’s Day cards that I dropped off today at a local nursing home. As these COVID-19 times continue, try to think of folks that might feel particularly isolated and reach out in some way.  Here are 2 photos of the cards – about 60 of them.

More about postal delays in the USA

Regarding my last post, I just saw this news article from NPR about the delays with postal mail:

‘There’s No End In Sight’: Mail Delivery Delays Continue Across The Country

It begins:

You’ve got mail. Somewhere. Probably. The U.S. Postal Service is still digging out from under an avalanche of mail sent during the recent holiday season. But for much of the past year the postal system has been strained by the impact of COVID-19 on its workflow and workforce…

Slow and unpredictable mail delivery within the US

During most of COVID-19, mail delivery within the US (domestic) has mostly gone on as usual – no delay or only slight delays. International mail has taken longer. For example, letters to western Europe taking 6 weeks when they’d normally take about one week.

HOWEVER, domestic mail has now become wacky and slow and unpredictable since mid-autumn, getting worse around Christmas time, but still problematic in January. I know this from my personal experience, but also from “reports” people are sharing on social media and online pen pal groups.

I say wacky and unpredictable because that describes it. Some letters are arriving quickly with normal delivery times, while other letters are very slow, taking an excessive length of time. Even as long as 2 months to go from one place in the US to another! Someone I know locally in a town 30 minutes from my house sent me a card that took 10 days to arrive! Normally this would take 1-2 days. Some people are just now receiving Christmas cards sent to them in early to mid December.

This is not complaint but just stating fact. I think it is a combination of factors: postal employees getting COVID-19 and out sick or quarantined, extra mail being sent as Christmas approached with less postal staff to handle it, etc. For packages that can be tracked with a tracking number, some packages were sitting in a processing facility for literally 1-2 weeks, just sitting there, going nowhere. I also read one article that said in certain areas of the US the local USPS failed to prepare and plan ahead as they should have for extra Christmas mail so this contributed to the problem as well. For example, it said they should have hired extra trucks ahead of time and did not.

Again, the point here, is not to complain, as these are unique times. Patience is a virtue! Rather the point is: don’t give up on your pen pals. They may have promptly wrote you a letter that has simply not arrived…yet!  Keep waiting!

If you still don’t receive an expected letter after waiting a bit longer, you may want to drop your pen pal a note to check in with them. Hopefully, the post may be getting at least somewhat back to normal now that the Christmas rush is over.