neither snow (x 9) nor rain (+ 17) nor gloom of night ( up to 3.5 ounces)…

Honestly, I have no problem with the postal service raising its rates (with the exception of the periodicals rate, which is a scandal, as this article illustrates) – but why oh why must they do so in the most complicated way possible?

With the exception of postcards and odd-shaped envelopes, in the past rates for various types of packages started more or less at the same place – which meant you could go to the post office, weigh a package, and readily determine the appropriate first-class postage (with those automated machines, you could even purchase that postage without having to wait in line). Now, you need to measure the package in all three dimensions, it seems…and each category of mail (letter, large envelope, package) starts at a different base rate. And letters – whose base rate will be 41 cents – are even weirder. Stuff a few more pieces of paper in there, and each ounce will cost you another 17 cents…up to three ounces. Stuff in another piece of paper or so, bring the weight up past 3.5 ounces…and now, you suddenly jump another 39 cents. So, a letter weighing between 2 to 3 ounces will require 75 cents of postage; a letter weighing between 3.5 and 4 ounces will cost you $1.31. What’s with the enormous jump of 56 cents?

Then again, if your “letter” is too big to comfortably fold in a standard #10 envelope, you’ll put it in a flat envelope…which has a different rate structure entirely: the base rate will be 80 cents, with 17 cent increases with each additional ounce. (If you’re keeping score, once you get up to 4 ounces, you’re at the same $1.31 rate letters are at. More accurately, letters more than 4 ounces are on the same schedule as “large envelopes.” I guess this makes a degree of sense, as you can no longer fold them…but again, it makes for complicated math to start with.

Oh, as if that’s not enough, if your “large envelope” is thicker than 3/4″ (and that’s not very thick), the base rate is $1.13. Again, the increment per ounce is 17 cents (they’re at least consistent with that)…but what’s with the incommensurable numbers? If that base rate had been $1.14, it would be the same as a 3-ounce “large envelope: wouldn’t that be simpler for all concerned? As it is, I have no idea what sort of denominations stamps will be sold in: presumably, there’ll be a basic 41-cent first-class stamp, and (one imagines) a 17-cent incremental stamp (since that’s the basic ounce increment for all these types of mail)…but will there also be an 80-cent stamp (for the first ounce of large envelopes), or a $1.13 stamp (first ounce of packages)? Will they keep 39-cent stamps around for that fourth-ounce jump?

I doubt it. Instead, the post office is probably assuming that most people will just throw on stamps to the nearest available amount above the required amount. And of course (even though they’ll ask you to pay shortage on incoming mail), they don’t give change. So the effective rates are actually higher than they seem, at least for many items of mail.

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