I’ve mentioned before that I have a very good friend who lives in Australia. She and I have been pen-and-paper penpals since January 1993, and when we first started corresponding, she lived outside Montreal. We’ve never met, but she’s one of my best friends–maybe one day we’ll meet, maybe not.
Our daughters were born three days apart, so it’s been fun to swap parent talk with her. (She has a son who’s three years older, so this isn’t her first time around with diapers and toilet training.) She recently told me how much she liked some of the clothes Sylvia wears (lots of earth tones and simple lines) and mentioned how difficult it was to get non-pink, non-girly stuff where she is. We chatted back and forth about this, and the upshot is I volunteered to do some end-of-season hardcore sale shopping for her kids–just a few things, whatever I could find that was ridiculously inexpensive–and send them to her.
So a few weeks ago, in about an hour I managed to score some great, high-quality, non-girly stuff for her kids–for almost nothing. Seriously. Something like five shirts and two pairs of pants came out to under twenty bucks. (Clothing is cheap in this country!) The best part is I bought summer stuff that was on clearance because summer is over…here. It hasn’t even begun where she is, so these items would arrive just in time. I wrapped it all up in the smallest possible bundle (brown paper secured with packing tape–not even a box or envelope) and took it to the post office.
I handed over the package and the customs form I had filled out at home. (Pet peeve: people who take up time at the counter filling out postal forms, and the postal employees who don’t attend to other customers while waiting for said forms.) “This can go surface mail. There’s no hurry on it.”
The man behind the counter shook his head at me. “There’s no more surface mail. Only air mail.”
“Are you kidding? When did this happen?”
“Mother’s Day. Wasn’t making any money.”
“Hmmm. Okay, then air mail it is, I guess.”
“That’ll be thirteen dollars.”
Um, hello? That’s almost the value of the contents! I took my package home, deciding to send it when I had more things to add (since the first chunk of postage is the most expensive, a slightly larger package shouldn’t cost a lot more to send).
Now, I’ve been pretty good about defending the USPS in the past. When I was in college, a friend of mine told me about the time he got a letter addressed simply to “Todd Davis, Belleville, Illinois.” That’s it. It was for him, and it arrived something like two years late, but it did arrive. And on the envelope, some postal employee had written “Are we good or what?” Wow.
In light of that–and in light of the stellar service I’ve gotten from the USPS–I’ve been a bit of a fan. Rate hikes have been mildly annoying, but I didn’t mind them that much. (Postage in the USA is still pretty cheap.)
And then the employee at the local post office hassled me when I tried to send a package without a return address. (This was for my first Secret Pal swap, SP8.) Okay, this wasn’t really the fault of the USPS. I blame this one on the Bush-Cheney war on American civil rights, er, I mean the war on terror.
The rates hikes earlier this year didn’t bug me much, until I found out that the international postcard rate was going from 70 cents to 90 cents. Whoa! What’s up with that? That’s one heck of a jump–and since then my Postcrossing has ground to a halt (a temporary one, I hope).
But completely scrapping international surface mail? USPS, you’ve really let me down now. For shame, USPS. For shame.
P.S. You can try to suck up to me by issuing a set of knitting-themed holiday stamps, USPS, but it won’t work.