You know the Wiley Coyote scene where he runs off the cliff in hot pursuit of the Roadrunner. There, hung in blind suspension of disbelief, he looks at the camera before reality sinks in.
Then he falls with a vviipp or a boink. We chuckle happily at his dusty, bruised remains in the canyon below.
So it is that I now admit to a similar, sad and painful realization.
Last December 6 I advised you that despite the falling volumes of the post office, one thing blossomed like a fresh spring crocus on a sunny hill… our continued, warm-hearted custom of sending greeting cards.
Christmas, Hannukah, Thanksgiving, Halloween were all good reasons to pick up our pens and write.
I detailed in colorful charts how “Single Piece Cards and Letters” sky-rocketed in the last quarter of the year, from October to December. Poring over the figures from the regular USPS reports, I found that the numbers went up, even while general mail volumes went down.
It was, as I said, revealing our brighter side.
Mail may be an antiquity, but by golly, we are sending a card anyway.
Revisiting that article, I discovered to my shock and dismay, that I had reported on revenues, not pieces. Aaarrrggghh!
Yes, patient reader, I misled you, big time.
The truth is, Cards and Letters for Q4, October 1-December 31, remain virtually the same share of the total, for the years 2004 and 2014— 27.5% to 27.7%. Meanwhile the whole category tumbled 55% over ten years.
Do they jump up in the last quarter as our good intentions begin to materialize?
Yes, as always. In 2004, an uptick of 18%, and 2014, up 22%, just in time to make delivery by Christmas.
But who’s going to calibrate a blip…a minor swelling…a mild burp in goodwill based on these numbers? The fact is, we have laid down our pens.
With that, Wiley Coyote looks down into the abyss. In his descent, he contemplates what went wrong.
Yes, email for sure. Good grief, why send a thank you card for a dinner when a two-liner on Gmail will tick that off the list? Want to bang off a birthday greeting fast? Hit “send” and it’s done. And is there any need to spin post card carousels in some tourist trap when you can celebrate your vacation on Facebook? Hardly. And so much for mailing pics of the Grandkids when there’s Instagram.
“Ahhh, to heck with it,” Wiley concludes as the ground rises before him, except… there is one factor to consider…
The physical delivery of the letter made a big, personal-brand impact. When someone took the time to compose, and write, in ink, on a nice card, address and lick an envelope, buy a pretty stamp, and find a mail box, it communicated in ways far beyond digital.
It’s a nice thought.