Friday, November 16, 2007

Long Live the Square!

There was an interesting article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal regarding the surcharge on square envelopes and how the shape is declining in sales because that extra 17 cents postage is just so darn annoying - extra stamps, but how much more?, having cards returned for extra postage. (Been there, too? Annoying!)

I'm a huge fan of the square. Square paintings, square photographs, and absolutely cards & envelopes. I love the composition a square allows for. It's more interesting to me. A colored envelope in my mailbox is a treat. A square colored envelope is a sweet treat. The Post Office, more specifically the machines at the Post Office, don't get this. Literally. They reject any square envelopes as "unmailable" which results in a person having to hand-sort these envelopes. Hence, the 58 cents postage required to mail square envelopes.

In the article the manager of a post office in Buffalo, NY had this to say about why the machines can't do squares:

Rectangular envelopes are always knocked down by sorting machines onto one of two long, stable edges. Ink detectors find the stamps: front or back, upper right or lower left. It then takes only two steps -- flip and turn -- to line them up for a computer to read addresses and spray on bar codes.

But squares land on any one of four edges, not two. So for half of them, mathematically, finding addresses takes four steps. When the machines fail, humans get involved -- at a cost, Mr. Mazurkiewicz explained, of $52-per-thousand envelopes instead of $4.

Read more from the article in the WSJ here.

[photos courtesy of Barry Newman for the Wall Street Journal]

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