How many of my tax dollars –

    – have been spent telling us about the Census?

    They’ve been bombarding us with commercials on radio and TV for months now — I would not be surprised if they’ve run ads in print media too — is it even remotely possible that anyone had not heard that the Census was coming, and they need our response?

    I shudder to think about the costs incurred in mass media efforts at providing advance warning/awareness-building.

    But hey, it must be working, because I remember about the census. I know they want me to respond right away. Gotcha. Message received, thanks. You can shut up now.

    Then about 2 weeks ago, I came home, and flipped on the TV while I went through my mail. And one of those commercials came on. So there was literally a “census is coming” reminder playing in the background, as I opened a letter with markings telling me it was regarding the census. “Well, here it is,” I thought, ” I can fill it out right now, and be done with it.”

    But not so. It was a letter reminding me that the census is coming, and that it’s important that I fill it out and return it.

    That’s right: I received a reminder by mail, while I was hearing a reminder on TV.

    I received a reminder by mail, to tell me to open my mail. But not this mail. The mail that’s coming soon.


    I try to wrap my mind around a reminder letter going out to every address in the US. The trees that died for this mailing. The costs… paper, ink, handling and postage.

    To remind me that it’s coming.

    Ow ow ow.

    A week later, to the day, I got my census form and reply envelope. Like most people, I got the short form. Which means about 10 very simple questions per person.

    Then there’s this weird thing: they want this information about who is/was living in my household as of April 1. It was mid-March. Did they want me to just assume that nothing here would change in the next two weeks? (I can make a highly reasonable and educated guess about who and how many people will be living here on April 1, but I’m not clairvoyant.) Or did they want me to hold it until April 1 to mail it in, rather than risk sending them potentially false information to this oh-so-important inquiry?

    Yeah, OK. Fine. So I think they should have mailed the thing a little closer to the “info” date, but whatever. This is just my tax dollars at work; things don’t have to make sense, right?

    Just by the way, I also think that there’s no earthly reason, in this day and age, that I can’t log in to a secure site somewhere and answer these 10 very basic questions and have them recorded, rather than the unnecessary expense of return postage and handling and response scanning for every single one of these. Sure, that won’t work for everyone, but for a lot of us… maybe even most of us… it would seem like a no-brainer.

    Maybe that’s just me?

    But wait, it gets better. The postcard reminder. Did you get the postcard reminder, telling you to send your census form back, in case you STILL weren’t clear of the expectation? Did you, like me, think about the paper and the ink and the postage all over again, for this to go to every household in the US?

    I got mine about 2 days after my census arrived. With that timing, it’s not even like it’s a “we still didn’t get yours back” thing. What is the purpose of this? Look, if the point is to keep it top-of-mind so people don’t procrastinate, there’s already enough reminders out there. And if someone threw away the actual census form, which came in a very clearly and officially-marked envelope, they probably aren’t going to suddenly realize the importance and go fishing it back out of the trash because of this postcard.

    Oh. My. Goodness.

    Eventually, of course, they will have to put feet on the street. And because of the super cost-efficient approach used to date, I have no doubt that in about a month or so, I’ll have someone at my door asking me about information I’ll have already mailed in.

    So, anyway, when you get your census form, fill it out and send it back, OK? Maybe if they get them all back pretty soon, they can stop wasting money chasing us down.