Internet options for communication, paying bills reduce concern about stamp prices

John Reynolds

Springfield resident Amber Shipman wasn’t too upset Monday that the cost to mail a letter had gone from 42 cents to 44 cents.

“Everything’s gone up, so, we have to understand that this is part of it,” Shipman said.

While Shipman still uses the post office to mail letters, she doesn’t use the U.S. mail to pay her bills. Like a growing number of people, she pays her bills online.

“We love it,” Shipman said. “You don’t have to deal with ‘Did they get the check or didn’t they get the check?’”

Sue Litterly, customer relations coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service in Springfield, said the volume of first class mail is down, mainly because more and more people use the Internet to stay in touch and pay bills.

“Every year, first class mail volume declines a little bit more. That’s why the post office is coming up with new and innovative ways to help our customers meet their mailing needs,” Litterly said.

Ironically, some of the new services or conveniences offered by the post office can be found at the U.S. Postal Service Web site.

Some of the information involves the post office’s priority mail service, which did not see a rate increase.

“You can order priority mail boxes and stamps online,” Litterly said.

At United Community Bank, about 8 percent of the customers pay their bills online, said Todd Wise, president and chief operating officer for the bank.

“We’ve seen our online bill pay double over the last 12 months,” Wise said. “I think it’s a combination of a lot of reasons. The cost of postage is increasing, and our online bill pay product is free.”

Wise added that the online costumers he was referring to use the Internet to pay all sorts of bills, not just payments owed to the bank.

Leigh Morris, spokesman for Ameren Illinois Utilities, said online bill paying is a trend that just about every company is seeing. He didn’t have any exact numbers but said Ameren generally is seeing more people pay online as opposed to mailing checks.

“I would expect the trend to continue,” Morris said.

In addition to being convenient for consumers, online payments help businesses by cutting down on the amount of paper they have to process.

“Checks have to go through the process of being received and then shipped to the bank. If you have an electronic payment, you don’t have all those steps you have to go through,” Morris said.

But if a customer prefers to write a check, it’s not a problem, Morris said.

Litterly said she doesn’t think people will completely abandon the age-old practice of mailing a letter or card. Sometimes, an e-mail simply won’t do.

“Mother’s Day is a really big mailing day,” Litterly said. “Mom wants to get a card in the mail. … She doesn’t want an e-mail that says ‘how are you today?’ She wants something nice she can hold in her hand and think of you and keep.”

Shipman agrees.

“I still mail a lot of greeting cards because I think that’s more personable,” Shipman said.

John Reynolds can be reached at (217) 788-1524 orjohn.reynolds@sj-r.com.

Rates for domestic letters, 1863 to 2009

July 1, 1863, 3 cents per half-ounce; Oct. 1, 1883, 2 cents per half-ounce.

The remaining rates are all for one ounce. Beginning Sept. 14, 1975, additional ounces were charged at a lower rate. Since July 15, 1979, a surcharge has been added for non-standard envelope sizes.

July 1, 1885, 2 cents; Nov. 2, 1917, 3 cents; July 1, 1919, 2 cents; July 6, 1932, 3 cents; Aug. 1, 1958, 4 cents; Jan. 7, 1963, 5 cents; Jan. 7, 1968, 6 cents; May 16, 1971, 8 cents; March 2, 1974, 10 cents; Dec. 31, 1975, 13 cents; May 29, 1978, 15 cents; March 22, 1981, 18 cents; Nov. 1, 1981, 20 cents; Feb. 17, 1985, 22 cents; April 3, 1988, 25 cents; Feb. 3, 1991, 29 cents; Jan. 1, 1995, 32 cents; Jan. 10, 1999, 33 cents; Jan. 7, 2001, 34 cents; June 30, 2002, 37 cents; Jan. 8, 2006, 39 cents; May 14, 2007, 41 cents; May 12, 2008, 42 cents; May 11, 2009, 44 cents.

Source: U.S. Postal Service.