Thursday, May 28, 2015
The End of the Pennysaver - Should this Mailman Mourn?
By Mel Carriere
The information circulating through our Post Office that the Pennysaver is now a thing of the past seems to be fueled by innuendos, rumors, incomplete attention to news stories, and perhaps wishful thinking on the part of letter carriers. There is no doubt that Pennysavers are not popular among San Diego letter carriers, at least, and when the dingy gray, ink staining, sloppy, cumbersome, falling apart flyers didn't show up in our office this week I confess it sparked a small celebration from the clerks that don't like to stack the heavy bundles in front of our routes and from the carriers who don't like to lug the flimsy, bulky things on the street. If there had been a champagne bottle on the premises we would have uncorked it, and to the devil with the consequences. But is the Pennysaver really, truly going away everywhere and if it is, should Postal Employees be happy about it?
Tuesday, April 21st of this year was the first time our office partied prematurely in celebration when the Pennysavers didn't show up. Many letter carriers started spreading the word they got from who knows where that the Pennysaver was only going to be distributed to certain zip codes in San Diego, and since we didn't have them for the first Tuesday ever, in my memory, we were doing a lot of triumphant fist pumping in anticipation that we were not one of these zip codes.
It turns out the festivities were premature. The Pennysaver showed up on Wednesday of that week; the delay being caused by the closing of the Vista Pennysaver plant that formerly serviced San Diego County. It turns out the printing of the San Diego Pennysavers had merely been moved up the road to Brea, California, in Orange County, and from then to the present the Pennysavers arrived on unpredictable days of the week; once on Wednesday and twice on Thursday. But last week the Pennysavers appeared on their regularly scheduled Tuesday, so it looked like it was back to business as usual.
Then Tuesday a letter carrier in our office said he heard on the news that Pennysaver is gone for good. Since this coworker's pronouncements and opinions are of somewhat dubious value, I hesitated to believe it. I went online to check it out and sure enough, according to an article in the LA Times the company had to shut down unexpectedly after its lender closed a line of credit.
So there is joy at the Mudville Post Office after all, now that the mighty Pennysaver has struck out. When I take the podium at the celebratory Pennysaver retirement roast, here's what I'm going to say:
The messy things always came bundled up with a few of them in pieces, and if you are the type of letter carrier that liked to spend time putting Humpty Dumpty back together again you are a better man or woman than me.
Unlike the smooth, pliable paper that the Red Plums are printed on, the Pennysavers were produced on coarse newsprint that sometimes did not bend well when you tried to stuff them into mail boxes. I suffered more knuckle busters from Pennysavers than any other mail item, by far.
Sometimes there was an oil change coupon in the middle that fell out if you grabbed it wrong. I would stoop to pick up about two, maybe three of these, but after four or five I didn't see anything. Call me a litterbug, if you like.
The coarse newsprint of the Pennysavers meant that the messy ink rubbed off on your uniform, and even permeated your very being, right down into your soul. When you got home on Tuesday you left a practically unwashable black ring in the shower. A coworker of mine, in fact, had a special Pennysaver wardrobe consisting of permanently stained Pennysaver shirts that she wore on Tuesday only, because she didn't want to mess up her good shirts. I hate to think of what will happen to these poor Pennysaver shirts now that the giant stain machine has shut down. Not even the most destitute CCA is going to want to pick those out of the used uniform box, I think.
On the positive side, the Pennysaver was a place to go when you needed to find a cheap Chihuahua or a cheap room for your son when you were about to boot him out of the house. As a matter of fact, we even found our first home via an ad in the Pennysaver. In a way the closing is sad, because it means the end of an era.
But is this abrupt end of the Pennysaver era a bad omen that signifies a new era of lost advertising revenue for the Postal Service? Should I be mourning, in fact, instead of celebrating? Is this merely the opening domino in a long line of Postal Dominos that are going to fall because computer ads are quickly replacing the mailbox flyer?
Apparently not. According to that same LA Times article I referenced above, "...home mailers still draw the greatest share of spending on local ads in the US." The power of home mailing is that even when postal customers didn't like the Pennysaver, I'll bet they still flipped through the ads before they pitched it, to see if there was some juicy coupon in there. What brought down the Pennysaver was not the flyers stuffed inside, but the classified ads that populated the pages. In the Craigs List and online job search era, I think people just don't read those classifieds anymore.
Alas, the Pennysaver has passed, at least for now, and unless someone with deep pockets resurrects it like the Hostess Twinkies and Ding Dongs that were on sale on the supermarket flyer always stuffed in there, I think my stained shirts can breathe a sigh of relief.
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Image from: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/mar/05/pennysaver-layoffs-distribution-cuts-print-media/