US Stamps

Searching for an upright Jenny Invert pane? Try high-volume post offices for better luck

Jan 15, 2015, 6 AM

On Jan. 9 we reported on that the United States Postal Service had given away three upright Jenny Invert panes to three randomly selected individuals.

One of the lucky recipients reported his discovery to Linn’s, and our page 1 report in the Jan. 19 issue has all the details.

Since then, we have received numerous e-mails and letters from readers who question the validity of the Postal Service’s assertion that the 100 upright Jenny Invert panes were randomly distributed among the 2.2 million normal panes.

I was beginning to have my doubts as well, so I contacted USPS spokesman Mark Saunders with a few questions.

“Given how the panes (normal and upright) were packaged, how did the USPS know ahead of time that the three upright Jenny Invert panes to be given away for free were, in fact, upright?” I asked.

“Post offices were selected randomly,” Saunders replied. “The uninverted Jenny sheets were randomly comingled with inverted Jenny sheets.

“A portion of the 100 are kept at a central location with our stamp services group to fulfill online, phone and mail orders.”

I then asked Saunders to clarify what he meant by “post offices were selected randomly.”

“What, exactly, does that mean?” I said. “That some post offices were never going to receive an upright Jenny Invert pane in [the] initial distribution from [Stamp Fulfillment Services], and some were?”

This is where the discussion got interesting.

“The uninverted sheets were distributed to post offices with high-volume customer traffic to increase the possibility of purchases of the sheets,” he replied.

“We are not providing the names of those post offices or the numbers of the uninverted sheets at Stamp Fulfillment Services as doing so would compromise the integrity of the system.”

Saunders also did not specify how many of the 100 upright Jenny Invert panes had been allocated to these so-called high-volume post offices.

I then pressed Saunders to explain how the apparent singling out of post offices “with high-volume customer traffic” to receive upright Jenny Invert sheets represented a true random distribution.

He then repeated that “uninverted sheets were distributed to high-volume customer traffic post offices to increase the possibility of purchasing uninverted sheets.”

For the remainder of our discussion, Saunders never stated the distribution of the 100 upright Jenny panes was other than random.

Nonetheless, this singling out of post offices that attract large numbers of customers certainly makes it look like the distribution of some of the 100 panes was nonrandom.

At this point, we know that three people received a free upright Jenny pane — a publicity stunt that the USPS admitted was not properly vetted from a legal standpoint.

Although the names of the lucky trio were selected at random, the three sheets were deliberately set aside for this purpose.

Would you call that random? Neither would we.

And now we learn that some post offices have been favored to receive some of the upright panes.

It’s time for the USPS to admit that its distribution scheme for the upright Jenny Invert panes was anything but random.

USPS spokesman comments on Upright Jenny Invert pane distribution: