Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dear U.S. Census Department,



Thank you for your letter reminding me that my census forms are coming, and asking me to fill them out when they arrive.

Government waste is a universal phenomenon, and certainly this country is no exception.

But I have to wonder, how much money did it cost to send "your census is coming, please fill it out" forms to EVERY FREAKING HOUSEHOLD IN AMERICA?!!!

You guys have been running TV and radio commercials, magazine ads, newspapers, and billboards about this for months already. Not including the many news features about the census coming. You'd have to be living under a rock NOT to know the census is this year (every 10 years, for my non-U.S. readers).

Wouldn't it have saved money, and made a hell of a lot more sense, to include this letter WITH the census, saying "here is your census, please fill it out"? Do you really think sending an advance letter will make a difference? Do you really think anyone is going to remember the first letter by the time the REAL census forms show up? Do I really think that me writing this will make a difference?

Your's truly,

Ibee Grumpy, M.D.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

I got that same letter! I just didn't open it until I read your post. I really think there has been enough information on the television, bill boards, magazines, etc. to remind people not to forget to fill these VERY LONG and tedious documents out and return them ASAP. You wouldn't want the census worker to come knocking on the door asking for them. UGH! And, we all wonder why we have budget problems. This stuff makes me angry.

Have a great day, Grumpy! Looking forward to some good stories after the night I had.

Chrysalis Angel said...

Amen! I was thinking what the heck is the point of that? They have television adds going too. Just send the dang census already.

John said...

I was thinking the exact same thing when I opened that letter this morning... What a waste of money

Jacqueline said...

My family thought the same thing last week when we got our letter.

Frantic Pharmacist said...

Just got that letter ---- DITTO !!
I'd love to know the price tag on that one.

erichollins said...

Well, at least the USPS is getting some business.

WarmSocks said...

And if you get three letters, it means you'll be getting three census forms. In this case do not call the phone number provided for those who have questions. Do not try to explain anything or reason with anyone on the government payroll. Make your life easy: complete and return all three forms. Trust me on this.

Don said...

Give 'em a break Grumpy

Over 20 high level Government Employees spent a year, monthly meetings, travel expenses, 30 different iterations, to come up with the PERFECT advance letter.

Of course they are going to send it out, otherwise, what were they doing before.

Celeste said...

We said the same thing over dinner last night. Maybe the purpose of the letter was to join Americans in a common purpose, grousing. I think the saddest part is that the feds don't consider it a waste, if it was in the BUDGET.

Marcus said...

I was pretty annoyed at first when I got it too...but then someone told me why they do it.

The first letter goes out to check the "bouncebacks". There usually are plenty of them. So many in fact, that IF they sent the whole census packet to begin with, they'd waste SO much more money in paper costs. The exploratory letter saves money in the long run.

That made sense to me, but also made me wonder where do they get these addresses from to begin with?

Anonymous said...

If the letter raises the response rate even a fraction, it will have saved money. The census bureau has to make personal visits to the houses that fail to return the census, and that's a big expense. The letter didn't help me--I was already looking forward to filling out the census--but it might prevent some people from throwing the census out as junk mail when it arrives.

As for the massive advertising campaign, it would be pretty easy to miss it. I haven't seen any billboards in my area. I haven't heard a single radio ad about it. I don't read magazines and I rarely watch TV. The only time I saw an ad about the census was during the Superbowl. I read online news a lot, but there hasn't been a whole lot of coverage about the census; it's not interesting or newsworthy.

Alison said...

I said the same thing to my husband.

Doris said...

Wow, you got way more languages than me. Mine was side by side Engliah/Spanish. You rate!

>:p

Anonymous said...

So yes, my initial thought was what a waste. But the science of surveys has repeated shown us that these very types of letters do increase the response rate and therefore decrease the costs associated with resending forms and sending actual people to homes to do the interviews. I am sure someone did a cost-benefit analysis between sending out all these letters to every home and the costs associated with follow-ups. So, yes. Among those of us who do religiously fill out our census forms without begging and pleading, it is a waste. Unfortunately, the Census can't figure out who those folks are and keep them out of such mailings.

Anonymous said...

Like the census has anything to do with how the gummint squanders your tax bux anyhow. Just look at the streets and failing infrastructure, then look at congressional committees "looking into" all sorts of stuff they don't comprehend.
Everyone should call the stupid phone number and babble in tongues...

Faith said...

They've also called me at home and at work to alert me to the census. ::shakes head over the waste::

Anonymous said...

I thought that is how the President was trying to help out the USPS, who keeps whining they dont have enough mail to deliver!!
What a waste of paper, ink, and tax payer dollars!!

l_hooper said...

I said virtually the same thing to my husband...I was also tempted to save the letter to compare it to the inevitable cover letter that will accompany the actual census. My guess is that it will say the same thing, minus the first sentence (accompanied by changed verb tense if we are lucky).

Stephany said...

BRAVO! same here! what a waste of money was that for? shining example of government waste.

Put the letter back in the envelope and write "return to sender", give it back, some poor soul needs to work for their paycheck shredding these things!

A Peach said...

I, too, was baffled at first, but the bounceback issue was noted and it made sense. Then it ocurred to me that in my household, we open the mail over the recycle bin, and anything that looks like junk just gets tossed unopened. Now, I'd hope that the census is clearly marked when it comes, but I realized the reminder was nice to have so that when the packet comes, I don't automatically think it's one of those car sales thingies they make up to look important when they're just crap.

So, turns out, I'm OK with it. Maybe a postcard would have been cheaper, but eh, I'll deal.

Anonymous said...

Considering everyone in my family got their ADVANCE letter the same day as the census.. One big FAIL added to the titan list of government fails.

Old MD Girl said...

Hate to be devil's advocate here, but there is probably research to back up the fact that response rates are higher if they send this sort of letter. And it probably cost less than attaching a $2 bill to every census, which is what we do in our department (there's a literature on that as well....).

On the other hand, since this IS a government agency, you're probably right that it was a waste.

Anonymous said...

I got that same letter on Monday. Thought the same thing too. It was just like the letters for those stimulus checks a few years ago.


Don't tell me your going to send them, just SEND them!

Elsje said...

Well, in a slightly different but also similar way, I got a reminder to "hand in all illegal firearms before 1 April 2010" (at your friendly police department who would then know that you like having illegal stuff that are no mean feat to acquire).

Outrider said...

>>there is probably research to back up the fact that response rates are higher if they send this sort of letter. And it probably cost less than attaching a $2 bill to every census, which is what we do in our department (there's a literature on that as well....).>>

Exactly. It's much cheaper for citizens to fill out and return the paper census form vs. the door-to-door in-person interviews planned for those who don't complete the mail-in census.

Case in point: my SO received his census alert letter several days ago. It sat, unopened, in a huge pile of all mail that is not a check or a bill, until I told him what it was. He actually thought the letter was the census and was planning to fill it out "when he had a moment". Ha ha. Now he knows the census is coming next week and is planning to complete and return it immediately, because he does not want anyone from the government knocking on his door (just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you...).

Anonymous said...

My local news stated it cost Billions to send that letter to Millions in the USA!! what a waste of our $$$$

The Mother said...

We've been laughing about that letter for a week now.

There's probably some study stuck in some govt drawer that says that sending out two letters generates better response than just one.

I certainly hope so, anyway.

was1 said...

This is just government doing what government does and sucking at it to boot. For all those of you who think its a good idea, I hope you get the long form.

mitzi said...

i received my letter and was very happy that it appears the government is using an evidence-based protocol for census distribution.

there is actually very good evidence that pre-notification significantly increases the response to mailed surveys. read the Cochrane Review abstract here: http://www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/mr000008.html

"The odds of response were substantially higher with pre-notification (1.45; 95% CI 1.29 to 1.63; P < 0.00001, I2 = 89%)."

Old MD Girl said...

Go you mitzi! Thanks for the citation!

clt2213 said...

I agree it's a waste of money.I got the inane letter plus a census lady knocked on my door at 8:00 am Tuesday to remind me to fill out the form. So now we have TV spots, radio ads, billboards, letters, and workers coming to the door to remind you to fill out the form. I love government redundancy. But this lady was at least nice. 3 years ago, shortly after the birth of my son, my house was randomly chosen for a "voluntary" census. That woman was horrible. The first time I "met" her, she was lurking in my garage, didn't introduce herself, was wearing no ID, dressed in ratty denim shorts and a torn T shirt. When she started asking personal questions I told her she needed to leave. I was in shock when she finally introduced herself. She looked more like a homeless person than a government worker. I would have trusted the homeless more! After telling her I wouldn't be responding to the poll she was taking she left but returned almost daily and called daily - always waking up the baby i had struggled with for an hour to get to sleep. Morning and night this lady would call or drop by. Out of anger and pure frustration I continued to refuse to participate. She ended up asking my 15 year old to supply our income info. When he told her to not-so-kindly take a flying leap and i reported her to the census bureau for harassing behavior for a VOLUNTARY mini-census she finally stopped - after 3 months! It became a running joke on how many times she'd call or come by. Now any time I hear the word census I have a Pavlovian response and need xanax and BP medicine. Then I begin giggling uncontrollably. Beware of the "voluntary" census. I'll just stick with the q 10 year census and be happy. At least billboards don't drive me to near homicide. Anyway, what stranger lurks in someone's garage anyway?

Anonymous said...

I got the same letter and it was the correct address but the wrong city!!Which city will be counting me. Our government at work!! Makes me question how well they will handle health care.

maggie said...

Don't remember if I got the letter, but the census form was HAND delivered earlier this week!

Anonymous said...

The Gov't already spent 300 mill on a TV spot during the Superbowl advertisting the census. How much more could millions of flyers cost taxpayers?

Pfffft... the fools...

RSDS said...

Like maggie, I don't remember if we got that reminder letter or not.

Our (short) Census form was hand delivered. After I filled it out, and mailed it in, the Census Taker (or another one) came back to ask about our mailing address. Our mailng address is a Post Office Box, and NOT our actual residence location. Mail is never delivered to our physical house.

We also own the house next door. Nobody occupies that house, except our stuff. The Census Taker hung a Census Form on the door knob there. I filled out the number of occupants as 00 (that is ALL that I filled out on that form), and sent that one in as well. When the Census Taker came back asking about our mailing address, she said that I had done the correct thing for that house.

First try WV reing -- Would that be re ing, or rein g?

Second try WV polib -- is that liberation for Polish?

RSDS

Anonymous said...

I received the reminder letter at my apartment (a temporary address) that was labeled "To Resident At ." I can't "Return To Sender" on that one. I'm actually moving within the next few days back to my permanent address. I will not be here when the Census arrives. I guess if someone else moves into my apartment, they can fill it out. *shrugs*

Word Verification: inseloqu
It sounds need.

Anonymous said...

I also got the letter and had the same response. Maye there is some research to back up sending the letter, but I have to think that if one of those commercials or letters could direct you to a website that would allow you to fill out the damn form online, that would probably increase the response rate a whole heckuva lot more than the letter. Then and only then send the letter to those who have not responded yet...and then the form. I actually had someone also come to my house the other week JUST TO REMIND US that the Census was coming. Send me a link...want my e-mail address?!?! My guess is that yet another letter including the form will come in the mail and there will one of those 80's forms that you have to use #2 pencils on. I can see it now...given the state of the economy and tax revenues, there will be debates raging about hanging chads at town halls all over America!

Christine-Megan said...

I was also surprised when I got that. WTF?

thegooddrlaura said...

I'm counting a big household this year. By law, anyone living in my house on the morning of April 1st should be counted on my household census. So I'm counting my unofficial pseudo-foster kid, who (I guarantee you) would NOT otherwise be counted anywhere. I'm also counting two baseball players who live in the U.S. 9 months out of the year but travel all the time, who would not otherwise be counted.

danielle said...

Thank you for saying the same thing I did! I thought it was the census info to fill out - no - it was the waste of money and time letter to tell me the form is coming - typical government waste

pharmacy chick said...

and mine ended up in the recycle bin in 10 seconds flat.

Joan said...

The anchors just talked about this on Good Morning Sacramento, this morning. I also thought, what a waste of money.

Margaret/Heather said...

We have already gotten two of the blasted things. I mean, I know the government wastes my money but you'd think they'd try to be a smidge less blatant about it.

Lisa said...

thank you

student dr. blaze said...

lmao! without you, Dr. Grumpy, i'd never have opened that letter.... ;-)

Dangerous K said...

My letter actually showed up AFTER the census form did.

 
Locations of visitors to this page