Christmas stamps in short supply at some post offices
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org December 19, 2012 5:48PM
A sign is posted at the main United States Post Office at 2000 McDonough Street, stating they are out of holiday stamps. in joliet, IL on Wednesday December 19, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 3:50PM
JOLIET — Jacque O’Brien walked out of the Joliet Post Office on Wednesday morning with some black-and-white, heart-shaped stamps that would have to do for the Christmas cards she had yet to mail.
The post office had been out of Christmas stamps for most of the week, although it did get another shipment late Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s disappointing,” O’Brien said as she showed the stamps that she bought out of a post office kiosk. No Madonna with baby Jesus. No Santa on a sleigh.
“It doesn’t even look like a real stamp,” O’Brien said.
For those who think snail mail is dead, the stamp shortage of 2012 shows there’s still demand for a postage stamp that can carry a card with a bit of the spirit of Christmas.
Postal spokeswoman Beverly Howard said some post offices were scrambling to get Christmas stamps from others that still had them. Lockport was well stocked, she said. Joliet eventually got its supply Wednesday from the New Lenox Post Office.
But there were reports of other post offices in the south and west suburbs running out of Christmas stamps.
“We’ve seen an increase in sales, and the demand is up,” Howard said.
Mailing and shipping throughout the Postal Service is up 20 percent from the last holiday season, she said.
“We’re hoping that the trend continues,” Howard said. “Unfortunately I’m sorry that we don’t have the convenience of the stamps.”
The frustration of not getting stamps was heightened at times by long waits in line at the post office.
Dan Hopkins said he stood in line for 45 minutes at the Joliet Post Office but had to be there anyway because he was sending a package to Ireland. But he wanted to buy Christmas stamps, too.
“It’s pretty sad,” Hopkins said of the stamp shortage. “No wonder they’re losing money.”
The Postal Service’s financial problems have been big news for much of the year.
“I would think with the financial situation of the post office and them wanting business, this would not be the time of the year they would not have what people want,” O’Brien said.
Giving people one thing they wanted — Sunday post office hours — might have contributed to the stamp shortage. Post offices have been open on Sundays in December for the first time. Howard said the additional three days of business on weekends could have meant Christmas stamps sold at a faster rate than past years when there were no Sunday hours.
Every year, she said, the Postal Service calculates how many Christmas stamps people will want and supplies accordingly. But a 20 percent increase in business was hard to predict, she said.
The Postal Service expects that it will have handled nearly 18 billion cards, letters and packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
“From the results we saw this year,” Howard said, “we’ll probably add to the printing of stamps next year.”