Monday, April 30, 2012

The Louisiana Statehood Stamp

Hello folks, Benny here. I’ve got some information I thought you might find interesting. The Postal Service is issuing a Louisiana Statehood stamp today to celebrate its bicentennial in becoming the 18th state of our country.

Way back in 1778 when I was much younger, and perhaps had a few more strands of hair on my crown, I helped put together the Treaty of Alliance. It was meant to establish a defensive alliance between France and the United States in case the British attacked, and boy did it come in handy.

Well, little did I realize that France would offer us more than that treaty just 25 years later. That’s when they gave us the chance to buy the entire Louisiana Territory for just $15 million. It was such a bargain for so much land, how could we possibly refuse? Eventually, on April 30, 1812, Louisiana became an official state of the Union.

Has it really been 200 years already? I guess time flies when you’re on the go. Speaking of which, it’s time for my nap. Until next time friends!


Friday, April 27, 2012

A New Way to Ship and Receive Packages

There’s a new test program offered by the Postal Service that will attempt to make shipping and receiving packages easier than ever. The new gopost pilot program, available in select locations, is designed to allow customers to choose when to pick up and ship packages at a conveniently located kiosk locker. They won’t need to be home to receive a package or go to the local Post Office to send them.

While innovative, this concept is not a unique one. is currently testing their own version of parcel lockers, and has plans to expand that program even further. Locker kiosks are also being used in many countries around the world:

-         Germany launched its first locker kiosk in 2002 and has 1.5 million registered users as of 2010.
-         Austria launched its program in 2006 and now has 24 locations in Vienna.
-         Denmark launched its first parcel locker kiosk in 2008. Interestingly, the name of their program is called Dognposten.
-         Turkey launched its program in 2010 in Ankara and Istanbul with plans to expand the program even further

Many other countries have either started offering this service or have plans in the works to offer it in the near future.

Do you think the Postal Service should expand gopost to the rest of the country? Comment here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The José Ferrer Stamp

One of our country’s most versatile and honored actors, José Ferrer is the 14th luminary celebrated in the U.S. Postal Service’s Distinguished Americans series. The stamp shows Ferrer at the height of his fame, his elegant and timeless look captured in an oil-on-canvas portrait.

Critics and peers alike lauded Ferrer as one of the most accomplished talents of his generation. Ferrer was not only a highly acclaimed actor, but also a director, writer, musician, and producer. During his long career he garnered many accolades that testified to the depth and quality of his work, including several Tony Awards for his achievements on stage. His film appearances resulted in three Academy Award nominations, including one for what is arguably his most famous role — the swashbuckling poet Cyrano de Bergerac — for which he won a Best Actor Oscar, the first for a Latino.

The original painting for the stamp art was created by Daniel Adel. Antonio Alcalá was the art director.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Too Good to be True

You’re hired! That’s more or less what an employment letter claims in this latest version of the classic fake check or money order scam. These scams have also included postal money orders at times. In this latest adaptation, a letter from a legitimate sounding market research company is sent to unsuspecting people claiming to have selected them for a unique employment opportunity. The details of the opportunity to become a customer service evaluator are outlined in the well-crafted job offer, but don’t sign on the dotted line just yet. The prospect of becoming a mystery shopper is actually a scam in disguise and you should become familiar with it to ensure that you and those you know can avoid becoming a victim.

The customer service evaluator position comes with a high hourly rate of pay and a simple probation training assignment. All an individual has to do to pass the training and accept the position is to cash a check or money ordered enclosed in the package of material, wire the bulk of the funds back to the company, and retain the rest for hourly pay, wire fees, and other expenses.  The packet also includes an evaluation form for the new evaluator to complete regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of the wire service. There is also a weekly time schedule attached that needs to be filled out to verify what hours the new employee will be available for work.

All of the material added to the packet is designed to emphasize the legitimacy of the program. The congratulatory letter looks authentic. The attached forms appear to support the employment offer well. The enclosed check even looks genuine. Scammers are becoming very sophisticated in their art for one sole purpose – taking what you have and making it theirs.

If you come across an offer that seems too good to be true, don’t let your enthusiasm replace skepticism. Be cautious and examine the offer with piercing scrutiny. Answer the following questions to begin the process of analyzing authenticity:

-         Is the offer from a foreign country?
-         Is the offer unsolicited?
-         Does the offer require you to send money?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, the offer could be a scam. If you ever receive questionable offers like this in the mail, contact the Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 or go to their website at:

For more information on this latest mystery shopper scam as well as an actual example, go to:

What other mail fraud scams are you aware of? Share your experiences here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wine and beer in the mail?

There are many opinions on how to handle the financial crisis of the Postal Service on Capitol Hill, and the options being discussed seem as diverse as the services offered by the 200 year old entity itself.

One of the options being considered in Congress is to allow the Post Office to ship wine and malt beverages. That’s something that’s currently off the menu.

On May 17, 2011, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, in a statement before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, has confirmed that, “we could realize a significant increase in revenue by being permitted to handle the mailing of beer and wine.

How much revenue the Post Office can generate from this service isn’t exactly clear, but it is likely to produce an increase in shipping demands by customers.

Several other options suggested by various stakeholders to expand Postal services include:

-          Copying and notarizing documents
-          Selling hunting and fishing licenses
-          Offering electronic bill payments and e-mail accounts
-          Selling file storage space on its secured servers

Each option comes with its own set of challenges, but the efforts of pursuit could create beneficial rewards.

To view the proposed senate bill, click here.

Postmaster General Donahoe’s statement can be viewed here.

Do you think that the Post Office should be allowed to offer alternative services?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Latest Lineup

Hello readers! Benny the Blogger here. If you’re as big a fan as I when it comes to the latest stamp issues, then you won’t want to miss the upcoming collection. Here’s a list of the remaining releases for 2012:

- William H Johnson – Apr 11, 2012
- Twentieth-Century Poets – April 21, 2012
- The Civil War: 1862 – April 24, 2012
- Jose Ferrer – April 26, 2012
- Louisiana Statehood – April 30, 2012
- Mail a Smile – May, 2012
- Great Film Directors – May 23, 2012
- Bicycling – June 7, 2012
- Celebrate Scouting – June 9, 2012
- Edith Piaf and Miles Davis – June 12, 2012
- Major League Baseball All-Stars – July 20, 2012
- Innovative Choreographers – Jul 28, 2012
- Flags of Our Nation: Set 6 – August 16, 2012
- Edgar Rice Burroughs – August 17, 2012
- The War of 1812: USS Constitution – August 18, 2012
- O. Henry – September 11, 2012
- Holy Family – October 2012
- Earthscapes – October 1, 2012
- Santa and Sleigh – October 14, 2012
- Bobcat – To Be Announced

If you’d like more details on a particular stamp, or all of them as I do, go to the website

What do you think of a Classic Computers theme as a future stamp idea? Comment here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Grow Green!

Postcards you can plant! Infused with wildflower seeds, these Go Green postcards are an eco-friendly way to keep in touch and share the go green message. Set includes four 5 x 7-inch postcards and four randomly-selected Go Green (Forever®) stamps. Planting instructions are printed on each postcard.

Click here to pick up a set today!

What other seeds would you like to see infused into postcards? Comment here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

To Boldly Go Green

“Going green” is a popular phrase that involves the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere as well as other efforts to use the Earth’s resources more efficiently. Major efforts by the Postal Service in support of the green cause have helped to promote a greener tomorrow.

Activities such as reducing facility energy use, water use, petroleum fuel use, and solid waste have not only helped protect the environment, they’ve also improved the bottom line.

In 2011, the Postal Service saved $34 million through conservation efforts and generated $24 million in recycling revenue. That adds a major financial incentive to pursuing green opportunities.

While these efforts are commendable, and in some cases profitable, what exactly is it about greenhouse gases that makes them dangerous? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat. The more greenhouse gases that fill the atmosphere, the less heat can escape into outer space. Excessive heat that remains trapped within the atmosphere has the potential to cause a change in global climate patterns. This can lead to more powerful storms, flooding, draught, and heat waves.

Some gases accumulate through the course of nature, such forest fires, volcanic eruptions and the earth’s natural emissions. Others are traced back to human activities.

“Going green” initiatives have the potential to reduce the buildup of greenhouse gases. Financial incentives also help make the transition to more environmentally friendly practices easier to adopt and embrace.

Do you think that embracing conservation efforts is a good move for the Postal Service? Comment here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fuel for the Bottom Line

With fuel prices soaring to record highs, many shipping providers have added a fuel surcharge to the price of their services. This surcharge directly increases the costs for their customers to ship anything from socks to a flat panel television. One organization that has not passed on this increased cost to its customers is the Post Office.

Here’s an interesting list of average U.S. fuel prices for the last decade:

January 2, 2012 - $3.254
January 2, 2011 - $3.034
January 4, 2010 - $2.627
January 5, 2009 - $1.672
January 7, 2008 - $3.088
January 1, 2007 - $2.296
January 2, 2006 - $2.236
January 3, 2005 - $1.745
January 5, 2004 - $1.492
January 6, 2003 - $1.412

For more information on fuel prices, go to the U.S. Energy Administration website by clicking here.

Where do you think fuel prices will be by the end of the year?  Comment here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It’s Tax Time!

Today is the final day for procrastinators to file their 2012 tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service has pushed back the filing deadline by two days, giving a little extra time for those still feverishly working on their tax returns. While the rush to the Post Office at the last minute to get that April 17th cancellation mark might have been something of an all day event in the past, the overwhelming shift in filing preferences to electronic means has altered that landscape considerably.

According to the IRS website, since electronic filing debuted in 1990, more than 1 billion tax returns have been e-filed. In 2011, 112 million people filed their returns electronically. That’s 77% of all individual returns filed in the United States last year. If those returns had been mailed to the IRS instead of e-filed, the Postal Service would have seen a minimum of $49.3 million in additional revenue for 2011.

The trend towards e-filing shows no signs of slowing down. Every year, tax-filers are bombarded with advertising by the IRS, tax preparation software companies, and the lure of a speedier turn-around-time for refunds. The number of returns mailed in the future will likely dwindle even further as these lures tempt more individuals to e-file their returns.

Given the continuing decline in hard copy tax returns coursing through the mail stream, can you think of a way for the Postal Service to recapture a share of those electronically filed returns? Comment here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Put a Spring in Someone’s Step

This spring, Sunrise Greetings is partnering with USPS and American Express for the launch of the Spring Gift Center Display.

The display combines gift cards, greeting cards, and Priority Mail Flat Rate Gift Card Envelopes to create a quick and easy solution for customers looking for a convenient gift package all at a single location. The set goes on display today, April 16, and will be available for a limited time only.

What other gift items or services would you like to see the Postal Service offer? Comment here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Card Sharp

Here's a high-flying innovation in direct mail. The plastic cards with snap-out promotional gift cards meld variable data printing personalization, high-resolution graphics, wet-look aesthetics and real-time analytics technology.

Laminated breakout gifts cards are taking the traditional postcard to the next level. Besides razzle-dazzle looks, the core of DynamiCard's appeal is the card's bar coded analytics. When the client scans a gift card returned for use they scan them and it gives a demographic of what areas used the promotional cards.

Results have been promising. For instance, the average restaurant client using DynamiCard mailers is seeing a 12 percent response rate. First-Class

DynamiCard founder and CEO Ivan Farber believes the laminated cards have a key advantage over online deal-of-day sites, coupon books and traditional paper postcards because higher-end customers are usually a little self-conscious about using a printed paper coupon.

What do you think? Would you be more likely to use this than a paper coupon? Comment here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

First a Postmaster, later a President

Two Postmasters became US Presidents later in their careers. -- Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman.

Truman held the title and signed papers but immediately turned the position and its pay over to an assistant.

Lincoln was appointed his postmaster's position by President Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, on May 7, 1833. He served as Postmaster of New Salem, IL, until June 14, 1837.

Do you think being a Postmaster is good training for future presidents?

The job didn't support Lincoln completely or require his full-time attention, so he also performed odd jobs such as rail splitting and began work as a land surveyor.

Lincoln kept his postal receipts in an old blue sock hidden in a wooden chest, according to Harvey Ross, whose father held the contract for the mail route going through New Salem. Lincoln's salary as postmaster depended on the amount of receipts of his office.

When Lincoln was asked for the remaining funds from his postmaster account, the money was still in the sock.

Do you think the current Postmaster General could become President of the United States someday? Comment here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The William H. Johnson Stamp

One of the country’s foremost African-American artists, William H. Johnson (1901-1970) is today recognized as a major figure in 20th-century American art. Known for his colorful, folk-inspired scenes of African-American daily life as well as his dramatic Scandinavian landscapes, Johnson is recognized on the 11th issuance in the American Treasures series with a still-life painting entitled Flowers.

An oil-on-plywood painting dated 1939-1940, Flowers depicts a vase of boldly rendered, brightly colored blooms on a small red table. The two-dimensional, consciously “naive” style in which Flowers was painted was one of the many techniques of modernist abstraction and “primitive” art adapted by Johnson during his career. The painting, a gift of the Harmon Foundation, belongs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

William Henry Johnson was born in Florence, South Carolina. As a child, he practiced drawing by copying comic strips from the newspaper. At the age of 17 he went to live with his uncle in Harlem. He worked at a variety of jobs to save money for tuition at the prestigious National Academy of Design in New York City.

In 1926, Johnson went to France to study modernism. He returned briefly to New York in November 1929 and set up a studio in Harlem. The following year, he received the gold medal for distinguished achievement in fine arts from the William E. Harmon Foundation.

In 1930, Johnson moved to Denmark and married Danish textile artist Holcha Krake. The couple exhibited jointly and traveled throughout Scandinavia, Europe, and North Africa. During this period, Johnson’s work began to reflect his interest in primitivism and folk art.

In November 1938 the couple moved to New York City to escape impending war in Europe. Johnson joined the WPA Federal Art Project as a teacher at the Harlem Community Art Center; he later transferred to the WPA mural project. His first major solo exhibition in New York opened in May 1941.

Inspired by Johnson’s life story, the William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts was established in 2001 to provide economic assistance to African-American artists early in their careers.

What inspirational influences have made an important impact in your life? Comment here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Post Office as a bank

USPS at one time served as a bank.

An Act of Congress of June 25, 1910, established the Postal Savings System in designated Post Offices.

The legislation aimed to get money out of hiding, attract the savings of immigrants accustomed to saving at Post Offices in their native countries, provide safe depositories for people who had lost confidence in banks, and furnish more convenient depositories for working people.

The system paid two percent interest per year. Initially, the minimum deposit was $1, and the balance in an account could not exceed $500, excluding interest.Deposits were slow at first, but by 1929, $153 million was on deposit. Savings spurted to $1.2 billion during the 1930s and jumped again during World War II, peaking in 1947 at almost $3.4 billion.

On April 27, 1966, the Post Office Department stopped accepting deposits to existing accounts, refused to open new accounts, and cut off interest payments as the annual anniversary date of existing accounts came up. When the system ended officially July 1, 1967, about $50 million in the unclaimed deposits of more than 600,000 depositors was turned over to the U.S. Treasury Department to be held in trust indefinitely.

What do you think? Should the Postal Service return to banking? Comment here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Letter Revival

Image from

Almost everywhere we turn, there are influences doing their best to persuade us to switch from regular mail to other digital means. That’s why when an opportunity comes around to receive a physical letter in the mail from an accomplished author, it’s hard to pass up. This is the idea behind the new program “Letters in the Mail.”

The service, provided by, is charging $5 per month to receive a weekly letter from an author. Each letter received will be from a different author and it may or may not include a return address to send back a reply. It’s a unique opportunity to connect with someone who knows the value that a simple, but powerful letter in the mail can have on a reader. To take a peek at the service and what it has to offer, click here.

What famous author would you like to correspond with? Comment here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

What the mail means to me? "On the battlefront"

"My father was in the Vietnam War and the mail was the most important thing to him. He used to tell me how he looked forward to receiving the mail because he knew there would be a letter from his daughter Norma Jean . This was what he always called me. I would write my dad every other day while he was in Vietnam. I think I must have been in my early teens. He would tell me I was the only one he would hear from and we used to talk about that before he passed two years ago. Now I wish I could send him another letter letting him know how much he is missed and loved."
Norma Smith, Postmaster, Midway, AL
Have your own story? Share it here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stars in the Mail

Have you ever wanted show your appreciation to a famous celebrity but didn’t know the best way to go about it? Celebrities get a lot of fan mail each and every day, and most may never see those letters after processing them through a hired filter.

Unless you have a mutual acquaintance to introduce you to that shining star, the chances of your message reaching their hands isn’t very promising. The best way to get your letter to that person is to have a structured plan of action. Here are a few tips from wikiHow that might help give your letter a better chance of avoiding the wastebasket:

-         Provide a brief introduction of yourself, but don’t give your life’s story.
-         Where did you first come across their work? Add something about where it is and how it was that you came to know about them.
-         Tell them what you think about their work and how it makes you feel.
-         If they’ve had an impact on your life, describe it to them to let them know they made a difference.
-         Put a smile on their face by offering them a compliment.
-         If you would like a response, be sure to send a self-addressed stamped envelope with the request for them to write you back.
-         Thank the celebrity for taking the time to read your letter and offer them your best on their future endeavors.

As the most recent podcast would suggest, sometimes fan mail does get a response back. To listen to the Your Postal Podcast interview with Eli Saslow, author of “Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President,” Click here.

Have you ever written to a celebrity? Did you ever get a response back? Tell your story here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

All the President's Letters - Plus, 'Al' is back!

 Eli Saslow and his new book, "Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President".

The April edition of Your Postal Podcast  kicks off with stories behind the letters sent by ten Americans to the President of the United States - and his mailed replies.
You'll also hear a continuation of our recent visit with the actor who plays "Al the Letter Carrier" in the popular USPS commercials.
Both the audio and a transcript version of this and previous shows are available now at

Have you ever received a letter from the President? Click here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Safety and Security

New Postal Police Officers completed a rigorous 8-week physical and academic training period at the law enforcement academy at the CDU. All members of the most recent graduating class have officially reported for duty at facilities across the country.

"These new officers exhibited an outstanding work ethic during their rigorous training at the academy,” said Patrick Corcoran, Inspector in ChargeU.S. Postal Inspection Service. “Their addition to our ranks will help strengthen safety and security at many postal facilities.”

Postal Police Officers are members of the Postal Inspection Service and provide a visible deterrent at facilities. They are responsible for the safety of postal customers, employees and facilities and respond to emergencies, including disturbances, assaults, theft and robberies. They also make arrests for crimes committed against USPS.
From left, Postal Police Cadet Louis Mood practices
applying handcuffs as Washington Division Postal
Inspector/Instructor Arnold Smith watches.USPS 
recently added 19 new Postal Police Officers to its ranks 
after a graduation ceremony held at the Postal Inspection 
Service Career Development Unit (CDU) in PotomacMD
Have you ever considered a career with the Inspection Service? Comment here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Designing Mail

 Twin Cities, MN, artist Peter Kramer in his office.

For architect/artist/furniture designer Peter Kramer its simple. If you want to help the Postal Service you have to use it.

The Twin Cities designer is an enthusiastic fan of the mail and all things postal. So much so that he created a series of more than 120 one-of-a-kind “Postcards to Save the Post Office.” Recently on exhibit at the Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul, MN, the original art pieces sold out on opening day. Kramer is now adding a personal note and affixing a personalized postage stamp to each postcard for delivery by mail to the purchasers.

In his life, Kramer is always sketching. He uses envelopes, napkins or whatever piece of paper may be available. He then plays around with the sketches and other images; shrinking, enlarging and re-arranging to create unique prints on unusual paper stocks. Over the years he’s sent hundreds of the homemade cards to friends, family and colleagues. Even his business card is a postcard.

“Postcards to Save the Post Office” is a natural extension of Kramer’s love for hard-copy mail. He doesn’t own a computer and has never sent an email. Everything about the traditional mailing process – writing, buying stamps, receiving mail – brings him joy. This is his way of paying back.

“How are we going to save the Post Office except by using it and buying stamps?” he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Think of all these wonderful people who walk all over town delivering mail. You gotta help them.”

What type of homemade cards would you like to see? Comment here.