Keeping Cash Out of the Mail

By on October 15, 2012 in Current Events with 5 Comments

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) recently introduced legislation to prohibit federal agencies from sending cash in mass postal mail communications, including surveys where cash is included for the benefit for the responder.

The act, known as the Survey Savings Accountability Act, was introduced in response to what Tipton calls a “blatant waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

“My mother always said, ‘don’t put cash in the mail – it could get lost, and you’ll never see it again,'” said Tipton.

Some federal agencies currently use cash in mailings to entice responses to opinion surveys.

One particular instance which apparently captured Tipton’s attention was a survey conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation in 2011. The agency sent a survey to solicit local, regional and national input on the societal need to remove four privately owned dams on the Klamath River. It was mailed to 11,000 households in California, Oregon and selected households in the rest of the nation. Each of these households received a postcard telling them a survey was coming, and then a large packet with the survey arrived. Each packet included a cover letter, postage-paid return envelope and survey with a $2 bill included to encourage people to respond, a total of $22,000 taxpayer dollars distributed with the mailings.

Those who did not respond, but kept the $2 bill anyway, then received a follow-up Federal Express or Priority Mail package. These packages were sent to 1,245 people, out of which 286 responded. Each of these 286 respondents was given $20, which means that an additional $5,720 of American taxpayer dollars were spent -– not including the cost of the FedEx or priority mail.

One respondent didn’t bother taking the survey, but sent a reply back, stating, “Wow, what a waste of time. I have neither the time or interest in something I have not a clue about happening clear across the country. Sorry. P.S. Thanks for the 2 bucks.”

Tipton stated, “Enticing responders with cash to gather objective public opinion data raises questions about the quality of that data. Washington doesn’t need to pay people to get a sense of public opinion on an issue. When Americans are passionate about something there is abundantly free feedback.”

© 2016 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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