Scalping Stamps

If you live near Sacramento, California, and you wait until the very last moment to mail your taxes, you are in for a special trip to the main Post Office in West Sacramento.

This particular post office is open until midnight, so you can drop off your tax return at 11:59pm on April 15th and still get the necessary postmark.

On tax night, traffic is so heavy that the local police set up something like a tax-return drive-thru checkpoint, where post workers will snatch the envelopes right out of your window.


Unfortunately, they don't sell stamps. To get stamps, you have to drive past the envelope drive-thru snatchpoint and discover the secret post office entrance. Then you have to park and wait in line to buy some stamps from the human tellers, because they replaced all the vending machines with a single automatic postal machine (APM), and that machine was stolen last year.

The no-stamp oversight annoyed me so much that this year I decided to try selling stamps myself.

Early in the day, I bought one hundred first class (44¢) stamps.


Then I went home and made myself a sign. Note the hefty price markup.

That's right. I was scalping postage stamps. I was going to be rich.


At around nine o'clock, I drove to West Sacramento and set up shop at the side of the road, about 300 feet before the police cones diverted the cars into the tax-return traffic squeeze.


My plan worked okay. Cars drove by, and some stopped to buy stamps on the side of the road. Most people bought 1 or 2 stamps. The racial breakdown of last-minute tax filers was about 1/3rd asian, 1/2 black and 1/6th white. Also, everyone I talked to was sending a check to the IRS, not getting money back.

I was there right up until the midnight cutoff. I watched about 700 cars pass and sold 31 stamps.

The Simpsons stamps are self-adhesive, so unlike the post office, I usually just stuck the customer's stamps to their fingertips, ready for use.

Selling stamps on the side of the road was not the brilliant solution I thought it might be, but I had fun, and got to meet dozens of very grateful people, relieved to have successfully filed their tax returns.

Next year I'll give away the stamps and sell champagne.

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April 19, 2011   Terms and Conditions  Copyright 2011