Heads up, mail lovers! The U.S.P.S. rates are going up on May 31st to be in effect on June 1st. Regular letters are still going to be 49 cents to mail (unless it's metered mail, in which case, it'll be up a half a cent to 48.5 cents). Postcards are going up by one penny to 35 cents. The "Additional Ounce" rate is increasing to 22 cents.
My human need for round numbers wishes they'd just have gone to 50 cents for letters too, but whatever. I'm sure there's a reason they didn't that is wound around in postal regulations about increases and stuff that I just haven't the patience for. The best part is that new stamp rates mean new stamps. LOTS. OF. NEW. STAMPS. And really nice ones. I'm really excited to show them off here.
Following a tweet from our friend and member Kimberly A.H., I got to read this fascinating article from Bloomberg Business all about SubTropolis. SubTropolis is a huge, and I mean huuuuuuuuuuge, underground industrial complex beneath Kansas prarie. It is also where your stamps come from if you order them online. The U.S.P.S. uses over a staggering 500,000 square feet of space in the facility to house and distribute stamps. I thought it was neat. Thanks for the tip, Kimberly!
P.S. Readers, Kimberly is also a member of her local U.S.P.S. Consumer Advisory Council and is currently doing an experiment in postcard arrival times versus that of letters and postcards sent with letter-rate postage. What I'm saying is, her blog is a good time. Check it out.
Believe it or not, it is already time to mention the deadlines for overseas holiday delivery for diplomatic and military service members. If you want your post to arrive by the 25th of December, it's time to get a'mailing.
Military Mail Addressed To
Priority Mail Express Military Service (PMEMS) 1
First-Class Mail —Letters and Cards
Parcel Air Lift (PAL) 2
Space Available Mail (SAM) 3
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092
APO/FPO AE ZIP 093
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098
APO/FPO AA ZIP 340
APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966
Further information about international mailing with the U.S.P.S. can be found here. Remember that you can request free shipping supplies from them as well if you want to use Priority or Express mail.
I get asked a lot how members can go about earning Inklings. Well, here's a prime example of going above and beyond your sworn duty to send more mail. Our member, Kimberly, has recently joined the U.S.P.S. Consumer Advisory Council for her post office. THAT'S INKLING-WORTHY FOLKS! That's exactly the kind of thing we're looking for in our members.
Kimberly has shared the information about what she's doing as part of the council on her blog, Kimberly At Home. She's also graciously allowed me to repost it here. Great job, Kimberly. Keep it up and keep inspiring the rest of us!
Last week I attended my first meeting of the Oak Park area Postal Consumer Advisory Council. As I mentioned in this post, the council was formed due to many, many complaints last winter involving delayed and missed deliveries in the Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park (Illinois) areas. Our group’s goal is to help the post office see and fix their issues from the customer viewpoint, to collect customer complaints (and compliments!) from others in our neighborhoods and to help the post office educate its customers on some of their limitations.
There were several “department heads” at our meeting, including the Oak Park area Postmaster, Phillip Crawford and eight other Station Managers and other staff who work for the USPS in regional marketing and management. There were about ten customer volunteers ranging in age from 30s-70s. Most of the volunteers were long-term Oak Parkers and I was the lone representative from Forest Park. It was clear that everyone in the room understood that the problems were severe, and no one was making excuses (though there were explanations) and everyone seemed to genuinely love the post office. It felt good to be in the company of other USPS lovers!
I have so many thoughts and learned so much already, even though our first meeting goals were limited to outlining the purpose of the council and introducing ourselves. I have a hodgepodge of things to share this time. I think over the next meetings, there will be more structure and our conversations will be more focused on individual problems and solutions (for instance: late deliveries, missed deliveries, counter service, post office building conditions, etc.) But for this time, I decided just to share the most interesting details. Please let me know if you have any questions and I’m happy to clarify.
These consumer advisory councils were very popular in post offices through the 1980s. In the 90s they kind of fell out of favor. The USPS is hoping that by bringing some councils back, the relationship and flow of communication between the post office and its customers will improve.
The USPS sees package delivery as the future of the post office.
Oak Park will become a Sunday & Holiday delivery hub for area Amazon Prime customers. (A council member asked why the USPS would take on a new, large responsibility while they are still reeling from a disaster of a winter last year. But again, if package delivery is the future of the post office, how could they not take this opportunity?)
During the 2013 holiday season, the USPS expected a 14% increase in package volume. The actual increase was 39%. Obviously the USPS was sorely ill-prepared for the volume of mail. To be fair, FedEx and UPS experienced a lot of problems too. The Postmaster believes that this year, with better staffing and systems, they will be ready for another huge holiday season.
All routes in Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest now have permanent carriers. When a route doesn’t have a permanent carrier, another carrier would have to finish her route and then continue her day to finish another route. This obviously leads to delays in mail delivery, mistakes due to unfamiliarity and fatigued carriers. The Postmaster seemed confident that just by being comfortably staffed, the USPS is ready for the upcoming holidays. Plus, they have a small team of back-up carriers in case some of the newer carriers don’t work out. “Delivering mail isn’t for everyone.”
The River Forest carriers, who had been working out of the Oak Park South Station for the past two years, are now back at the River Forest Post Office.
One volunteer council member brought up the broken-down state of some of the blue mailboxes and had concerns about building maintenance.
We asked to have a letter carrier and a counter employee at some of the meetings as we discuss specific topics.
We discussed villages’ and customers’ roles in mail delivery. Oak Park (and I assume Forest Park and River Forest) has an ordinance that requires homeowners to care for their sidewalks during winter. However, this ordinance is rarely (or never, according to some Oak Parkers) enforced by the village. Snowy and icy sidewalks and streets not only slow down mail delivery, but they also make conditions dangerous for the letter carriers. The Postmaster told a story of one letter carrier in south Oak Park who delivered mail to a house in spite of its icy stairs. He fell and broke his tailbone and was out of work for several months.
One thing that the Postmaster told us as members of the advisory council is that he’d like us to be a bridge of communication to connect the post office to the area customers. Part of this role is collecting complaints (or compliments!) from my friends and neighbors. If you live in Oak Park, Forest Park or River Forest, Illinois and have a comment, complaint or a question about your mail delivery, post office counter service or anything else USPS related, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me via email or twitter (details on my About page.) If you don’t live in our area, please feel free to comment as well (always feel free to comment!)
And, if you ever want immediate feedback about a customer experience issue, this is a more direct route to your Station Manager or Postmaster:
National Postal Worker Appreciation Day is tomorrow, July 1st. It was started in 1997 and has been going strong every year since that time. I'm taking my local P.O. workers some new pens. They always need pens. How are you all planning to show your carriers and clerks that you appreciate what they do? A little reminder that when accepting gifts, Federal regulations prohibit Postal Workers from taking cash or gift cards and items must be of $20 or less value.
Saturday, May 10th is the date for this year's Stamp Out Hunger food drive. This drive is the single largest single-day drive and over a billion pounds of food since its start in 1993. The National Association of Letter Carriers collected over 74 million pounds of food last year and hopes to do even better in 2014. You can help! To participate, just leave a bag of non-perishable food items out by your mailbox for your carrier to collect on May 10th. That means things like canned and boxed goods, pasta, rice and peanut butter. I don't know how much easier it can get to help people. You don't have to do anything but put stuff in a bag and leave it by the mailbox. Thanks to the hard-working and love-giving mail carriers for doing all the work!
"Didn't we do this back in February?", you ask. Oh no, you see, both Month of Letters and InCoWriMo are both sort of home-grown letter writing celebrations. April is the bonavide month of celebrating the handwritten letter according to the U.S.P.S. (It's also National Poetry Month, National Honey Month, National Woodworking Month and National Fresh Celery Month. I made none of that up. There's a whole list here.)
There is some contraversy about the "actual" dates. Universal Letter Writing Week is the second week of January; old WPA posters have it in the first week of October. I even found reference to a National Letter Writing Day on December 7th. It doesn't appear as if anyone is truly "in charge" of these pronoucements. The first evidence I found of April being as National (Card And) Letter Writing Month is from a U.S.P.S. bulletin back in 2001.
But what does it truly matter, right? We right write letters every month, every day! But it might be something to add to your trivia night. Happy writing!
To promote the upcoming Spider-Man movie (and Priority Mail too, I suppose) the U.S.P.S. has partnered with Sony Pictures to release Spidey themed Priority Mail boxes and truck signage, et cetera. The press release says:
“Our Priority Mail products share many qualities with a Super Hero of Spider-Man’s caliber, namely those of speed, agility and reliability,” said Nagisa Manabe, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer at USPS. “Like Spider-Man, our priority has always been the people we serve. We pride ourselves on our commitment to public service and delivering for our customers, and we are excited about enlisting Spider-Man to help promote our Priority Mail offerings.”
It's not all so blatantly consumer-driven. They do go on to say that they are also trying to highlight the everyday super heroes at the Post Office. The Postal Service recognized 262 postal employees for heroic acts in the Postmaster General’s heroes program. You can watch a commercial about it here, you know, if you're in to watching commercials for fun.
I am conflicted about this whole thing. I mean, it's the things I love, combined, and that's amazing. (See what I did there?) I mean, I co-run this Alliance and I work at the world's greatest comic shop, Challengers Comics + Conversation. And the boxes are free, so why should I be bothered? I just find this idea of corporate sponsorship of the Post Office alarming. Where do you draw the line? Will there be postmarks or stamps that are advertisements in the future? What do you guys think?
In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form. Prepare your pen and paper, moisten your tongue, and get ready to write more letters!
May 28th (Thursday)
Chicago, IL Letter Social
Uncle Art Gallery 7-9pm 1359 N Maplewood Ave
Join us and our typewriters to write some letters together. We will have mail art supplies, stationery, and a few of our old-fangled typing machines available for your use. Free!
May 30th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL OBSCURA DAY 2015
L.W.A. Clubhouse Several time slots available
Enjoy exclusive access to the Letter Writers Alliance Club House in celebration of Obscura Day. You'll see the inner sanctum of operations for the letter writing organization and have an opportunity to write letters and postcards using vintage typewriters.
Your ticket includes free supplies and typewriter time. Donovan, the Letter Writers Alliance typewriter expert, will be on hand to answer questions, troubleshoot cranky machines and make pithy comments. Come join us and type a letter or two!
Tickets: $5 Purchase options available soon!
June 6th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL Postcard Party
606 Opening Celebration, 10am-6pm
Humboldt Blvd between Cortland & Wabansia
Write some postcards and explore the new Bloomingdale Trail with us. Free!
June 7th (Sunday)
Chicago, IL Mix & Mailology
L.W.A. Clubhouse 3:30-5pm
Old Fashions and Wax Seals, two old-timey things we love. Learn the secrets of mixing an excellent Old Fashion and making the perfect wax impression on your envelopes. We will also have other wax-like experiments for your mail art pleasure. Our solutions, both alcoholic and artistic, will surprise you. All materials, including liquid forms, will be provided.
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July 12th (Sunday)
World-Wide L.W.A. Book Club
Join Kathy, Donovan, and a special guest Margaret Haas (of Paper Pastries) via live video while we discuss Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Discussion and further info can be found on the Goodreads book group page. Event Page
The L.W.A. was established in 2007 by Kathy Zadrozny & Donovan Beeson. These two ladies manage every aspect of the Alliance, from design, to packing orders, to maintaining the website. The L.W.A. is a labor of love and we are happy you have joined us in sharing a love for letters.