A short while ago, it seemed the U.S. Postal Service was hiking the price of postage stamps every year. That drove consumers to snap up "Forever" stamps, which are non-denominational and can be used even when stamp prices rise.
It turns out that if you're holding Forever stamps in the expectation of saving some change, you're on the losing end of the bet.
The U.S. Postal Service will lower the price of postage on Sunday, marking the first price cut for U.S. postage rates in 97 years. Customers who bought 49-cent stamps will see their value drop by 2 cents, or 4 percent. The postal service isn't making the reduction willingly, however: it was ordered by the Postal Regulatory Commission, the independent agency that oversees the U.S. Postal Service. The reduction is the culmination of a temporary surcharge that was enacted to help the postal service recoup losses after the recession.
"Given our precarious financial condition and ongoing business needs, the price reduction required by the PRC exacerbates our losses," Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan said in a statement.
Whether consumers will also feel upset about the backtracking remains to be seen, given that the reaction on social media seems to be one of perplexity and slight annoyance. But one advocacy group says the stamp reduction shows that the U.S. Postal Service needs to reform the way it does business.
The lower stamp prices are "going to be a real strain on them," said David Williams, the president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, which advocates for postal reforms. Although Williams declined to disclose his groups' backers, his group has been linked to lobbying against clean energy. Williams said his group wants to make the postal service more efficient. "This really should light a fire under their your-know-whats to get their house in order."
Williams said he hasn't heard from consumers about the rate change, but notes that there might be a period when customers feel annoyed at having paid a higher price, although he wonders if the lower cost of postage might encourage more use of the U.S. Postal Service. His group believes the postal agency should drop plans for grocery delivery and stop Saturday delivery as a way to cut costs.
In the meantime, the postal agency has vowed to continue to advocate for higher stamp prices.
"We continue to seek legislative reforms to put the Postal Service back on a sustainable financial path, and pricing is an important component," Brennan said in a statement.
On Sunday, postage for letters will be reduced to 47 cents from 49 cents, while each additional ounce for letters will cost 21 cents, instead of 22 cents. International postage will decline to $1.15 from $1.20, and postcards will require 34 cents instead of 35 cents. Commercial postage will also decline, the post office said.