What’s worse than becoming obsolete? Becoming obsolete and being made fun of. The term ‘Snail Mail’ is a prime example of this. It’s hard to say snail mail without sounding snoody about it. Think about it. Snail Mail. Audio cassettes and VHS tapes should be thankful they blew over gracefully instead of becoming a joke. So why do some things get replaced and retired respectfully and others linger in laughable limbo?
My first thought is that regular mail is controlled by the government and therefore it’s just an easier target to poke fun at (Funny thing is, the government continues to lose money on the postal service because it’s out of control. I guess ‘control’ is relative). I can think of other very similar examples which have no government interest. Take CDs for example. MP3s and MP3 players are far superior to CDs and although slowly, everyone is making the switch. But we don’t make fun of CDs like we do mail. So if the government isn’t the reason we make fun of mail, then what else?
Maybe it’s because the US Postal Service is unionized! Unions are easy targets, too, with their “competitive wages,” “work standard definitions,” and “tenure.” (Need some job security and don’t want to work as hard for it? Join a union.) If you think snail mail is silly, you probably don’t care for unions, either. After considering it further though, other unionized industries aren’t humor-ized. Railroads, as a means of transportation, are very slow, but we don’t call it Snail Rail.
Perhaps people laugh in the face of regular mail because you actually have to pay for it. Email is FREE, after all! And all email costs you is a little bit of your time and the wrinkle in your brain to learn how to use it. You can use different fonts and colors with email. You can send an email out to many people at once! And you don’t have to lick an email to shut it!
Pretty much anything you do via the postal service you could just as easily do online now: pay bills, read newspapers and magazines, send letters, etc. Only some things still need to be manually sent, but even still, there are some hungry third party shipping services out there ready to beat the USPS rate.
What it seems to boil down to is just a recipe for ridicule. It’s not that the mail is any of the things listed above, it’s that the mail is all of them: government controlled, unionized, costly, obsolete, and so on. All that remains is the good feeling you get when someone sends you an honest-to-goodness card or letter with an honest-to-goodness stamp on it. Ahh, nostalgia. It’s a great benefit for mail, but a bad business plan.