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April 30th, 2001

The Stamp Machine From Hell

A few months ago, I found myself at the Post Office in need of stamps. I chose to stop at a branch close to work before I began my eight hour workday; like many Post Offices, the lobby was open for PO Box access, but no humans were around to assist.

I spotted a cool grey vending machine, ready to take my money and dispense a book of stamps. Which worked out nicely since, of course, I needed a book of stamps. I opened up my wallet and spotted a group of many dollar bills. "Great, " I thought, "This’ll be easy."

I took out a rather crisp dollar bill and inserted it into the machine. The display acknowledged my dollar credit. I took out another crisp bill and inserted it into the machine. This time, the machine whirred it back out of the bill reader. I did the usual smoothing technique that never works – I took the bill and rubbed it against the corner of the machine. The same bill went back in, and it came out again.

I figured I’d try one of the many other singles I had. I eventually got two more in, but for some reason this machine was incredibly finicky. I tried all of the standard Dollar Rejection Policies. Upside down, reverse, rub on edge of machine, fold to simulate newness, etc. Things stalled out at three dollars – not nearly enough to get any kind of book of stamps available – and the machine wouldn’t give change.

But, over the next ten minutes, I got the remaining four dollars into the machine and obtained my book of stamps. I was very pleased to have these 34 cent stamps in my possession, and I kept and treasured them forever. The end.

[Note: I was pleased to read that I wasn’t the only one with stamp machine problems. Zeldman had some a few months back.] -pm

Posted in Everyday Life

FROM: Robert
DATE: Monday April 30, 2001 -- 8:55:14AM
I think the problem was that you got a lot of bills that were formerly in the hands and nose of a cokehead.

FROM: Terry M.
DATE: Monday April 30, 2001 -- 8:55:40AM
I do almost all of my stamp buying at the post office vending machines, and I've never had a problem. I usually use larger bills though, and I wonder if they're easier to validate than singles (due to the watermark ID they have in them).

My main complaint is that it spits back change in Susan B Anthony dollars. Like any American, I hate those things. I've always wondered why vending machines have problems giving back paper money as change, while ATM's do it just fine.

DATE: Monday April 30, 2001 -- 9:36:03PM
ATMs give you cash from huge honkin' cassettes that constantly jam (I know a lot about ATMs. Don't ask.) I think that's why I like SBAs and those new gold dollars. I'll put a $20 in the stamp machine just to get a bunch of them in change. They make me feel all special and tingly.

What I love most about postal vending machines is the fact that you can get airmail stamps. I send a lot of stuff overseas, and I like not messing with a line.

FROM: Robert
DATE: Wednesday May 2, 2001 -- 11:12:12AM
My stamp machine experience yesterday was not quite as bad as yours, Paul. It rejected the first bill I tried to put in, but it did accept the next two.

The real problem, however, remains the post office itself. The Fairfax County central post office in Merrifield, VA is simply hell on earth. I don't know why I bother going there to do anything.

DATE: Saturday January 1, 2005 -- 3:18:55 pm

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