Hongkongers still unsure of stamps with 'no value'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 2:58am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 3:15am

Three months on, Hongkong Post's new postage stamps are still confusing users.

The stamps, part of the post office's "Heartwarming" series, were introduced on October 1 last year and bear no denomination. Their usage is indicated simply by different coloured circles on their left-hand corners.

Stamps for standard local mail have a green circle and standard airmail a blue one.

Their release coincided with the adjustment of the postage rates, and they are intended to simplify the mailing process.

"To make it easier to prepare for posting, Hongkong Post decided to issue new stamps bearing the words 'Local Mail Postage' and 'Air Mail Postage'," a Hongkong Post spokeswoman said.

They are priced at HK$1.70 for local mail of up to 30 grams, and HK$3.70 for posting airmail of up to 20 grams.

"[Mail in these groups] accounts for a relatively large proportion of mail items posted. The stamps provide an additional option for customers who prefer [to use] one stamp, rather than a combination of stamps," the spokeswoman said.

She said other countries such as Britain, the United States and Singapore had issued similar stamps with no denominations. In most cases, the new system was fairly straightforward, but if letters were over the specified weight limits, people would have to make up the cost difference by buying additional stamps with the appropriate values.

One housewife who seldom uses the postal service was taken by surprise when asked to inspect the stamps closely.

"There used to be denominations on the stamps, but now I can't see them," she said. She also found it difficult to read the words that differentiated between local and airmail postage.

"I guess I would go to the post office just to avoid confusion. But last time when I was there in November, the staff still sold me the old stamps with face values. They did not tell me about this new system. I was also not aware of any promotional material about the new stamps."

The stamps have adopted the same design as those issued in 2003 as part of the "Heartwarming" series.

IT worker Dick Kwan said he rarely used the local postal service and had not seen the new stamps. Apart from finding them "a little abstract" in design, he did not initially realise there was any difference from the previous stamps. He also found the print too small to be legible.

"The stamps would be alright if people went to the post office to send their mail, otherwise they may not know they need to buy additional stamps for the heavier mail," he said.

Francis Tang Siu-wai, a senior designer at sports company Easton-Bell, thinks the design is satisfactory. "Overall the design is not particularly surprising or outstanding," he said. "But it's in line with the government style, which is conservative and risk-averse."

But Joseph Ng Cho-lam, another local designer, found the design complex. "For me, there seems to be a lot going on and perhaps too many hidden meanings. If anything, the design shows that the designer was freely expressing his thoughts."

The "Heartwarming" stamps are on sale until a new definitive line of stamps comes out later this year, Hongkong Post said.