The Droid DeliversA Star Wars Favorite Comes to a Corner Not So Far, Far
Away – By Leef Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 30, 2007; B01
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — perhaps somewhere deep in
the mind of a U.S. Postal Service bureaucrat– someone got the idea to gussy up
a few of those boring, blue mailboxes. They’re so identifiable. So functional. So not going to sell a new line of stamps.
So, maybe orange?
Nah. More like galactic turf wars and the Death Star and a princess whose hairdo is reminiscent of breakfast Danish. What better way to post your mail, the reasoning went, than to stuff those precious mortgage payments and birthday wishes into the noggin of the famed Star Wars droid R2D2.
Under cover of night, officials at the USPS stealthily deposited 400 of the costumed letterboxes on high-traffic street corners nationwide — about a dozen in the Washington area — to promote a new line of postage stamps. They unbolted mailboxes from sidewalks and replaced them with ones decked in decorative adhesive panels. The switcheroo, carried out March 16, was intended as a teaser until the new postage design was announced. The 41-cent stamps — the rate is going up May 14 — were unveiled Wednesday in Hollywood to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars phenomenon. You know the one. And if you don’t, well, that sort of admission will find you subject to all sorts of derision.
Postal service officials won’t say what a three-week promotional campaign such as this one costs, describing the information as “proprietary,” but they think this collection of stamps and their multigenerational appeal may have the selling power to rival those of the blockbuster Elvis issue. Fortunately for everyone involved, no one will be asked to decide whether they favor a fat Yoda or a thin one.
In case you’re wondering, the Postal Service says no money changed hands with Star Wars creator George Lucas over the deal. The agency gets neat-o stamps that are bound to sell like mad, and Lucas gets a whopping shovelful of free PR. Although the R2D2s are in place, you can’t actually buy the stamps until May 25, which is totally
confusing people. So please, please, please, stop pestering your friendly postal
clerk. As for the mailboxes, chosen for their physical resemblance to the
squat little droid — “Chewbacca just wouldn’t work,” quipped postal spokeswoman
Melissa Dodge — they’ll be around for a little longer to keep the buzz
No denying they are a conversation starter, as postal customers find
themselves worrying that they’re dropping their mail into an enormous action
figure. On Wednesday, the bizarro mailbox at King and Pitt streets in Old
Town Alexandria was the subject of much curiosity and just as much
confusion. “I think it’s cool,” cooed Nicole Reynolds, 31, who took a picture
with her cellphone to prove to her disbelieving boyfriend that the droid was
legit. She didn’t know about the promotion and is no fervent Star Wars fan,
but the mail-digesting cinema star was worth a snapshot.
While others turned their backs on the Star Wars hero, one snorting “you won’t find me putting my mail in that thing,” Louise Williams hustled her letters into the street-corner curiosity. No second thoughts. That’s because she had those second thoughts the day before, wondering whether she should put her letters into the cute but mystifying droid or into the familiar blue mailbox beside it. In the end, she
chose poorly, depositing her mortgage envelope into a box for Express Mail by
mistake. “It confused me,” Williams said, explaining how she went home and
jumped onto the Postal Service Web site to get answers. “I thought it must be
for special mail,” she said with a laugh. Like, for letters headed to the Forest moon of Endor, maybe.
Now isn’t that Cute?!
In today’s Metro section of Washington Post.