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USPS: Why Not Print Fewer Stamps?

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Posted 11/19/2012   3:02 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add kirks to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I'm always a little slow reading Linn's...

In the 29 October issue Washington Watch, McAllister writes about the Simpsons flop. One Billion stamps were printed, only 318 million sold, meaning $1.2 million of lost printing costs.

Some other egregious under-sellers:

  • 2009 Lunar New Year - 145% overprinting

  • Flags of Our Nations - 317% overprinting

  • Supreme Court Justices - 151% overprinting



So here's my question: Why not print fewer? So what if there are shortages of some stamps? Seems to me that would only increase collector interest and activity.

My 2 worth...
KirkS
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Posted 11/19/2012   3:08 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add 1847bill to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Most customers of the USPS don't care which stamp they get if they are just mailing letters. Other than wanting Xmas or valentine stamps they just want to pay the postage. It is a wonder why the overprinting is continuing.
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Posted 11/19/2012   4:23 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add wt1 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I've also observed that the USPS Stamp Fulfillment Center still carries all new commemorative issues since the change-over to "Forever" designations for the stamps, yet few of these older "Forever" stamps are available in post offices anymore. Of course, the theory is that "Forever" stamps need not be destroyed but can be used "Forever", however, I have only observed that the special occasion stamps such as Love, Christmas, Eid, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa are re-used after their initial introduction. The only exception seems to have been the attempt to re-introduce the 2011 "Go Green" stamps in 2012, even though there were no new stamps printed. It was merely an exercise to try to re-kindle interest in a stamp issue that had a sizable inventory collecting dust.

I've also been of the opinion that the massive quantity of postcard rate stamps -- which will have changed three times in three years -- is way over-printed and the remainders are probably getting destroyed. It would seem that a "Forever" Postcard Rate stamp could solve that problem, but no one has come up with such a proposal (yet).
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Posted 11/19/2012   5:22 pm  Show Profile Check Nells250's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add Nells250 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I also read that list rather late. I hate to say it, as I run the risk of sounding un-PC, but other stamps listed that didn't sell had to do with Black History, and other topics very few people are interested in (such as the judges mentioned above). Oddly enough, the Simpsons stamps didn't sell, either! I blame that one on the bad designs...
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Posted 11/19/2012   6:23 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add wt1 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
In all fairness to the USPS, here's a partial excerpt of their explanation to the OIG on the stamp production audit. Essentially the change-over from denominated to "Forever" stamps was partially to blame as it relates to the two stamp issues cited as having been grossly over-produced:

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Posted 11/19/2012   6:29 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add wt1 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
For anyone interested in the list of stamps over-produced in the 2009 audit report, here's the statistical summary:

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Posted 11/20/2012   09:28 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add spanishmoss to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
This may be a dumb thought, but here goes.....

Instead of destroying all the Simpson stamps (and others like them), why couldn't the USPS come up with some other options? They could sell them at a discounted price to companies/individuals who would then have to add additional postage. Or, could they not be overprinted with "Forever?"

It seems like such a waste of money, paper, and resources to not try and figure out a way to keep them.

If most people don't care what goes on their letters, they wouldn't mind a Simpson overprint instead of the usual Liberty Bell.

Just my two cents!
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Posted 11/20/2012   10:28 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add wt1 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Or, could they not be overprinted with "Forever?"


This would be a good idea. But my guess is that the cost for printing the "Forever" overprint would be just as costly (probably more costly) than to just destroy them and forget about it.

Remember, that stamps are printed in large sheets and are then cut into smaller saleable booklets or panes. In the case of the Simpsons stamps, all of the stamps were cut into booklets and therefore it would not lend itself well to going back to the printer for an overprint.

Further, when this story about over-production of the Simpsons stamp first hit the news media, people were lining up at post offices wanting to buy these over-produced stamps only to find out that post offices no longer had them, so not only did the post office over-produce them but they never publicized the problem until after the stamps were no longer available.
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Posted 11/20/2012   11:05 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add 1847bill to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I don't know that anything can be done now about the overages. It would be interesting to see if they continue making denominational stamp overages in the future. When the issue came up in the media the reports I heard were taking into account the full retail price and not just the printing cost. I wonder how many were packed and shrink wrapped?
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Posted 11/20/2012   11:16 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add wt1 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I wonder how many were packed and shrink wrapped?


As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words ... and this one represents the overprinting of the FOON stamps:

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Posted 11/20/2012   9:37 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add PaulC to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Sorry, I have to say it. The organization has been run and populated by fools, arrogance and gluttons for years. We need a fire sale to Fedex or UPS.
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Edited by PaulC - 11/24/2012 09:16 am
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Posted 11/21/2012   06:32 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rohumpy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
If we are not careful, we are going to reach the point when the USPS decides that commemoratives are just too big a hassle and do away with them, printing only one forever design in perpetuity. This may be a case of be careful what you wish for.
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Posted 11/21/2012   07:34 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Jan-Simon to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Hmm... so these excess Simpson stamps represent a value of 1.2 million. Why not take a few million of them, have them CTO-ed and then sell them for a few cents per set to stampdealers worldwide. They might even make a profit in the end, and have some extra money to destroy the remaining stock.
Apart from that, I do not really understand how part 3 of the Flags of Our Nation series has almost completely sold out, where part 4 sold only a quarter of the amount.
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Posted 11/24/2012   09:37 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add kirks to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
PAULC: The organization has been run and populated by fools, arrogance and gluttons for years.


You honestly think everyone the entire population of employees at USPS are fools?

I think that's way too harsh.
KS
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Posted 11/24/2012   12:29 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add wt1 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
It's easy to criticize the USPS, but most of us couldn't do any better.

As mentioned early on this thread, we're not talking about the overall USPS administration, but the seemingly large overprinting of certain stamp issues. The audit response shown by the USPS blames most of the problem on the fact that the stamps in question were issued relatively close to the change-over from denominated to "Forever" stamps, which may not totally explain the print over-runs, but does help to justify the mindset back in the day.

Personally, I'd like to see the USPS release sales figures for all commemorative stamps since the "Forever" stamps came into being. However, the fact remains that the information is very often kept under wraps and only in a few instances does the public get hold of those figures. Without that data in hand, it is nearly impossible to ascertain if the USPS has improved on what these audit results showed back in 2009.

I do criticize the USPS for the major print runs of denominated stamps that most of us know will be updated in a very short time. For example, postcard rate stamps, priority mail stamps and express mail stamps are still printed in massive quantities, yet when the postage rates change, they are forced to replace the stamps with revised denominations, with the older ones destined for destruction.
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Posted 11/24/2012   5:57 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add PaulC to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
KS, I do agree with you. It's too easy to react and put things in writing these days. To be honest I was not referring to everyone at the USPS. I had a Father-in-Law who was a Postmaster. And truthfully in my lifetime I've met many dedicated USPS employees. However I've met many who support my contention. I've dealt with them as a consumer, a collector, a businessman and a taxpayer.

As I look back on the product that they used to produce and that I collect, I'm proud of it. They honored great Americans and heroes and memorialized events that we all needed to remember. Somewhere in the seventies, in my opinion, the "creeping crud" started. Stamps started being produced of poor quality (the series honoring postal employees is the first that occurs to me) more and more often (Please note that I'm not criticizing the subject of this stamp(s) but the quality of the production). And then they started honoring a whole slew of folks I never heard of. They lost my interest as a consumer and a hobbyist. Over runs of Commemoratives is ridiculous. Has no one there ever heard of "shorting the market"? Isn't that why we have definitives, to fill in the gaps? Jack Kent Cook (owner of the Washington Redskins) once endearingly and jokingly spoke of George Allen (general manager of the Washington Redskins), "He's the only man I ever knew that exceeded an unlimited budget". Today's world (not speaking of football) offers untold opportunities to improve quality and reduce costs. The photo of the undelivered "Flags of Our Nation" coils is classic. Who and what country on earth could view this photo and not believe it's the product of a sick and gluttonous society.

A great way to get the post office under control would be to fire the Postmaster General when they need a postal rate increase (no deficits allowed or unearned pensions).

I've never run into arrogance and poor attitudes at a postal counter. But I have encountered them in the bulk mailroom and at delivery. Note that I did not say everyone. We receive our periodicals once a week. Bulk mail seems to make it every day! The line at the post office counter is incessantly long. As a consumer and a merchant these are seen as the first expression of your attitude toward your customer. It's just like the recording we have all heard a hundred times, "due to an unusually large call volume we're unable to answer your call on a timely basis". When I hear, it I know it has nothing to do with call volume but everything to do with how long a company feels we'll knuckle under and wait. Today, I purchase my stamps at Costco. Or, on eBay for less than cost.

We need a post office that exemplifies the high ideals it once had. Remember the inscription found on the General Post Office in New York City at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street read; "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." This may never have actually been true but most of us believed it.

I bring this whole subject up not because I want to rant about it but because I believe the whole system has been allowed and even systematically conditioned to run amok. I think we should talk about it.

Ouch, here come the barbs.

KS, thanks for your great subject post.
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