Another American tradition would appear to be in danger of disappearing. I’m talking about that trip to the mailbox each day, Monday through Saturday.
With all the talk about the nasty weather and the Olympics, this little news item didn’t get a whole lot of prime time play. The U.S. Postal Service ended 2013 with a $354 million loss. The USPS has lost money in 19 of the past 21 quarters. While revenue in shipping and package services actually grew, first-class mail continued its sharp decline.
Judging by what I find in my mailbox, I can’t argue. With online banking and bill paying and Internet marketing, we’re getting less mail of any kind at our house. And very little of what we receive arrives wearing a first-class stamp. Besides the occasional greeting card, most of what we receive is some form of bulk mail.
With the postal service continuing to lose large sums of money, I worry that at some point mail service as we know it will cease. I hope not.
For me, going to the mailbox has always been like playing a daily version of “Let’s Make A Deal.” What will I find behind Door No. 1? I might get zonked and find nothing but bills.
However, occasionally I’ll be the big winner and find three of my favorite magazines and a rebate check.
I’ve even come to enjoy what most of us call junk mail. For example, since I joined AARP more than 10 years ago, the organization has mailed me an offer to buy its life insurance at least once a quarter. I figure I have received more than 40 such offers. I have never responded, yet they continue to send me offers.
You’ve got to admire their persistence. Perhaps the thinking is that I will eventually buy the stuff just to get them off my back.
Some of the junk mail we receive I find entertaining. Recently I found a small booklet in the mailbox. Normally I would toss something like this in the trash, but the headline on the front caught my attention.
“Pass the horseradish, honey — I hate these ugly age spots!”
While I don’t like horseradish, I also dislike age spots. So what could I do but look inside?
Turns out it was a marketing piece for a book full of “crazy cures.” Of course the booklet didn’t reveal the entire cures, just enough to pique one’s curiosity. “Clear up congestion with a stinky lily!” “Unpack eye bags with potato patties!” And my personal favorite, “Beat back baldness!”
So far I’ve resisted buying the book, even though I can “Try it FREE for 21 days!”
Actually, I was giving serious consideration to trying it for free until my faithful USPS letter carrier brought me another booklet. The headline on this one read, “Go to sleep feeling old and tired … wake up feeling like a teenager!”
This marketing piece was touting the benefits of a dietary supplement, which it referred to as “one of the most incredible products of this decade.”
What to do, what to do. I would really like to beat back baldness and rid myself of ugly age spots. On the other hand, feeling like a teenager sounds pretty good, too, as long as I don’t have to repeat high school. So maybe I should buy the book and the supplement.
Alas, I really can’t afford to buy either one, at least not until I become a multimillionaire later this year.
The week before I found these two offers in the mailbox, I received not one, not two, but three separate entries for the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes. The grand prize is $1 million a year for life.
And if you win, you designate someone to receive $1 million a year for the rest of that person’s life after you die. Choose carefully, as the person you designate will suddenly have every reason to hope you die immediately.
Considering what the recession did to my retirement account, I could use $1 million a year for life more than I could use a full head of hair or spot-free skin. And I have not one, not two, but three chances to win. That’s got to be a sign, right?
Publisher’s Clearing House swears you don’t have to buy anything to win, but I’m not taking any chances. I bought something from each of the three offers.
So, everyone, please start buying sheets and sheets of first-class stamps and mailing cards and letters to everyone you know. We’ve got to keep the postal service going, at least until the guy with the balloons and the giant check shows up at my door.
When he does, look out! Not only will I be filthy rich, I will also be free of ugly age spots, congestion, eye bags and baldness. And I will feel like a teenager.
At least until the person I designate as my successor has me eliminated.
Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.