Royal Mail’s new barcode stamps are a very scary imposition

At the dawn of the reign of King Charles III, when the country eagerly awaits new postage stamps bearing the image of the king, the Royal Mail seems to have other priorities. In his obsession with tracking down everything and deromantizing everything, he imposes on us new stamps that manage to be both obsolete (they still have the queen’s head on them) and frighteningly digital.

A short barcode on their right side. This enlarges them by a third, making them harder to squeeze onto the top corner of a small envelope, especially if you need two or three. Our late queen, facing left, turns away from the barcode, and you can almost feel her disdain just thinking about it. The king, poor man, will face the barcode head-on, in keeping with the tradition that monarchs on postage stamps alternate their direction of view.

The well-organized letter writers of this country, on the other hand, who like to buy stamp pages at a time to last the whole year, insuring themselves against mid-year stamp price increases, must exchange their current treasure against the new kind, as all stamps not illustrated and without a barcode will be invalid from January 31, 2023. To make this exchange, a digital “Stamp Swap Out” form must be printed and completed. Just send the non-tech savvy members of the public, or those without internet access – the real letter writers, in other words, who run the Royal Mail with their preference for postcards rather than emails – in a headache-inducing twist. of anxiety.

As expected, the transition has been far from smooth. “We aim to process your request within seven working days, but this cannot be guaranteed,” the Royal Mail form reads. But a classics professor friend of mine, Ed Clarke, who takes pride in mailing his books and posters, and keeps a stash of stamps at home to do so, hasn’t heard a squeal since he submitted his Swap Out form some time ago. , enclosing all its stamps which will henceforth go to the landfill. A hundred million stamps will suddenly become invalid on January 31.

“They would make our old stamps obsolete in January,” one exasperated person tweeted, “just when everyone has leftover Christmas stamps!” Another said: “What is the next step? Barcodes on the back of the coins? It will be interesting to see whether this Advent we receive more cards than last year, as people are frantically using their stamps before they expire, or less, as sending cards has become absurdly expensive, with first class stamps at 95p in addition to the price of the cards themselves.

The bright idea from Royal Mail is that with this new barcode every stamp will now have its ‘digital twin’, and if we download the Royal Mail app anyone sending stamped mail will be able to choose which video the recipient will be able to see when they receive a letter from us. To get us in the mood, the Royal Mail put a Shaun the Sheep video on their app, so anyone receiving a barcode stamp can watch “Shaun and his flock in a mischievous and fun encounter with Rita, a Royal Mail post worker’.

Which, of course, nobody in their right mind wants to do. A handwritten letter or card is a joyful thing on its own and doesn’t need an accompanying video, barcode or app.

About Chris C. Hairston

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