WE HAVE A suggestion for consumer gadfly Ralph Nader: lighten up. Now the self-made public ombudsman has reacted in outraged and sanctimonious tones against the Postal Service's promotion of its poll to determine the design of a commemorative stamp in honor of Elvis Presley.
Mr. Nader calls it "ballyhoo" and "a costly trivialization and diversion of the Post Office's main purpose: the dependable and reliable delivery of the mail." He even attacked an old nemesis, former postmaster general Anthony Frank, who authorized the Elvis stamp, calling it his "final zany pirouette."
Clearly, Mr. Nader lacks a sense of humor, and a sense of entrepreneurial marketing skills. That is something Mr. Frank possesses and why he was given the postal job in the first place. He used it effectively to upgrade the Postal Service's image, and -- if Mr. Nader cares to check -- improve efficiency and bottom-line viability of the quasi-governmental agency.
The Elvis campaign required some promotional outlays. But it has generated mounds of publicity and a stunning outpouring of response from hordes of Presley fans. More than a million post card ballots were received to decide which illustration -- young Elvis or old Elvis -- should appear on the stamp.
The Postal Service figures to reel in big bucks from that special stamp. Its profit figure from commemorative stamps that collectors buy but never lick onto envelopes and mail was $175 million last year. And this particular commemorative is sure to be one of the agency's best all-time sellers.
Besides, what's wrong with a little levity in government? Does everything related to Ralph Nader's Washington have to be heavy and serious? Maybe that explains why the federal government is in such deep doo-doo at budget time. Bravo to the Postal Service for profiting from the Elvis stamp -- and having some fun, too.