Postal customers took a licking and did plenty of kicking Wednesday over this week's postal rate increase.
Post offices across Los Angeles ran out of 3-cent stamps when they were overrun by people trying to buy extra postage to go on letters bearing old 22-cent stamps.
The cost of mailing a first-class letter rose to 25 cents Sunday when the new rates took effect. Post cards and other types of mail also increased in cost.
At some post offices, customers were forced to buy batches of 1-cent stamps to paste on their letters before they could toss them into mail chutes.
"This is ridiculous," said Bob Claunch of Silver Lake as he stood in a lengthy line at the Griffith Station post office in Atwater. At the head of the line, a handwritten sign warned that there were no more 3-cent stamps.
"I don't mind the rates going up if it's going to mean better service. But there's no place to park out front, and there aren't enough clerks inside. And running out of stamps is unpardonable," Claunch said.
As Claunch stood in line in Atwater, Griffith Station manager Joan Campuzano was standing in line in the basement of the Terminal Annex postal headquarters in Los Angeles. She was waiting to receive her ration of an emergency supply of 4 million new 3-cent stamps obtained by Los Angeles postal officials.
"We're doing what we can to help people cope," Campuzano said. "I spent a half-hour walking a woman's baby in the lobby while she waited in line for stamps before we ran out this morning."
Said Earnest N. Bingham, window supervisor at the Los Feliz post office: "It's like somebody told the whole world that Michael Jackson was in my post office lobby and everybody came in for his autograph."
Rancho Park post office manager William C. Watkins said one of his patrons bought 800 of the 3-cent stamps. "It's like the 1920s and a rush on a bank that's about to close," he said.
The stamp lines at Terminal Annex, Los Angeles' busiest post office, were the worst that window supervisor Stanley Steinberg said he'd ever seen.
"This is worse than Christmas," said Steinberg, whose clerks suffered a shortage of 1-cent, 2-cent and 3-cent stamps before the emergency shipment arrived at noon Wednesday from a San Diego stamp distribution center.
Officials said 10 such special centers across the country are being used to rush 200 million extra 3-cent stamps to local post offices to relieve unanticipated shortages.
Officials said post offices in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties have sold 28 million 3-cent stamps in the last week.
"We've had people in Anaheim buying too many 3-cent stamps and having to come back and buy more 22-cent stamps to go along with them," said Joseph Breckenridge, a spokesman for the Postal Services division headquarters in Santa Ana. He said post offices in Orange County had not run out of the stamps, although some post office vending machines were empty.
Shortages were reported at busy San Fernando Valley post offices in Northridge, Woodland Hills and Van Nuys--although a fresh supply of 5 million 3-cent stamps is expected today, said Valley postal division spokesman John Conti.
3 Million More Friday
The Long Beach postal division expects to receive 3 million 3-cent stamps on Friday for distribution to 46 post offices from Santa Monica and Inglewood to Buena Park, said division spokeswoman Kay Behnke.
Until those fresh supplies arrive, 3-cent stamps from Wednesday's emergency shipment will be allocated primarily to post offices serving Latino neighborhoods, said Ken Boheim, manager in charge of stamps for the Los Angeles area.
Patrons in those areas need the stamps to mail letters to Mexico and other foreign countries that do not recognize the new "E" stamps because they do not show a numerical value, he said.
Boheim said he also is looking for some 3-cent stamps to buy for himself. In his coat pocket, he had three bills to pay--in envelopes bearing 22-cent stamps.