Boxes sealed with ATHEIST tape lost by USPS 10X more often than controls

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129 Responses to “Boxes sealed with ATHEIST tape lost by USPS 10X more often than controls”

  1. MB says:

    Smells like a marketing stunt.

    (said the atheist)

    • allenmcbride says:

      Seems plausible. A lot of money went into making that graphic on their website. And an *average* of three days delay and 10x change in loss rate are both strong claims. I’ll wait for evidence from a source with less obvious financial incentive to make these claims, or with better documentation.

      • t3kna2007 says:

        Or maybe they knew the story was attention-worthy and dressed up for company.

      • marilove says:

        Really? Clearly these are a bunch of nerds. Of course they’d have some decent graphics. And  I said decent. It’s not like it’s MINDBLOWING.

        • allenmcbride says:

          I guess so; depends on the type of nerd. I’m used to the science nerd world, where youth-y graphics like that means sending a chunk of budget over to the graphics people, waiting a few weeks for uneditable bitmaps, and then repeating the process when you realize you screwed up your first order. And even then you wouldn’t get the bunnyhumping.

      • dejadee says:

        …I really don’t think that graphic took a lot of money to make.

        • teapot says:

          You are correct. A reasonable designer with all the assets in hand would put that together in 10-15 mins tops.

          • I hope you’re not a project manager.

          • Yeah, sure, if a pre-developed idea is part of said asset you wouldn’t even need a designer, given that designers mostly comes up with ideas. Production is one of the final steps in a design process, before publication and evaluation.

            Hiring one to stitch assets would be like paying a mathematician to do your private accounting.

      • Petzl says:

        I guess you’re willing to wait a long time.

      • SoItBegins says:

        You read the fine print at the bottom, where they detail their statistical methods, right?

      • atheistshoes says:

        On the contrary, my girlfriend made the graphic for free and we ran this study because we were having a very real problem with out shipping. Of course it’s great for marketing on the one hand, but on the other we’re also saying “be careful ordering from us, your package may take a while to arrive”… so maybe it’s not such a great stunt? anyhow, we’ll be releasing the data for public scrutiny and, hopefully, for replication of the experiment. 

        • toyg says:

          Please, dear sir, have all my upvotes. My internets are now rightfully yours.

        • allenmcbride says:

          Glad to hear it. I’m looking forward to the data.

          • retchdog says:

            it would be almost as easy to fabricate the data as to make up the conclusion. there is some opportunity for “data forensics” if they were to make obvious errors, but it’s unlikely to be conclusive.

            the best they could do is post scans of various mailing receipts which is 1) kinda silly and 2) can still be easily doctored.

          • Cowicide says:

            It would think it would be trivial for a third party to verify things with the tracking numbers if you’re really worried about it.

            https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirmAction!input.action

        • Cowicide says:

          Could it be that atheists who work at the post office are stealing the shoes for themselves since they are godless heathens who have no fear of retribution from an invisible sky wizard?

          I know that’s why I steal shoes and kick children.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      There’s a whole quasi-science of winning contests by making your envelope look like you need help.  Live humans still look at and do things to mail.

      And I’d recommend against ordering the clam chowder.

      • How do I learn more about this quasi-science you speak of?

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          You’d probably have to paw through infotainment television from the 70s. Somebody entered a bunch of contests with some entries neatly printed and some scrawled in crayon, misspelt and covered with stickers, or other… challenged visual cues. The latter were chosen quite regularly in “random” draws.

          It’s similar to how your junk mail now comes with faux-handwriting, pretend cancellations, etc. on the outside.

    • SomeGuyNamedMark says:

      Whether it is or not it would be interesting to follow up on this.  Maybe stick a tracking device of some sort in the boxes to see what happens to them.

      • Cowicide says:

        I like that idea.  Stick a gps device in them and shoot them out to test people around the country who’ll return the devices.

    • Neurobonkers says:

      I figured the same initially, I contacted them, they told me they are having the article written up for peer review by a social psychologist. My report here with quotes:
      http://bigthink.com/neurobonkers/modern-day-real-life-demonstration-of-the-lost-letter-technique-exposes-discrimination-against-atheism-in-the-us-postal-service

  2. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    Maybe this makes me a bad person; but I immediately started running some test values through the USPS package insurance pricing table…

    Insurance is usually a losing proposition(on average, obviously coverage against catastrophe is handy; but the net winner is the insurer or you wouldn’t be able to buy insurance); but if you had a totally legal, non-fraudulent, not-included-in-the-actuarial-calculations-used-to-price-insurance, mechanism for giving the odds that a given package will be lost a nice upward shove, it could easily end up being the case that the house doesn’t win…

    Just think of it as a bigotry tax!

  3. jere7my says:

    Scientifically, I’d like to see a test of ATHEIST tape versus other text-tapes, like PATRIOT or KITTENS or PANTS, rather than ATHEIST vs. unlabeled. I was always told not to put extraneous text on my packages because it might confuse automated scanners. That might be bull-pooty, but I reckon a text vs. text experiment would be more valid than text vs. plain.

    • thaum says:

      Nice. “ISLAM IS JOY” or “PRAISE ALLAH” might be some interesting other tape points.

    • Petzl says:

      You have 100 identical boxes, except 50 use the atheist tape.

      That’s the test.

      Requiring anything else is ludicrous.

      As mentioned below, adding different words instead of ATHEIST will merely test how that word causes the USPS to flinch.

      • GlyphGryph says:

        A thorough tests involves a proper control, which should be identical in every way except the variable being tested.

        As has been pointed out, there are actually a few uncontrolled variables still wandering around here. The current results surely merit further study, but it’s certainly not conclusive. A set of controls would probably be required for adequate coverage (to tease out any further potential hidden variables), but a proper lorem te ipsum would have likely been a better initial test case than a box with no text at all.

        Assuming you actually want the narrow conclusion “Boxes labeled Atheist are discriminated against when compared to other packages” to be generally applicable. Right now, the best we can get is “some boxes with the text Atheist on them are discriminated against compared to untexted boxes, but may or may not fair more poorly than other labeled boxes.”

        • ocker3 says:

           Random text, non-text shapes, etc

        • Gilbert Wham says:

           Ok, how about ‘Fragile’. ;)

          • GlyphGryph says:

            You know, I actually HAVE heard that putting the words Fragile on a box make it more likely to be lost or damaged… Hmm…

          • Baines says:

             I’ve heard package handlers say that they know co-workers who are more likely to treat packages marked “Fragile” more abusively than unmarked packages.

          • Lisa Googling says:

            It’s true. I’ve done my own pseudo-experiment on this…  Never mark any package FRAGILE.  DO NOT BEND is also unadvisable.

          • James Churchill says:

            Pretty much anything that makes your package stand out to a courier as requiring special treatment is asking for trouble. Better to be inconspicuous.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Pretty much anything that makes your package stand out to a courier as requiring special treatment is asking for trouble.

            I think I saw a porn movie once based on that.

      • jere7my says:

        Yeah, as GlyphGryph points out this experiment has uncontrolled variables in it. Is it the word ATHEIST or is it extraneous words of any sort? Or is it the reflectivity of the printed tape versus off-the-shelf tape? Comparing a range of innocuous words (or nonsense text) on the same kind of tape to the ATHEIST tape would be the way to set up a proper experiment, particularly since the USPS specifically instructs us to black out unrelated text. (“If you are reusing a box, totally remove or obliterate all previous labels and markings with heavy black marker.”)

        Think of it this way: Instead of printed tape, imagine the packages shipped with a lighter taped to the outside, and the lighters had a sticker of a naked lady on them. When the packages went missing, would it be the flammability or the nudity that got the packages diverted? You wouldn’t be able to tell unless you also sent some lighters with clothed ladies and some naked lady stickers without lighters. Gotta lock down the variables.

        • peterkvt80 says:

           Maybe also have some naked men lighters. We need equal opportunity variables.

        • Lisa Googling says:

          The main variable, other than the label vs no label, is the package destination.  The ATHEIST labelling seems to fare significantly worse in the US.  Hmmm….

    • Ryan Lenethen says:

      I am so making packing tape that says “FRAGILE, CONTAINS KITTENS”. 

    • I’m going to start putting PATRIOT ATHEIST KITTEN PANTS on all my bills.

  4. Jacob Ewing says:

    Surely this divine intervention in delivering such blasphemous packages is unquestionable proof of GOD’s existence!

    • Boundegar says:

      I don’t know about unquestionable – but surely the hypothesis deserves investigation?

    • waetherman says:

      I think the correct conclusion is that God’s existence is proven by this experiment because it shows that other packages reach their destinations because God watches over them, whereas he doesn’t bother with the Atheist ones. QED!

      • Peter Silk says:

        Yes, I’ve always thought it was a little unfortunate that God doesn’t have the ability to see inside boxes and has to rely on the labelling.

        • waetherman says:

          He can see in the boxes just fine – in fact that’s why he gets the packages where they need to be, because he knows the sender, the recipient and the contents in one perfective glance! 

          Remember; there but for the grace of God, ship I.

      • oasisob1 says:

        Thank you for beating me to it. And definitely we need to send out packages emblazoned with Jesus is Lord! to see if they reach their destinations more often, faster, etc

  5. David Perry says:

    I was skeptical of their conclusion but then saw they performed statistical analysis to verify this was unlikely to occur by chance. I almost shed a tear of joy. Those guys are alright. I want to buy shoes from them.

  6. Sagitarriutt Jefferspin says:

    When you control the mail, you control… INFORMATION.

  7. PhosPhorious says:

    Atheist shoes?  Who wants shoes without soles. . . ?

  8. Michael D says:

    Hey, at least we mostly all wear shoes now. It wasn’t always that way!

  9. Jake0748 says:

    The USPS, CHRIST, what a bunch of assholes. 

  10. I feel their pain if they’re getting shit-rolled for having an atheist brand, but man, atheist shoes make about as much fucking sense as the Book of Genesis.

  11. Maybe they thought it said “A THEIST”

  12. Stephan says:

    Maybe the one who took the shoes was ….. GOD!

  13. Brainspore says:

    Maybe the Christian shoes get lost too, but they find themselves again through the power and mercy of Jesus. (That’s Jesus Sanchez, warehouse worker.)

  14. ImmutableMichael says:

    They need pictures of babies on them, according to this…

    http://boingboing.net/2009/07/12/baby-pictures-in-los.html

  15. Moshe Feder says:

    If this is true, the employees responsible are violating Federal law and ought to be fired and prosecuted.

    With regard to religion, believe or not as you please, but the neutrality of the mails is sacred.

    • retchdog says:

      the mail is not neutral. technically, obscene material may not be sent.

      it is illegal to send mail if “to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.” of course, atheist shoes don’t meet this requirement.

  16. Kevin Pierce says:

    I now know how to mail something (getting a receipt and tracking number for it) which I DO NOT WISH TO ACTUALLY ARRIVE!

  17. rocketpj says:

    Is it possible that USPS workers want really cool shoes and can identify same by the tape?

    I’d love to see some more text-on-tapes to see what works and what gets snarfed.

  18. Petzl says:

    €129.00?  For bowling shoes, albeit atheist ones?

    Nein, danke.

    • Christopher says:

      A guy I knew in college got a pair of bowling shoes for the price of a pair of old worn-out sneakers he didn’t want anymore. All he had to do was wear the sneakers when he went out bowling.

  19. retepslluerb says:

    Perhaps the gods needs new shoes, intercept the packages and pass on those that do not fit after trying them out. Except Hermes, go course.

    Yahweh probably doesn’t bother, being a sandal type.

  20. Curies says:

    Prejudice can be an expensive and exhausting thing to prove, sending test applicants after a person of the “wrong” color or gender has been told the job or the apartment was taken “20 minutes ago.”  I recall reading of a study done on what percentage of letters addressed to “Communist Party of the US” were delivered (to a PO box that the entity doing the study controlled).  I’ve got a clipping – yes, a clipping – of coverage on a nationwide chain store asking religious questions of jobseekers. We must fight prejudice, even when not directly concerned, as Niemoller so eloquently pointed out (as someone who wore a cross ’til I was 12 and started thinking for myself, I recommend Bertrand Russell’s Best). If people are so certain there’s something waiting for them up there on a cloud, “why aren’t mailboxes bursting with party invitations to celebrate impending eternity in paradise?” I don’t see any clouds. “It’s your superstition, not mine.” Yes, as Twain said, state the truth and be lonely. 

  21. peregrinus says:

    Don’t necessarily conclude that the USPS are bigoted.  They may just have been cursing their orthodox Christian footwear, and found a fountain of lovely irreligious shoes.

    I bet you can read “Darwin Loves” in the dust all over their faciliities.

  22. Nell Anvoid says:

    That’ll teach the godless heathens to use FedEx next time.

  23. Mark Crane says:

    Vastly greater numbers of religious people in the US are evangelistic than in Europe. I live in the US, and many of the religious people I meet truly believe atheists are bad people and a threat to their religious security.  It is common sense that, working in the post office–a job that requires little education to attain, so it’s a good job to go after for a person who, say, has only read the Bible—they do things to mess with packages that have such tape, and in doing so they think they are making a little blessed evangelistic act.
    Now, someone needs to mail shoes with “atheist” tape, “Jesus Loves You” tape, and tape that says “package,” and see what happens.

    • Ito Kagehisa says:

       Having at one time applied for postal work, and having several friends who’ve made a career of the USPS (Hi Chort!) I can attest that it’s actually pretty hard to get a job there (unless you’re a veteran).  They aren’t making a habit of hiring people who have no education beyond reading the Bible.

  24. frogmarch says:

    And when there was only one pair of shoes at the post office, my son, that was when I carried you.

  25. $2190209 says:

    Considering the inefficiency of the USPS, it’s a wonder any of them got delivered

  26. Has anyone considered that the problem may lie within the shipping department at Atheist Shoes and not the USPS?  Perhaps the individual preparing the package labels has dyslexia, hence the difficulty in delivering on time.  Awww…who am I kidding?  God doesn’t want them delivered on time. 

  27. I wonder how much GPS trackers would cost, to try this out in more detail.

  28. allenmcbride says:

    Anyone interested in replicating this? Shouldn’t be hard with a bunch of postcards, in identical pairs sent from the same mailboxes at the same times, each with nothing but the addresses and the words “ATHEIST” or “CHRISTIAN” written carefully in large letters. We could collect each others’ addresses by e-mail, and each of us agree to send a dozen postcards to a random subset of the others.

  29. Bodhipaksa says:

    If you want your mail to be seriously messed up, emblazon it with stickers saying “fragile.” A statue I mailed to someone recently — packed in foam peanuts, inside a box which was itself packed in foam peanuts, inside a second box — arrived damaged at both the top and the bottom, with something having penetrated all the way to the inside. 
    Of course the outer box said “buddha statue” so that might have been a factor as well. 

    The replacement has been sent with insurance.

    • Felton / Moderator says:

      If you meet the Buddha statue package on the road, kill it.

    • Rohyp Gnosis says:

      I had to chip in on this one… My first job was on the counter at the Post Office, (one of the diligent, customer-focused, polite ones I hasten to add!), and now run a couple of online businesses.  My recommendation:

      NEVER draw attention to any package in any way whatsoever, whether that be via branding, fancy handwriting, etc. …and ESPECIALLY fragile stickers!! Anything other than a plain package risks it being a trigger for some Neanderthal to vent their ignorant frustrations on! (n.b. No disrespect intended to our Hominid cousins).

      n.b. I can well believe Atheist Shoes have experienced a problem! I shall not consider it proved until I see the data… but my money is on there having been a problem!

  30. Ryan Lenethen says:

    I mean the obvious conclusion is that God doesn’t care about Atheist packages… 

  31. Now I know to package my ABORTION COOKIES discreetly when mailing! 

  32. Rick Adams says:

    On a similar note, my Amazon account name is something to the effect of: warrior4christ.

    Honestly, I should record some of the insanely polite customer service calls I’ve had.

  33. agonist says:

    The one thing atheists and Christians often have in common is a persecution complex.

  34. It would be interesting to run the A/B test against privately run shipping companies vs government run mail. I bet the profit motive outweighs people’s irrational discrimination in the private sector.

  35. Lisa Googling says:

    I meant to add that other destinations need to be tested, say Kazakhstan or North Korea.  But, then, that highlights another variable!  We’re testing only English speakers!!!  We’d have to have the label in all languages….?!

  36. Use UPS or FEDEX instead. Government workers get bored easily and look for ways to mess with people!!

  37. Jason Harris says:

    And where is the substance behind this made-up firefight?

  38. Sparafucile says:

    Don’t complain!  PROFIT !!

    For packages you want your customer to receive, send them in unadorned packaging.

    But FOR ADDED INCOME, sent each actual customer an Atheist-Tape box with a cheap thank-you gift inside — but insure the box for BIG $$$.

    Your customers will appreciate the gift if it reaches them, and you reap the $$$ when it doesn’t.

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