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Home > Politics

Saving stamps: gimmicks make Hulk angry

20 August 2004

It's hardly the story of the week, but there was something about the news that the Post Office plans to reintroduce savings stamps that engendered irrational rage. It's that kind of rage that you know is a gross over-reaction, but you're still powerless to control it. It's the same sort of silent homicidal urge you get when someone presses the button at a pelican crossing *despite the fact that the 'wait' sign is clearly already illuminated*.

Anyway, savings stamps are a throwback to a bygone age, ie. when people actually had savings. The latest plan is that people will be able to buy 5 stamps which they then collect to pay for any of the things you can normally pay for at the Post Office. These include exciting purchases like TV licences and settling household bills - basically any purchase that has the words 'TEDIOUS CHORE' writ large on it.

Saving stamps may be useful to some people, for example the five million Brits with no bank account. That's what the Post Office claims, anyway. We're not sure exactly how. It's safer than keeping piles of money in your home ready to pay your phone bill, but isn't there the risk that your saving stamps might just get stolen instead? And if you want to save money in small increments, why not just open a savings account? Or for that matter just get a bank account in the first place? It makes life a lot easier.

The cause of our irrational hatred of Savings Stamps is probably that they smack of gimmickry designed to get a bit of publicity for the Post Office (the BBC obliged with some archive footage of people collecting Spam coupons in the 1950s, or something), rather than a particularly useful service. They're a product of the same kind of marketing department desperation that results in straight-to-bin press releases like 'Tesco Customers Buy Most Romantic Valentine's Day Presents, Says New Research On Behalf Of Tesco'.

And we've had quite enough of that sort of thing. It's also worth noting that this is the same Post Office that is currently getting rid of its low-tech standard savings account. Instead of the bog standard account, the PO is instead introducing an account with a cash card which also requires you to keep a far larger sum of money (100 instead of 10) in the account at all times. The new accounts will obviously be better: you won't have to queue for ages, for example. But the Post Office is getting rid of a simple, no-frills service that's served children, grannies and skint people well over the years in favour of a service that - coincidentally - will require fewer counter staff.

Ah, progress.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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