WASHINGTON — The money-losing U.S. Postal Service guessed that TV cartoon character Homer Simpson and his family were twice as popular as Elvis Presley when it came to sales of commemorative stamps.
As Homer would say, "D'oh!" In a move that wasted $1.2 million in printing costs, the service produced 1 billion of "The Simpsons" stamps and sold 318 million.
The Postal Service inspector general in a report singled out the overproduction of stamps marking the 20th anniversary of the cartoon's run on News Corp.'s Fox network as an example of failing to align stamp production with demand.
"If the Postal Service can't address a simple matter such as determining how many commemorative stamps to produce, it shows they can't address the larger problems," Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said. "Unfortunately, even a small item can create larger problems."
The Postal Service earlier this month said it posted a loss of $5.2 billion in its third quarter and may lose $15 billion in the year ending Sept. 30. It has asked for Congress's help in cutting costs by eliminating a requirement to pre-pay for future retirees' health care and letting it stop Saturday mail delivery.
The service could save $2 million annually by ending overproduction of stamps that, like the Simpsons run, end up being destroyed when they don't sell, the inspector general said.
Mark Saunders, a Postal Service spokesman, declined to comment on the report or why the service produced so many Simpson stamps. "They want the response to the IG to speak for itself," he said in an interview.
Working from recommendations by a citizens' advisory board, the Postal Service produces about 20 commemorative stamp designs each year featuring historic events, geographic spots and pop- culture icons such as Homer Simpson.