Recently, the price of postage in the US has gone up from $0.33 to $0.34, much to the chagrin of all of us who bought loads of 33 cent stamps. (Since I first wrote this writeup, the rate has again gone up to 37 cents). Yeah, it's a pain in the ass to go out and buy 1 cent stamps or 3 cent stamps to make up the difference, and a slightly smaller pain in the ass to stick both stamps on the envelope, but in the grand scheme of things, the minor inconvenience is well worth it.

No, I don't work for the USPS. But think about it. All you have to do is pay 37 cents, slap one or two stamps on an envelope, and put it in your mailbox. And every day except Sunday, you can rest assured that someone will come by to pick it up, and take it anywhere. Sure, it may take a while to get to its destination if it's not local, but it will get there. And that same person will even put any mail for you into your mailbox. It's like getting a present every day (assuming it isn't junk mail), and it doesn't even cost anything.

As far as I know, the USPS has never lost any of my mail. In fact, my girlfriend was once nice enough to send away for some return address labels for me, but because the stamp had been accidentally defaced, it wasn't valid postage. Unfortunately, she hadn't put a return address on the envelope. A few weeks later, I got an envelope from the US Mail Recovery Center. Rather than simply throw away the unmailable envelope, someone took the time to open it up and see what could be done. Sure enough, my name and address were on the form for the labels, so they took it, put it in a new envelope and mailed it to me. At no charge.

All this for 37 cents? Now that's service.

I will admit that the US postal service is remarkably cheap, though if you find out just how cheap it was twenty years ago you might be shocked. (Of course, this has to do more with the screwed up way funds going to Federal Agencies are handled than the USPS' fault). What is interesting is their unusual delivery abilities.

The post office is better at delivery than they are believed to be. There are a number of occasions where mail addressed to "The Little Old Lady atop Greentree Hill in Pittsburgh" has arrived. Yet, by the same token, I have had them lose mail on me -- a bill and three issues of Dr. Dobbs' Journal have mysteriously vanished en route to me.

But, compared to the cost, what is even better about the US postal service is that they will ship just about anything. Want to send someone a shoe? Put on an address and more postage than you need for the weight. It will likely arrive. You can do this with most things -- label it, put too much postage on it and it will get there. You can't always count on it being as intact, but for a prank, who would suspect the post office as a partner in crime? I first learned of this trick from the book Kids, Shenanigans. If you're curious about the limits of the post office's tolerance, take a look at from our friends at HotAIR. The most interesting result in the article was the brick, which was pulverized in transit by the DEA.

sleeping_wolf is right on. I once sent my aunt a small paper airplane in the mail. I taped it together (across the little ravine in the top of the plane), wrote a bit of a message and drew a couple sketches on the various sides, put the address on the left wing, and stuck about 60 cents of postage on the right wing. I dropped it in a mailbox on a streetcorner in San Francisco, and just a few days later it arrived, fully intact and undamaged, in my aunt's mailbox in Boise. The USPS is an impressive thing.

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