Vs. Complaining About the Price of Stamps

Posted: August 19, 2011 in Behavior
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here’s the deal.  I don’t understand it when people complain about the consistent increases in stamp prices over the past decade.

If I asked you to come to my house and pick up a letter I had written…and fly that letter across the country…and hand deliver that letter to my friend…how much would you charge me?  I’m guessing it would be more than forty four cents.  And I’m also guessing you wouldn’t do it.

Replica of the Pony Express Messenger's badge

In 1860, this badge meant business...until 1861, when they went out of business.

And, contrary to popular belief, stamp prices are not increasing at a greater rate than other products.  Fifty years ago, a stamp would cost you a nickel (today, they are 8.8 times more expensive), a candy bar would also cost you a nickel (now 13 times pricier), a gallon of gas was thirty cents (nearly 12 times more expensive today), and the average movie price was eighty five cents (they’re now over 9 times as expensive).  And, were this the type of blog that actually tried to make a serious point from time to time and give you something legitimate to complain about, I’d bring up the fact that, in the early 1960’s, the minimum wage was $1.25 and today it is $7.25 – an increase (5.8 times more) sure to widen the gap between the people with all the money and the people who can’t afford to buy a stamp (but I’m not that kind of blog, I’m more about jokes.  So…why did the chicken cross the playground?  To get to the other slide.)

If you want to complain about stamp prices, you should build a time machine (admittedly, perhaps not the best justification for building a time machine).  In 1963, a stamp cost five cents.  Over a hundred years earlier, in 1847, when the first national postage stamp was introduced, it cost…five cents.  Do you know how much five cents was worth in 1847?  With a nickel you could purchase a canister of the finest mustache wax, a whale-bone corset, three slightly used skillets, a first-class ticket on the steam locomotive from Kansas City to Deadwood, and a bag of Uncle Jeremiah’s multi-purpose barley flour…and still get four cents change.

Or, if you really want to complain about postage prices, you should have tried the short-lived Pony Express.  When established, in 1860, it cost five dollars to send one letter.  That’s the equivalent of about one hundred and twenty dollars today.  A hundred and twenty bucks to update Aunt Millicent on how you lost two Holsteins in the drought and little Johnny took second place in the hoop rolling tournament?  Now that was a price worth complaining about.  And, on top of that, you had to trust a pony to deliver your mail.  Ponies are cute, but notoriously bad with addresses.

Of course, I’m communicating this message about how we shouldn’t complain about biennial two-cent increases in the price of delivering our words to others via a blog…in which I merely have to push a button and my words are delivered to others for free.  All the more reason we shouldn’t complain.  Most of our mail is now delivered electronically (by, I believe, electric ponies), so stamp prices are even less of a burden.  Personally, if it means more of my letter carrying brothers and sisters can keep their jobs, I’m willing to go up to an even fifty cents.  Heck, it’s still cheaper than a bag of Uncle Jeremiah’s multi-purpose barley flour.   

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I convince people that forty four cents is a very reasonable price to pay to have your letters hand delivered all around this country?  What do you mean?  I just did.

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Comments
  1. Joanne says:

    “Of course, I’m communicating this message about how we shouldn’t complain about biennial two-cent increases in the price of delivering our words to others via a blog…in which I merely have to push a button and my words are delivered to others for free. All the more reason we shouldn’t complain. Most of our mail is now delivered electronically (by, I believe, electric ponies), so stamp prices are even less of a burden. Personally, if it means more of my letter carrying brothers and sisters can keep their jobs, I’m willing to go up to an even fifty cents. Heck, it’s still cheaper than a bag of Uncle Jeremiah’s multi-purpose barley flour.”

    Perfect! I’m also tired of people complaining about the price of stamps — especially when you just know they’re using email for most of their personal correspondence. People, 44 to 50 cents an ounce is not that much to pay for the privilege of having your bill payments, wedding invitations, and your brother’s birthday card delivered anywhere within the USA by uniformed government employees. Would you rather pay FedEx or UPS rates for delivering your mail?

  2. Dan Bain says:

    Hear, hear! This is one of my peeves, too. I’ve never understood how people can think there’s “fat” in an organization that does all that for less than a buck — try asking FedEx or UPS to deliver something for that amount. I also don’t get the complaints about incompetence; to my knowledge, they’ve never lost anything I’ve mailed, and the last time I didn’t receive something I was expecting, was 1984 (but it showed up two weeks later). Good post!

  3. heathersnyder1 says:

    Excluding countries that subsidize their postal services, the U.S. has the lowest rates for standard-size letters of any industrial country, so why are we complaining? I also say bring on more pretty stamps. I’m a philatelist, I got to get my philately on.

    And, I love that picture of the Pony Express badge, if I only had that Pony Express Messenger badge, my life would be complete. I would be unstoppable.

    I would also like an electric pony, that sounds awesome! Electric ponies are probably way cooler than sparkley unicorns. Sign me up for an electric pony.

  4. Kestrel Blue says:

    hmmmm, I was just about to write a letter to my uncle and ship it…then i read this. I’ll still do it, with NO complaints, because you are right no need to complain, especially because there are many other things in this world worth complaining about.

  5. #4 says:

    Yeah – give’em a break. After all, the majority of what they get to deliver today is nothing but junk-mail: flyers, mailers, pennysavers. There’s hardly any real mail delivered anymore thanks to smart-phones and email. The postal service is suffering the same fate as newspapers; no body wants them anymore. Everybody want to use the electric ponies.

  6. Stephanie says:

    I agree. Mailing a letter is one of the biggest bargains out there. As if it weren’t amazing enough, they put a constantly changing array of interesting artwork on the stamps.

    • Makya McBee says:

      Joanne – Yep. When stamps were first introduced they were five cents, unless your letter was travelling over 300 miles – then it was ten cents. Today they’ll go 3,000 miles for comparitvely less. It’s a great time to be an American with a letter and some spare change.

      Dan – There, there! (Is that an appropriate response to “hear, hear”?) They have a suprisingly good competence record – especially considering the number of partial addresses, wrong addresses and illegible handwriting they deal with daily.

      Heather – Regardless of whether or not you just made that fact up, I appreciate the support. Warning – you should never ride an electric pony, very dangerous.

      Kestrel – Yes, there are so many great options these days when it comes to complaining. A plethora of choices. Let the USPS be.

      You Are Number Four – I never thought I’d say this (I never thought anybody would say this), but, yes, the convenience of electric ponies is the demise of the newspaper business.

      Stephanie – I didn’t even think to mention that. The joy of choosing from the endless options when purchasing your stamps. When I first saw Homer Simpson on a stamp, I knew there was still hope for us all.

  7. Lokyra Stone says:

    Like so many things people like to bitch about, the majority of complaints about the United States Postal Service are blatantly false.

    So if androids dream of electric sheep, what do electric ponies dream of?

  8. Lokyra Stone says:

    Poor electric ponies. I mean, sure, dreams about Philip K. Dick would never be boring. But they wouldn’t be comfortable dreams either. A drug-infested, dirt poor, slightly insane prophet?
    Electric oats don’t sound too tasty. But then, I’m not an electric pony.

    • Makya McBee says:

      Really? I suppose I have no idea about the biography of Mr. Dick – perhpas I should have wished them more pleasant dreams.

      • Lokyra Stone says:

        Unless you don’t like the sheep, or wish to teach them a lesson. Personally, I think more people need to have dreams about Philip K. Dick. Horizon expansion, and all that.

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