For many postal service customers, Monday will be remembered as a day to write home about. But if they've already affixed an old 25-cent stamp to their letters, customers may have to wait a few days to mail them.
That's because the post office has run out of the new 4-cent, "makeup" stamps that must accompany the old 25-cent stamp to compensate for the recent postal rate increase.
"We are virtually out of those as well as the 1-, 2- and 3-cent stamps," Bill Reynolds, Lawrence postmaster, said this morning. "Yesterday we contacted Kansas City, Wichita and Topeka, and they were all out of stamps. And as we suspected, this was a nationwide situation."
Reynolds said the main post office branch at 645 Vt. was swamped by 2,600 customers on Monday while about 1,800 people went to the Jayhawk Station at 1519 W. 23rd in pursuit of the scarce 4-cent stamp.
"I've been with the postal service for 24 years, and it definitely was the biggest crowd that we've ever seen," he said.
ON SUNDAY the U.S. Postal Service raised the postage for a first-class letter to 29 cents. Postage on other categories of mail also increased.
Reynolds said Lawrence received an automatic distribution of 150,000 makeup stamps, which are without a picture or denomination. He said he was trying to find out when Lawrence would receive more of the stamps and speculated it would take a few days.
However, the new 29-cent stamp, or "F" stamp, is in plentiful supply, Reynolds said.
"So what we're trying to advise the customers to do is to use the 29-cent stamp on mail right now and save the 25-cent stamps for when we receive our shipment of makeup stamps," he said.
The shortage, Reynolds said, was probably caused by the short lead time of 11 days between the rate increase announcement and its enactment Sunday.
"In the past we've had a little bit longer period than that so businesses and individuals could use up their old rate stamps," he said.
ANOTHER problem, Reynolds said, was that this was the first time the postal service had issued makeup stamps for a rate increase.
For past increases, he said, an abundance of 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-cent stamps were printed, resulting in a lot of unused stamps. Reynolds guessed that the postal service had trouble estimating how many of the makeup stamps would be needed this time.
Reynolds praised his customers for their patience during the makeup stamp shortage.
"For as many people as there were yesterday, with the longer waiting times than they expected, the customers were really great to work with," he said.
The most common question Reynolds was asked was why the rate hadn't been increased to 30 cents.
"I think from a convenience standpoint, that would have been much easier," he said.
Reynolds said the additional penny in postage also might have postponed the next rate increase.