Reports of inadequate glue on postage stamps have been dwindling of late. However, the recent postal rate increase has generated complaints about old stamps that are now being used.
People who want to use up their 13-cent stamps dig out ancient 1-centers and 2-centers. Some of those old stamps don't stick well.
Letters have been returned to their senders because of "inadequate" postage. In some cases, senders used cellophane tape to make the old stamps stick to their envelopes. Those letters were also returned, stamped, "Postage Stamps Must Be Exposed For Cancellation."
Mrs. Jack R. Stoterau was one who used cellophane tape and got her letter back. Unfortunately for her, the letter contained perishable merchandise - two tickets to the Diplomats' June 3 soccer game.
Mrs. Stoterau had won the tickets on May 30. Inasmuch as she had already arranged a birthday party for the 7-year-old soccer fan in her family, she phoned and asked whether the tickets could be exchanged for June 10. "Sure," was the answer, even though the tickets are marked "No Exchange." All she had to do was get them in the mail right away and two June 10 tickets would be sent to her.
But her 1-cent stamps wouldn't stick, so she used Scotch tape. Days later, she got back her own letter instead of tickets for June 10.
Rotten luck, right? Wrong, I phoned Steve Danzansky, the Dips' head man, and told him the story. "We're not going to disappoint that 7-year-old fan," he said. "What's the Stoterau phone number?"
Let me mention in passing that the Postal Service has two task forces at work on problems involved in incidents of this kind. One is an attempt to improve post office glue so that it will always hold the stamp in place, even after a long shelf life. (I wish they'd also come up with a stickum that would keep their prices in place longer.) The second project is a new ink that can't be rubbed off transparent tape. If they perfect it, theymight review the present regulations that ban the use of tape over stamps.
It should also be noted that many people who had large supplies of 13-cent stamps when the rate hike went into effect have asked the Postal Service to exchange their 13-centers for 15-centers upon payment for a 2-cent difference. They have been turned down. Those who write to me about this tend to be hot under the collar.
"Everytime the price goes up, the damn service gets worse," one 78-year-old woman commented.
A spokeswoman for the Postal Service (a gentle soul who really takes the term "public servant" seriously) told me the USPS would love to be able to accommodate people who want to trade in stamps, but the "accountability" problem makes that impossible.
"You mean internal bookkeeping?" I asked.
"Right," she said. "If we made exchanges, we'd have horrendous problems. We hope people will cooperate by buying enough ones and twos to match the thirteens they have left."
"If that's the official policy," I said, "how come the last time we had a rate increase my neighborhood post office accepted an unopened roll of stamps from me as credit toward a roll in the new denomination?"
My favorite USPS spokesperson chuckled. "I know which post office you patronize," she said, "and the gals there are just fantastic. We've always getting letters about how hard they work to please people, and there are lots of other offices where our patrons get VIP treatment. But that's above and beyond the call of duty. They're just nice people."
Long after she had closed up shop for the day. I heard from my friend Charles A. McAleer, who is past commander of the National Press Club's American Legion post and who still puts out the post's newsletter.
Charlie has 125 members on his roster, so he trotted down to the Ben Franklin post office the other day and bought a roll of 100 15s plus 25 from a sheet.
When he finished putting all his stamps on envelopes, he had nine unstamped envelopes left. He had carefully counted the 25 stamps from the sheet, and he recounted the stamped envelopes twice. There were 116 stamped, nine unstamped. So the shortage must have been in the roll. It must have contained 91 stamps instead of 100 (although it cost $15).
How could such a thing be? I don't know. I can't call Madam Spokesperson at 4 a.m., so I'll just have to stay up until she returns to work. Tune in again tomorrow for her comment.