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Scheduling Snafu Short-Changes Collectors, Cause
by John Cropper

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What if the USPS offered to help out a charity, but was lax in informing its own staff? Earlier this year, the USPS announced the release of a semi-postal stamp whose proceeds would benefit programs aimed at curbing domestic violence and providing assistance to victims of abuse. The stamp would sell for 45 cents, with proceeds over current mailing rates benefiting the aforementioned organizations responsible for providing services. After some shuffling and reshuffling of schedules, this stamp was finally scheduled late in the summer for an October 11th release in Denver, Colorado.

However, late last week and at the direction of the White House, a decision was made to move the release date of the Family Violence semi-postal up to Wednesday, October 8th. Communications were hastily prepared and sent to the philatelic press, but didn't make most publications' deadlines. Word was sent to all post offices to "have the product ready for nationwide sale" and a one-paragraph mention was also broadcast to the public on the USPS.COM Web site in their "News" section, as well as to all retail employees throughout the United States. Problem was, not many of the employees who needed to know about the change in plans received it and many who did receive it never had the time to read it. The result was that many potential customers were turned away at the window on the first day of issue when they asked to purchase a pane or, in some cases, several.

The decision to change the first day at the last minute was not the first this year, but the politics involved left many retail employees in confusion and egg on the faces of postal retail management, to be sure. The reason? President Bush wanted the stamp issued in conjunction with a ceremony at the White House, as he placed his signature on a proclamation on domestic violence.

"We have no information on this (schedule change) and cannot sell the stamp until the 11th" was the word at many local post offices. Another clerk quipped, "You think the USPS would tell their own employees of such a change in plans?" Indeed, when politics and philately mix, the results are often unfortunate for philatelists. This time, however, the charities who stood to benefit from these sales were also caught in the last-minute wrangling and denied potential benefit of thousands of dollars in sales due in part to the confusion.

Saturday's dedication ceremony in Denver, sponsored and organized in part by fellow Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Colorado), will still be held as scheduled. However, its significance has already been overshadowed by a last minute ceremony over 1600 miles away, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. While it's true that domestic violence is indeed a national issue, a coordinated effort would have provided more immediate benefit to the charity and fewer headaches to postal employees, customers and philatelists alike. While everyone will eventually have the opportunity to obtain the stamp, as well as contribute to the cause for relief of domestic violence victims, this incident highlights the problems of mixing politics with the Post.

John Cropper
2003 TCC Digital Media Productions

Discussion on this issue began in our message board on March 2, 2003.

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