How to Save the Post Office

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

You may have noticed that the cash-strapped Postal Service has changed its policy on stamp designs. The stamps in the past have only honored dead celebs, in the same sort of way that the baseball hall of fame only lets in retired players.

Now, basically, they'll do anything for a buck. Tony Romo, Justin Beiber, Kim Kardashian's rear end, all fair game to adorn your Christmas cards. Ellen DeGeneris has already suggested herself. The Tiger Woods Mistress Series could cover a year's worth of news stamps.

Whoops, I spit on the wrong side of the Beiber stamp. Again. My bad.

Being the curious sort, I went to the USPS Facebook site, where the public is reacting to what the government termed "AMAZING NEWS!" with what can only be described as a raging tidal wave of yawning, utter ennui.

Out of 312199372 online customers, I counted three who responded to the Postal Service's desperate pleas for ideas on someone, anyone to slap on a stamp to make a couple bucks.

The suggestions included - billionaire nerd Bill Gates, actor Robert Redford, musician Bob Dylan, country crooner Dolly Parton (we may have to use two side-by-side stamps to contain Mr. Parton's fame) and insane person Charlie Sheen.

Ba-Zing! I'll be camping in line outside the post office to get at those Gates/Sheen/Dolly stamps!

Apparently, the Post Office is pandering to the global marketplace as well. I looked up the new 2013 stamp designs, which feature a whole series on Bonsai trees, and a Chinese New Year stamp. Wait, I thought this was the "U.S." Postal Service we were talking about here. Don't we have anything worth celebrating in our own homogenized culture?

Frankly, I don't know if a Snooki stamp or a Most Interesting Man in the World stamp is going to solve the postal service's problems. I doubt if it was a lack of diversity in stamps that sent people scurrying to email and UPS. I'm not sure closing all of our area small town post offices or ending our Saturday mail is going to turn the tide, either.

If you haven't heard, the cost of stamps is going up a penny in January, and the P.O. is pleading with Congress for another five-cent increase. And I haven't yet forgiven them for taking away stamp vending machines.

But if the Postal Service really wants to bring in some dough, here's what it needs to do...

Set up one of those mall photo booths in the lobby. Have people come in and be able to print out a sheet of stamps with their own ridiculous mugs on them, and slap one of those suckers right on the City of Storm Lake's big ol'water bill.

We're all in need of some ego stroking, right? People pay big bucks to get their picture pasted on a fake Sports Illustrated or Cosmo cover or a fake old west sepiatone 8x10 at the Clay County Fair or a Christmas card with their family all looking unhappy in matching cootie-infested vests. They'll go bonkers for a chance to see themselves smiling out of a stamp. They'll stick 'em on everything including their foreheads.

Another nifty idea would be to invent a stamp you can scan into your smart phone with an mp3 embedded. Buy a Bon Jovi stamp, and bop out of the PO to "I'll Be There For You." 'Cause anything in the world today that doesn't involve a cell phone is doomed. Maybe we could make a stamp that when pressed, says "You've Got Mail," in that old-school American Online voice.

Or, make all of those edge, alternative types tingle with a stamp that can be applied as a tattoo when its done being in the mail. This could bring a whole new meaning to the term "tramp stamp."

The Des Moines Register devoted an entire front page to hard-breaking reporting with a story on which Iowans should be first to be on a still-alive stamp, suggesting Hayden Fry (he's from Texas), Simon Estes, Ashton Kutcher (lives in Hollywood) and Cloris Leachman. Ooh, I'm back in line!

Aside from the upset feeling in my stomach at reading Ashton Kucther compared with Simon Estes in the same sentence, this serves primarily as yet another reminder that Iowa has a real shortage of celebrities, especially ones still above ground. We need to work on that.

Is Mavis, the waitress from the Old Home Fill 'Er Up and Keep On Truckin' Cafe still alive? Kiss my grits, buy a stamp, honey chile.

What's on the recent batches of U.S. stamps? It's obvious the postal folks are running out of ideas. Let's take a peek. Herbs. Wedding cakes. Neon signs. Asian fruits. Pine cones. Butterflies. A clock. A teapot. A chair. A lamp. A sheep. Sounds more like a really messed up garage sale than an artistic representation of the American dream.

For next year, they have planned things like a giant series celebrating Hawaiian shirt designs. The Monsters Inc. movie. Weather vanes. Baseball player Larry Doby. A pack of poets you've mostly likely never heard of. Bicycling. The guy who wrote "Tarzan."

Are you kidding me? With sharp ideas like there, why would the Postal Service need our help?!

Of course, there are some very good designs too - the breast cancer awareness stamp and the endangered species series were brilliant, and next year attractive stamps will celebrate heart health, scouting, and Civil War history.

The problem with collector stamps is that only so many people want them, and if you make very many, they don't want them either.

I collected stamps as a kid, and it's no laughing matter. The famous "inverted jenny" stamp is worth a million bucks if you find one, an 1855 Swedish stamp recently sold for $2.3 million.

Hulk Hogan or Kenny Chesney stamps... eh, not so much. To be really appropriate, the Postal Service could issue a stamp with an upward arrow logo representing the rising cost of stamps.

At any rate, if you have an idea for a new stamp, the U.S. Postal Service wants to hear from you. Luckily, they have Facebook and Twitter, because, you know, mailing it would take forever and be much too expensive...