Some of us still have stashes of traditional stamps which we were told would become redundant after 31 January. Royal Mail (whose CEO Simon Thompson is on £753,000 per annum) promised old ones could be exchanged for new, but the system has struggled to keep up with demand. Now a chaotic Royal Mail says there will be a ‘grace period’, allowing us to use traditional stamps until 31 July – after which we will have no choice but to go with the barcoded versions they have rolled out.
Barcodes have been spoiling the look of products, especially books, for 20 years and are now set to spoil envelopes. Worse, the barcodes, boasts Royal Mail, will soon be scannable, enabling us to watch and share ‘digital extras’ such as Shaun the Sheep videos.
It’s creepy enough that these days you can ask Alexa to send a comment to the talk radio station LBC. Stamp barcodes will mean we can’t even communicate by letter without a snooper algorithm compiling data on how much post we get per week and what parts of the country it comes from. The whole point of snail mail is that it was the one thing that wasn’t digital.
But who still sends snail mail anyway? Princess Diana knew the value of a written expression of gratitude or commiseration. She had a dedicated desk with writing materials and the discipline to sit down each morning and scribble away. Even the blandest of these notes and cards now has monetary value. One letter to a policeman sold for £13,600 at auction this month.
Today even the most well-bred Sloane Ranger finds it difficult to send a handwritten letter. It’s not so much the effort of finding the equipment to pen one, but finding the address to send it to.