(NB: This is an archive post, so the issues mentioned in this article are no longer available. But equally attractive current options are to be found at your local post office. Read on!)
This is a call to arms. To everyone, especially people selling things on sites like eBay or Etsy, or people who like sending presents through the mail. Listen up, and get ready to hit Share. Because we’ve got to get the word out, or we’re doomed. (Are you an Internet news site editor looking for content? Go nuts.)
So, you sold something on eBay? Or you’re posting a present? Bloody good on you.
You’ll take your thing to a post office, where a bored employee will weigh it, hit a button, print out a dreary docket, stick it on your thing, and off it goes. Or maybe you won’t even do that: you’ll print off some bar code at home, stick it on your thing all by yourself, and send it off. Efficient, effective, and YOU’RE THE REASON THE BAD GUYS ARE WINNING!
Who is winning? The forces of BORING!
Boring is a conspiracy run by post office accountants. The less money they can spend making things pretty and interesting, the happier they are. They want you to be happy with your bland little barcodes and receipts and not ask questions.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Maybe you didn’t even know you had options. I’m here to help. Let’s fight the boring and be awesome together.
First, don’t pre-print labels. Go to a post office. And when you get there, insist on postage stamps. You heard me. This is fun. First, enjoy the look of disbelief on your clerk’s face. Some will then moan, but they have no right to refuse you. Some are even grateful for the change in routine and might offer you options. See? You’ve brightened someone’s day already!
There’s more. With half a brain and the internet, you should be able to work out in advance how much postage you’ll need to pay. (Or you can ask at the counter if you love queuing up twice.) Now we need to locate the weapons that will give you an impressive package. They may not be behind the counter. If you’re in Australia, for example, they may be hidden on a nearby shelf marked ‘Stamp Collecting.’
DON’T FREAK OUT. Get back here, soldier! It’s safe, we defused it. You can browse the Stamp Collecting shelf and not turn into a nerd. You just need to know what you’re looking for, and then get out of there before anyone sees you. You need ‘minisheets’. They’re stamps with extra decoration or design around them, and sticking one on your parcel will BLOW YOUR FRIEND’S MIND. Check out the gorgeous Colours of the Antarctic minisheet ($4.20) a little further below.
There are whole sets of stamps that can come in strips or blocks, like the Collections Australia block seen here, featuring items from Australian museums ($2.80).
Or there are gutter pairs – two stamps separated by an almost-blank stamp with dots on it. There are also whole gutter strips, often with decorative designs in the middle, like the Cats gutter strip ($7.00) at the bottom of this page. (If you like to buy stamps ahead of time, buy these instead of those hideous peel’n’stick booklets with their unnecessary waste.)
Collector or not, you can’t tell me these options all kick the butt of a dull docket. If the products on the shelf don’t make up the exact rate you need, top up when you get to the counter. No doubt international readers will find equally eye-catching options at their local post office.
These are totally legit to use on postage and they don’t cost anything extra. They even come in very thin plastic film so you don’t have to worry about licking post office people’s fingerprints. (Not a fan of the plastic myself, but it has its hygienic upside.)
Slightly boring note: Australian readers can only use stamps like this to pay for basic post. For Registered mail, you’ll need the counter. And you’re not meant to use international stamps on domestic postage, or vice versa, so avoid minisheets that have domestic AND international stamps in them. International stamps have blue International tabs printed on them. They are postally useless collector-bait.
Why all this red tape? Because BORING, of course. Unlike THIS:
Congratulations! You have contributed to the war against Boring! When we win the war I will carve your name on a stele at your local park. Just think:
- You’ve brightened the day of some bored anorak at the post office.
- You’ve made some head office bureaucrat swear because they can’t wait to phase out this colourful crap when all the stamp collectors die, and you fought for just one more day of Interesting.
- Most importantly, the recipient of your parcel has their mind blown, feels extra grateful that you went out of your way, and thinks that you’re awesome.
If your recipient knows a stamp collector to pass the stamps on to, you might please a whole second person too. You’ll never know it, and they’ll never know who you are. It’s all good karma.
You have now passed out of the Academy, equipped with all the battlefield skills you need to combat Boring. So DO IT! WE DON’T HAVE A MOMENT TO WASTE! TELL THE WORLD!
If you are extra-inspired by this cause, I’m pleased to say there are ways you can earn a promotion. Here are the official ranks:
- Apply your own regular stamps: Private!
- Insist on stamps instead of a docket at the post office counter: Wing Commander!
- Apply at least one of the specialty products that I mentioned: Captain!
- Apply a product that I DIDN’T mention that you found yourself: Major General!
- Do any of the above, AND make the clerk apply a neat hand-cancel (postmark) to please a potential collector at the other end: Air Chief Marshal!
- Do any of the above, get the nice postmark, THEN cover it with a sheet of plastic to protect it from rain or ugly markings during delivery to make the potential collector very happy: ADMIRAL of the freakin’ FLEET! (Seriously, people actually do this and they deserve medals.)
© Philatelic product images remain the copyright of issuing postal administrations and successor authorities