Pondering Postage

U.S.P.S. rolls out the new Forever StampAs of today, May 14th, the U.S.P.S. has raised postage rates again.   Now it’ll cost you 41¢ each – an increase of 5% – to mail standard letters.   What’s more, a new law signed by President Bush back in December ’06 ties postage increases to the Consumer Price Index (a measure that tracks inflation in consumer goods & services) starting in 2008.   This means that future bumps will be even more predictable.   And the U.S.P.S. can apply for one more rate hike before the new law takes effect.

As was the case with the previous postage rate increase, this latest round of price hikes on stamps leaves me wondering…

How much does this really matter anymore?   Undoubtedly, many small businesses & non-profits will be feeling some financial squeeze from this.   But aside from the sheer frustration of inflation in general, how much does this affect us average people?

With the use of virtual forms of money (online banking, e-payments, direct account drafts, & money transfer services like PayPal) continually on the rise, I suspect that we’re rapidly approaching a time when the Internet renders postage stamps entirely irrelevant.   I mean, c’mon, just how often do you actually stick a stamp on an envelope anymore?

By the way, those new Forever Stamps aren’t necessarily a very good investment.   Sure, once you’ve bought Forever Stamps and postage rates go up, their value has increased.   But given that postage rates typically rise an average of 3% annually and that even a basic savings account offers a better return than that nowadays, this investment doesn’t seem so sound.   So it appears that the U.S.P.S. is counting on cashing in on consumers’ iffy math skills — they’ve already printed five billion Forever Stamps and are poised to quickly print more if there’s sufficient demand.   In essence then, isn’t the Post Office trying to con us out of an interest-free loan?