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How to beat the U.S. Postal Service, sort of

William Hamilton " A Central View

Some genius in Washington, D.C., decided to make the rates and charges of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) easier for its customers to understand. Right.

Space limitations do not permit discussion of some of the more esoteric USPS products such as registered, delivery-confirmation, and priority mail, etc. So, we’ll only deal with the new regulations governing ordinary letter mail.

Let’s just say a new invention will be needed to help postal patrons through this maze of new regulations: So, imagine a thick sheet of plastic through which some precise cut-outs have been made. The largest cut-out or template is designed to test whether your large (9- by 12-inch) manila envelope will fit within the outline. The smaller template is designed to see whether your regular, (4- by 9.5-inch) business-letter envelope will fit within its outline.

For your convenience, there would be a 1/4-inch thickness slot for regular, business-size envelopes. If your envelope does not exceed 1/4-inch in thickness, it will slide through the slot. So far, so good.

So, let’s say you want to use the USPS to mail a regular, business-size envelope.

Step one is to see if it will fit within the overall-size template. Step two is to see if your stuffed and sealed envelope will fit through the 1/4-inch thickness slot.

But wait. There’s more. Step three is to weigh your regular, business-size envelope. But the old postage scale you have used for years won’t work because it probably only measures in quarter-ounce units. The new, improved USPS system calls for measurements much finer than that. So, your old scale ” the one that looks like a miniature of the kind of scale found in a feed store ” simply won’t do. That means a trip to your favorite office-supply store.

The negative consequence of trying to mail an envelope that won’t fit through its appropriate template for overall size and/or won’t fit through its appropriate slot for thickness and/or exceeds the appropriate weight for the amount of postage you have applied from your cache of stamps in your home or office is: “postage due” at the other end. The intended recipient can choose to pay or not pay. No pay, no letter.

There is, however, a simple solution that does not require the invention of the device described above or the purchase of a scale able to weigh atomic particles. Simply go stand in line at your local post office and let the postal clerks figure out how much postage to affix to your letters.

Unfortunately, this will cause long lines of postal patrons. The lines may well extend clear out the door and into the elements.

But the USPS probably thinks of everything and it might offer a line of winter survival gear: parkas, snow boots, fur hats with ear flaps (fake fur, of course) and warm gloves. Imagine outdoor vending machines placed within reach, offering nourishing food and drink. Hot chocolate would be nice.

If the line is long enough, it might extend clear off the federal property so far that Hot Mulled Wine could be vended, depending, of course, on state liquor laws.

Assuming you survive to make it to the head of the line, you could purchase the winter survival kit for use the next time you must enter the post office for the various measures of: size, thickness and weight to be applied to what you want to mail.

Alternatively, you could just call one of the several overnight package services and they could send someone to your home and pick up your letters or packages for delivery faster than USPS. If you have an account, you’ll just get a bill.

While that might seem expensive, it would save you the cost of the plastic template device, the laboratory-quality scale and the winter survival kit. For sure, that would be less expensive than a case of pneumonia.

” Syndicated columnist William Hamilton, of Granby, is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and a former research fellow at the U.S. Military History Institute of the U.S. Army War College. His columns also can be seen at: http://www.central-view.com.


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