Wawa vs. the Post Office: Bus-Capade Update

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[Update On the 33-page address-change form, please see this.]

I mentioned earlier that in his big rally on Saturday night at the historic Cornwall "iron furnace" near Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Mitt Romney used what he had learned during the day to illustrate the difference between slothful, inefficient big government, and the nimble private sector:

  • Non-competitive big government brought us the Postal Service, where -- according to a doctor who had shared his story with Romney -- you had to fill out a 33-page form, and do it more than once, to get your address changed.
  • Competitive private enterprise brought us WaWa, where Romney had earlier that day ordered a hoagie and been impressed by the modern touch-pad ordering system.

Readers beg to differ on both points. A sample note of many I received about the USPS:

The Post Office change of address form, in paper format, has always been the size of a large postcard.  I've filled it out numerous times in the last decade and it has never been anything remotely approaching 33 pages.  Either Romney was lying or the doctor was lying, and in the latter case, it would be telling that no one in the Romney campaign caught this because none of them has any idea what a simple standard USPS change of address form looks like.

Similarly:

Short answer: I wouldn't go to that doctor as he sounds quite simple. I Googled "usps change of address" and the very first link brought me to this.

I didn't go all the way through but I went far enough to be satisfied that it was a very simple and well thought-through procedure (though I am surprised that there appears to be a $1.00 fee.)

I too have changed addresses many times and know that it's not very hard. It's even fairly easy to do selective address changes: mail for one person at your house goes somewhere else, the rest stays as it was. When we were out of the country for a month early this year, we had a month-long hold put on our mail with minimal hassle and no slip-ups, FWIW. (And, yes, I have a permanent bias in favor of the Post Office, both for its historic role in American communications and because it was my first steady-job employer, when I was a parcel-post sorter and substitute letter carrier back in the dim past.)

As for WaWa, that has gotten more attention, for instance on BuzzFeed and the Atlantic Wire and with this item on MSNBC:



WaWa is an institution you either know about or you don't -- you would know about it if you've spent much time schlepping up and down highways in the mid-Atlantic zone, where it's kind of a (nicer) regional 7/11. Otherwise you wouldn't. It sounded as if Mitt Romney had not come across them before. The crowd at the Cornwall furnace did seem a little nonplussed when he was describing this new place, "WaWa's," that he had discovered, sort of like George W. Bush describing the wonders of "the Google." On the other hand they cheered heartily on all his "the economy is broken" lines and seemed genuinely enthusiastic, and it is hard for me to imagine that this cost him a single one of their votes. It's a long campaign.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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