US Stamps

Stamps.com customized postage to end June 16

May 12, 2020, 12 PM
The United States Postal Service announced May 10 that the customized postage program of Stamps.com, called PhotoStamps, would come to an end June 16. Image courtesy of Photostamps.com.

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

Those customized postage images of family, pets and business logos are going away June 16.

Stamps.com, a California company that was a pioneer in creating these stamplike products, disclosed May 7 that the United States Postal Service was ending its 16-year-old customized postage program.

The El Segundo, Calif., company said in an earnings statement that it had been notified that the USPS was “eliminating its customized postage program and revoking” the company’s authorization to sell what it calls PhotoStamps.

Roy Betts, a Postal Service spokesman, confirmed the action May 10, saying, “It was a business decision based on the best interest of the Postal Service.”

In a session with stock analysts, Ken McBride, the chairman and chief executive officer Stamps.com, called the agency’s decision “unnecessary, not well considered.”

The company said it is in discussions with the USPS “to reverse or modify this decision.”

McBride said the USPS action came after a lawsuit challenged the program’s guidelines restricting religious images on the indicia as a violation of First Amendment rights.

“But it’s difficult at this time to know if we will be able to bring the program back in the future,” McBride said.

“We certainly expect to keep trying as we believe it’s a fun product that brings a lot of joy and creativity to the mailing world,” he said.

Stamps.com was one of the biggest promoters of computer-generated stamp images printed by personal computers.

The idea of PhotoStamps was an outgrowth of a 1999 concept for bland postage indicia printed on personal computers, called PC Postage.

In 2004 Stamps.com introduced “a revolutionary product” to replace those PC indicia.

PhotoStamps, it said, will allow “consumers to turn digital photos, designs or images into valid US postage!”

“For the first time ever, people can create customized postage using pictures of their children, pets, vacations, celebrations and more. PhotoStamps can be used as regular postage to send letters, postcards or packages.”

In 2012 Stamps.com was presented with a USPS mail technology award for “the company’s commitment to a successful business partnership with the Postal Service.”

In retrospect the agency’s approval may not have been wholehearted.

Regulations made certain that the labels that Stamps.com and other companies were printing were not to be called stamps.

Confirmation of the demise of the customized postage program came in a statement stressing that the USPS would continue to sell a wide variety of stamps.

“Customers will continue to have access to stamps by mail, telephone (1-800-782-6724), online at usps.com/stamps and at Post Offices nationwide.”

“Postal Service stamps feature subjects that appeal to a broad audience and there is a story behind every stamp. In 2019, Postal Service printed 16.5 billion postage stamps,” the statement said.

Stamps.com no longer emphasizes sales of PhotoStamps.

As the May 7 call to analysts made clear, it has a focus on supplying businesses, large and small, with shipping labels for either the Postal Service or other carriers with postage or shipping fees included.

The company said it offers discounts to United Parcel Service deliveries and no longer has a primary focus on USPS parcel deliveries.

Eric Nash, a Stamps.com spokesman, told Linn’s that he knows of no other firms that offer a product similar to its PhotoStamps, although there were several others in the field a few years ago.

“Nothing is changing for PC Postage,” said Nash, referring to the bland computer generated stamp indicia. “This change is specifically for customized postage (i.e. PhotoStamps).”

McBride told analysts the loss of PhotoStamp sales will not be significant to Stamps.com revenues.

He also said that the company knew the incoming postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, and noted he has supported “public-private partnerships” such as the one Stamps.com has had with the USPS.

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