Soon postal patrons will be paying an extra 5 cents to mail a standard-sized letter and postal clerks are seeing some people stocking up with Forever Stamps, which will remain good at the current price.
On Jan. 27, the First-Class Mail Single-Piece Forever Stamp price increases from 50 cents to 55 cents per stamp. The Forever Stamps were created by the United States Postal Service in 2007, with the marketing tactic that the stamp’s price would always be sold at the price of a regular First Class mail stamp, just as the name suggests.
Cassie Calhoun, postal clerk at the Shelbyville Post Office, said stamp price increases have been happening "usually every January" in recent years.
"It's the biggest one we've had but it's because we were stagnant for so many years before. We just are way behind," she said.
The price jump is usually anywhere from one to three cents, but this is the biggest jump she has seen since the last three cent jump.
Calhoun says inflation is to blame. She said when stamps were 42 cents, milk was 99 cents. At $3.19 a gallon today, 55 cents for a stamp is not as much of an increase as it could be.
"We have to catch up somehow as letters are falling. Packages are rising, but it still doesn't quite balance out," Calhoun said.
A book of stamps will now be $11 rather than $10, and a roll of stamps will be $55 rather than $50.
Calhoun said every year people stock up on stamps before the price increase, and every year people complain about the increase.
"It seems like a lot (of money) at first," she said, "But compared to everything else, it's not that much more."
Charley Hankins, 54, lead clerk at the Effingham Post Office, said typically a price increase does bring some complaining, but not so much in this latest one.
"With the price going up, more are buying rolls (100 stamps) of stamps than sheets (20 stamps) of stamps," said Hankins. "A lot of things change in price. Gas changes price. Everything changes price. Usually in the past, people complained, but that’s not been the case this time."
Kimberly Caldwell-Harvey, strategic communications specialist with the Gateway District, based in St. Louis, said this latest increase comes in light of a decade of sharp declines in First-Class mail volume.
She said the last price hike for First Class letters was on Jan. 21, 2018, when the cost went from 49 cents to 50 cents. Before that on Jan. 22, 2017, the price went from 47 cents to 49 cents for that same stamp.
The Board of Governors believe these new rates will keep the Postal Service competitive while providing the agency with needed revenue. The Postal Service is self-funded and does not receive tax dollars for operating expenses. USPS relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations, said Caldwell-Harvey.
In his 32nd year with the USPS all at the Effingham office, Hankins said the nickel jump on a standard stamp is slightly higher than one he’s recalled. In April he will begin his 33rd year.
"In my time here, one time it went from 25 cents to 29 cents,” said Hankins. “That was the largest jump I remember seeing, until this one.”
The lead postal clerk said it’s all about perspective.
He explained that he started working with the postal service in 1986, when a standard stamp cost 22 cents. Soon, in 2019, that same stamp will cost 55 cents.
“That’s a penny a year across the past 33 years,” said Hankins. “Over the long haul that’s really not a whole lot of money.”
The postal communications spokewoman explained that decline in sales is a factor in requiring this increase.
“We need more than an incremental price change to effectively respond to our financial challenges,” said Caldwell-Harvey. “The Postal Service is one of the most efficient postal administrations in the world, but volume for First-Class Mail — our most profitable product — has declined by 38 percent compared to 2007, and is expected to continue to decline as a result of diversion to digital communications and the increase in online transactions.”
Caldwell-Harvey said there are also some commercial providers in cooperation with the USPS including: Endicia, Pitney Bowes, Inc., and Stamps.com.
She said there were not any cuts in staffing in the Gateway District or in Effingham in 2018 or 2019.
Another patron, Woody Moore, an Effingham resident said he was taking care of some postal business, before the price increase.
Doing business at the Effingham Post Office, Moore said he also patronizes the smaller post offices like Edgewood and Shumway.
"I'm buying stamps here and I'll be buying stamps in Shumway, too," said Moore. "Buying in Shumway helps the little post offices in the outlying areas justify their existence, by patronizing them. Otherwise the post office wants to close them down and just do away with them."
Moore said helping out the little guys makes him feel like a good postal patron.
"It makes sense to us," said Moore. "I imagine the government will be putting this (price increase) to good use,” he quipped.
Kennedy Nolen can be reached at email@example.com or 217-774-2161 etc. 1.