Using Up My Old Postcards Proved A Difficult Challenge


My love affair with the U.S. Postal Service is well-known. I have stood up for it against its many detractors for decades, staunchly defending it with, “Well, I’d like to see you take a letter from Florida to Alaska, and then back again because the address is wrong — all for less than 60 cents!”

These detractors always come up with crabby responses. “I wouldn’t,” they answer as they go about a far more efficient (and way more expensive) service.

Still, a letter to Alaska is not what currently has me irked with my longtime friends in the mail business. What has me annoyed is a small stack of blank postcards. Because I have sweet people who like to drop me a line now and then, I benevolently thought, “Why not toss a few of these in with their Christmas gifts? Then they don’t have to pay for postage just to ask how I am.”

Of course, I am not so out of the loop that I would expect the postage to be the same as it was when the postcards were first purchased. And I didn’t want to task these sweet people with going to the post office to update the postage. I had to do it for them.

I walked into my local post office and asked, “How much does a penny postal go for these days?”

The mail clerk asked, “What’s a penny postal?”

“Oh,” I laughed. “Sorry. That’s what my grandma used to call a postcard.”

“A postcard costs 35 cents to mail.”

“Well, I have 72 marked three cents; 11 marked four cents; one marked six cents; and five marked 10 cents. I also have some one-cent and three-cent stamps I’d like to use up, so-o-o-o…”

“You have to buy stamps by the sheet.”

“But then I’ll end up with oddball amounts like I have now,” I complained.

She shrugged.

“OK, well, starting with the four-cent postcards, I’ll need 11 30-cent stamps to round out my one-cent stamps.”

“We don’t have 30-cent stamps. I can give you six five-cent stamps.”

“Per card? They’ll never fit!” I complained.

She shrugged. The people behind me were shifting from foot to foot and making little coughing sounds.

“OK, never mind. Just give me 99 35-cent stamps, and I’ll paste them over the postage printed on the card which, incidentally, was already paid for.”

“Maybe back in 1902,” she shrugged.

The people behind me laughed out loud. I guess 1902 money is extinct now. In fact, if you find a dollar marked “silver certificate,” you may as well crumple it up and throw it away.

“Anyway,” she added. “I don’t have 35-cent stamps. Only 55-cent stamps.”

“But then they may as well send me a letter!” I complained.

She shrugged, adding, “Besides, postage rates may be going up soon.”

“’When?” I asked.

She shrugged.

I’ve got a good idea on how to save the U.S. Postal Service. Forget trying to make money on stamps and postcards and things. Instead, charge by the shrug!

Anyway, I looked it up. First class mail rates are not projected to go up in 2020.