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‘Forever’ stamp being bought posthaste

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KAI RYSSDAL: We’ve talked before on the program about a run on the banks. Thankfully that’s not in the news today. But there does appear to be a run on the post office. Two weeks from today the cost of mailing a first class letter goes up a penny from 41 cents to 42. That is unless you’ve bought a 41-cent “forever” stamp which will work for exactly that long. Jeremy Hobson reports from Washington those babies are flying off the shelves at a rate of 30 million a day.

JEREMY HOBSON: The forever stamp is only a year old, but 6 billion have been sold so far, says Dave Partenheimer at the Postal Service.

DAVE PARTENHEIMER: And the demand for them in the last few weeks has really shot up.

That’s because in two weeks, the cost of buying a “forever” stamp will rise by a penny. Not a big deal, so why is everyone stampeding to the stamp machines?

JOHN ZHANG: Now they’re saying they’re going to raise a penny. And the next thing you know they’re gonna raise two pennies, three pennies, four pennies. God knows how frequently they’re going to do that.

Marketing Professor John Zhang at the Wharton School says people see a good investment and they’re stocking up even if they don’t need the stamps right now. He says the Postal Service is taking advantage of a basic, economic principle.

ZHANG: In the durable goods industry, normally what you want to do is to create this impression that the price is really on the way up. So if you’re thinking of buying the product you better buy it now.

So the seller’s boosting sales and the buyer’s getting a bargain. The only loser appears to be the now less-popular 1 cent stamp. It will remain an annoyance — forever.

In Washington, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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