Tuesday, May 8, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Culture rant

I arrived at the Post Office yesterday, happy to be mailing a package to my son in California, containing: books, a CD, photographs in an envelope, a work of art created for him personally on a T-shirt, and a note describing the contents of the box. Perhaps the shirt was stretching my definition of media a bit, but it was the art, not the shirt, that mattered. It was not any old t-shirt. It was a shirt that had a caricature cartoon of him, done by an actual artist, at a classmate's birthday party. The family also had a home with about eight garages, and an elevator in the house. I don’t think the garage had an elevator, but I could be wrong.
Anyway, I considered the shirt to contain printed art.
So when I addressed the postal worker that my package was media, I foolishly described the content as books, a CD and art.
“Art! she exclaimed as though I had just confessed to being a serial killer. What kind of art?
“Printed art,” I answered, and photographs.”
“Oh, and photographs. No, no. Those are not media. So your two choices are....”
“In what way are photographs not media?” I asked, incredulous. Books have photographs.”
“Would you like a copy of our rules?” she asked, smugly.
“I am sure you know the rules,” I continued, “however, I do not agree with your (the post office) definition of media.”
“Photographs are not media.”
I sighed, realizing that if she decided to examine the contents and found a t-shirt, explaining how this was a form of printed art would be futile.
I complied, of course, and paid the $12. But, I wasn’t happy.
I am, by trade, a media specialist. That means I buy media for clients. So I know what media is. Maybe that’s why I frosted over when the post office told me I could not mail my package media rate, because it contained photographs and printed art.
I have experienced this in the past when I enclosed a note, which the postal worker claimed was not permitted in media mail.
OK. I know my definition may not line up with the USPS’s definition, but on what planet are photographs not part of printed material? I am sure they have the right to define media any way they wish to, and do. But, it just seems so unreasonable.
So is it just loose photographs? Or, are picture books not part of the “books” they include in media?
I didn’t take her printed rules--i don’t want more paper to shred. But, I did look this up online. In case you need this:
Content Standards for Media Mail
Qualified Items
Only these items may be mailed at the Media Mail prices:
Books, including books issued to supplement other books, of at least eight printed pages, consisting wholly of reading matter or scholarly bibliography, or reading matter with incidental blank spaces for notations and containing no advertising matter other than incidental announcements of books. Advertising includes paid advertising and the publishers' own advertising in display, classified, or editorial style.
16-millimeter or narrower width films, which must be positive prints in final form for viewing, and catalogs of such films of 24 pages or more (at least 22 of which are printed). Films and film catalogs sent to or from commercial theaters do not qualify for the Media Mail price.
Printed music, whether in bound or sheet form.
Printed objective test materials and their accessories used by or on behalf of educational institutions to test ability, aptitude, achievement, interests, and other mental and personal qualities with or without answers, test scores, or identifying information recorded thereon in writing or by mark.
Sound recordings, including incidental announcements of recordings and guides or scripts prepared solely for use with such recordings. Video recordings and player piano rolls are classified as sound recordings.
Playscripts and manuscripts for books, periodicals, and music.
Printed educational reference charts designed to instruct or train individuals for improving or developing their capabilities. Each chart must be a single printed sheet of information designed for educational reference. The information on the chart, which may be printed on one or both sides of the sheet, must be conveyed primarily by graphs, diagrams, tables, or other nonnarrative matter. An educational reference chart is normally but not necessarily devoted to one subject. A chart on which the information is conveyed primarily by textual matter in a narrative form does not qualify as a printed educational reference chart for mailing at the Media Mail prices even if it includes graphs, diagrams, or tables. Examples of qualifying charts include maps produced primarily for educational reference, tables of mathematical or scientific equations, noun declensions or verb conjugations used in the study of languages, periodic table of elements, botanical or zoological tables, and other tables used in the study of science.
Loose-leaf pages and their binders consisting of medical information for distribution to doctors, hospitals, medical schools, and medical students.
Computer-readable media containing prerecorded information and guides or scripts prepared solely for use with such media.
I see it doesn’t specifically mention photographs, but neither does it exclude them, or art impressed t-shirts, unless the hand-stamped imprint on the shirt counts, but then it won't because the imprint is a picture of my son, which makes it personal--see below.
Then there is the card describing the contents (it did also contain an “I love you.”) Here are the USPS rule for enclosures:
Enclosures and Attachments for both Media Mail and Library Mail
Loose Enclosures
In addition to the enclosures and additions listed in 4.2 for Media Mail and 5.4 for Library Mail, any printed matter that is mailable as Standard Mail may be included loose with any qualifying material mailed at the Media Mail or Library Mail prices.
Written Additions
Markings that have the character of personal correspondence require, with certain exceptions, additional postage at the First-Class Mail prices. The following written additions and enclosures do not require additional First-Class Mail postage:
The sender's and the addressee's names, occupations, and addresses, preceded by “From” or “To,” and directions for handling.
Marks, numbers, names, or letters describing the contents.
Words or phrases such as “Do Not Open Until Christmas” and “Happy Birthday, Mother.”
Instructions and directions for the use of the item mailed.
A manuscript dedication or inscription not having the nature of personal correspondence.
Marks to call attention to words or passages in the text.
Corrections of typographical errors in printed matter.
Manuscripts accompanying related proof sheets and corrections of proof sheets including corrections of typographical and other errors, changes in the text, insertions of new text, marginal instructions to the printer, and corrective rewrites of parts.
Hand-stamped imprints, unless the added material is in itself personal or converts the original matter to a personal communication.
Matter mailable separately as Standard Mail printed on the wrapper, envelope, tag, or label.
OK, so I traded an I love you for a Happy Birthday or a Do not open until Christmas. Big deal. And, just so the record is clear, my enclosure that was refused previously did not contain a description of the package contents, as this one DID. So score one for USPS. Hey, I’m fair and balanced (usually).
We have, at present, a whole culture of whiners and complainers, of which I truly wish not to be included, and try really hard not to make myself a participant. But, when the rate for mailing “my media” jumps from $3 to $12, I have to tell you, I feel a little disgruntled.
Ah, the Internet, the epitome of cultural complaint confabulation. I let out some of my steam (why do frosty and steamy mean the same thing in emotional terms?). That I even found a discussion, specifically regarding the USPS media rate, was downright astounding. I thought I would share some of the comments with you, in case you, as with so many, have encountered the ire of a postal worker who seems to be personally offended that you should consider yourself eligible to ship media rate. I mean, who do they think should use this rate? It’s almost as if they want you to show your badge or ID that you have some legitimate reason, other than shipping books, cd’s and printed art to your son. 
Yep, they do it around me too. Last time I shipped some textbooks by Media Mail, the employees were grilling me on the contents and telling me that my package WILL be opened. It got pretty ridiculous, because they kept repeating it over and over like I was lying to them.
Yes Miss C….Book rate was expanded to apply to video tapes,films and computer disks
It’s all so post modern.
We recently had to pay because we received a package mailed as Media Mail, which got opened and declared not media mail.
Here’s the thing, though — the sender had the post office she sent the package from inspect the content before sealing the package, because it wasn’t clear to her what the rules allowed. They said it was fine. A different post office seemed to disagree.
So, at least based on this example, the rules are far from clear. If they’re going to crack down on this, they need to be crystal clear about what’s allowed.
Anyway, you get the idea. There were many more comments on this one site, and most of them were grateful for the media mail option, and no one was trying to “scam” the system.
In the last analysis, I suppose photographs, since not listed, are not considered part of the list--even though I believe they are as much media as a DVD or CD are. 
And, finally, as a word of caution, it is clearly in the rules that they do not guarantee delivery. Media mail may be “deferred” or delayed. Maybe that explains the $500 of art books we mailed getting “lost” and we were not refunded the $50 media rate fee to ship them. *sigh*
I guess I need to just pay the regular rate, stop complaining, and get a life. But, ranting is so much more fun. As usual, I need to know what you think.