Earlier in the year I picked up a mail meter. I send out a fair amount of mail — book orders, stuff I've sold on Amazon, things like that — so it seemed like the smart thing to do. The rental fee for the meter wasn't too steep, and I figured that if I was sending that many more packages by parcel post instead of first class, it would work itself out.
Now, about six months into owning the thing, I'm about ready to throw it out the window.
- The software provided with the meter is unbelievably cantankerous. Sometimes it doesn't recognize the meter at all; sometimes you have to reboot the meter, the computer or both to get them to talk to each other. It's been better since I moved the whole thing to run off a spare laptop that I use as print and file server, but it still bespeaks of a level of shoddiness somewhere in the whole design.
- The cost of refills for the meter is appalling. A single ink cartridge, which by my best guess seems to last about half a year, is sixty-five dollars. This is one of the reasons I hate inkjet printers on principle, since you end up spending far more on consumables than makes the total investment worthwhile, and you end up paying for ink you never really use because the damn things dry up on you.
- I have not been able to get the meter to work once with my landline, for the sake of postage refills. In order to get more postage into the machine, I have to connect it to a PC (which means more roll-of-the-dice cantankerousness).
- The label printing software that the USPS provides integrates with the mail meter — in theory, anyway. I never got it to work correctly and ended up printing both labels and postage separately. That USPS software, incidentally, also sucks. It takes forever to accomplish the simplest little things, has no clear workflow, and suffers from A.M.D.S., or Annoying Modal Dialogue Syndrome — that programmer's plague where they use a pop-up "!" warning window to tell you about things that could be better mentioned in a less annoying context. And god help you if that window gets buried.
I did the math. Belatedly. At $15 a month, plus the $70 or so cost of the ink per six months or so, that's $25 a month I'm blowing for the privilege of not having to stand on line to ship something at the media-mail rate. I'd have to ship several times as many packages as I do now to make that even remotely worth the cost.
At least I get more exercise at the post office.