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USPS Discrimination Against Atheism?

USPS Discrimination Against Atheism?

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Comments (169)

    3:15 pm on 29/03/13 AtheistShoes
    EPILOGUE 2: It’s 3 days now since we published this page and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response. Thank you to everyone who commented, emailed, or shared. And thank you for bearing with us on Wednesday, as our website slowed to snail-mail pace, due to so many visitors. For those wondering what USPS have made of this, we still await a response, though we have asked them if they would like to assist us in replicating / extending the research. It would be really cool of them if they did help us with that, as they only stand to benefit from a more expansive study. Many of you have asked sound questions about our experimental design and the background to the experiment, and we have tried to answer as many questions as we can in the comments below. However, there is a good deal of thinking and data that could not be squeezed into the infographic above (thankfully science does not operate by a process of peer-reviewed infographics!) and we are hoping to include much greater detail on the study in a paper to be submitted to a peer reviewed social psychological journal. A Professor from a leading US University has offered to assist us in the write up of this research, along with the implementation and funding of further research, for which we are very grateful. This first research was conducted on a tiny budget, without the expectation that we would find such significant results and also without the expectation that it would attract so much attention. Hindsight is 20-20 and we regret now that we didn’t invest a little more money to incorporate tracking, ideally GPS given the recent ineffectiveness of USPS tracking, and also one or two more conditions, to control for the factor of writing-on-tape vs no-writing-on-tape. We will implement these enhancements in the next replication, should the experiment still be viable post all the coverage. As for challenges that the absence of tracking or an additional worded tape condition might undermine the validity of our results, or our conclusion, we refer you to our responses in the comments below. To summarise, we don’t believe that USPS tracking would have enhanced the study as it has in our experience proven to be unreliable and time-insensitive in recent months. The one question it might help resolve, is whether the perceived bias occurred in US Customs or in USPS centers. At the same time, we are confident this question has been adequately addresses by pre-experimental controls showing an insignificant incidence of US Customs selecting our packages for inspection in a previous 600 shipments to the US. Based on what we have done, the factor of worded tape is difficult to eliminate entirely as a potential explanatory variable for the delays, the hypothesis being that the more noticeable nature of worded packing tape creates a perceptual bias that leads to greater selection of these packages for additional checks. However, our controls in Europe did evidence packages with worded tape traveling at the same speed as neutral taped packages, which would suggest there is no effect of the mere presence of words. And, if it were the case that worded tape led to a higher rate of selection for more intense processing (and we’d imagine USPS would be wiser to employ a randomized process of selection for additional checks) the additional scrutiny of worded packages resulting from a perceptual bias, is unlikely to explain the absolute disappearance of these packages, such as we have seen in or findings. Specially scrutinized packages should ordinarily return to the postal system, and eventually be delivered. But for packages to disappear completely, we see no likely explanation other than there existing an attitudinal bias and discriminatory motivation on the part of some people handling these packages. Nonetheless, thank you to everyone who pointed out the benefit of an additional worded-tape control and we look forward to having that next time round. For the time being we’re going to close the facility to leave comments on this page as we’re finding it hard to keep up with answering everyone, when there’s already a lot of repetition of questions and answers in the below. But we will be posting updates here, including our plans for further research, which we would like to keep as open source as possible. In the mean time, we can be contacted about the study at Thanks once again! ATHEIST Shoes
    2:58 pm on 29/03/13 Charles Goodnight
    As a sometimes statistician I can say that the experiment was done as correctly as can be reasonably expected. One could argue that the recipients should have been selected randomly, but the information was not about the recipients but the shipping. There is no question that packages marked "atheist" took significantly longer to arrive and were significantly more likely to be lost. We are not given the statistics on the comparative countries, but given the quality of the analyses I am inclined to believe there is no bias in other countries. As to WHY the USPS takes longer to deliver atheist packages and is more likely to lose them, this study does not address this. I have to believe that it is reasonable speculation that it is something that happens either in transit from Europe or once it arrives in the US. Thinking that it is a problem with the USPS is not at all unreasonable. I thought this was supposed to be the land of the free. With this sort of information I tell myself that this country DOES discriminate on religious affiliation, and I become ashamed to call myself an American.
    2:57 pm on 29/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Jonathan, thanks for your comment. Please read our own comments below as we address your thoughts quite specifically. We assume a "likelihood" and say that we would like to conduct further research. We have also tried to find out what happened but have received no response from USPS. And we have spoken about our desire for replication with an additional worded tape condition. But as we outline below, the variable of worded tape by non-worded (ignoring the ATHEIST factor) is highly unlikely to have accounted for the complete disappearance of so many packages. Our reasonable conclusion is that it would take a something deeper than a perceptual bias, actually an attitudinal bias, to create the necessary motivation to lose these packages. Not to mention that there are daily precedents for packages with non-address wording on them passing through the postal system without delay. I take issue with your accusing us of looking for a specific result... we set out with our social sciences training to look for confirmation of the null hypothesis. But we are atheists and we cannot side-step that. Just as many of comments on this page come from people with their own undeclared biases... unfortunately, or fortunately, we're all of us biased in some way.
    2:40 pm on 29/03/13 Jonathan
    While I am all for "mail equality", this "test" seems very flawed. I would start out by pointing out that this test was clearly run but a self-interested group looking for a specific result... so there was bias from the start and throughout. The bigger issue is you've assumed a causal relationship with no further investigation into the exact reasons the Atheist packages took longer, and instead made an assumption of the reason (based on your previously mentioned initial bias). So you have two packages... one covered with tape with text all over it.... and the other lacking all that extra text... going through multiple different machines in different countries that are programmed to read text on packages to try and determine delivery locations. And of course the packages with all the extra non-essential text took longer to reach those locations. Hmmmm.... The opposite of Atheist is not blank. It is either "Religious" or "Christian" or something of that nature. Had the plain packages had tape bearing that writing all over it, you may have had a more accurate outcome.
    1:41 pm on 29/03/13 Sara
    Congratulations on a great experiment! The findings are disappointing, but not surprising - prejudices against atheists are widely held in the US and it’s inevitable that an organisation like USPS will have some employees with untoward attitudes and behaviour. The unfortunate thing is that a small minority in a privileged position can have a major impact. I think your conclusion of a “likelihood of discrimination” is sound, though I would look forward to the follow-up as it would be interesting to know more about the nature and extent of any bias. Thanks for posting!
    12:55 pm on 29/03/13 David Bonney
    USPS employee, I refer you to the mails below. Our shipments have only ever been passed from DHL to the USPS. If USPS have then decided to sub-contract these packages to another company, then they remain responsible for this shipping. Though I find it highly likely in this snail-mail experiment that they have done so. Also see my comments about customs: evidence in 600 previous shipments we had was that US Customs only selected to hold back our packages about 1% of the time... really not significant enough a frequency to have had a major impact. And again, for the sake of balance, your comments are at odds with comments from other USPS employees below. Ultimately, by saying that we will control even better for various factors in the future does not negate the validity of the findings and conclusions above...replication and refinement of experimental design is how science is supposed to work.
    12:46 pm on 29/03/13 David Bonney
    Alan, I think you would like there to have been a confirmation bias.... as one other commenter wrote, there seems a great defensiveness in many of the comments, as well as a little sensationalism... perhaps understandable given strongly held attitudes on this topic. but we went into this study expecting to have the null hypothesis confirmed. Actually we thought our customers who were pleading with us not to use atheist tape for fear of losing their packages or being discriminating against locally were over-reacting and we expected to see evidence that the tape was innocuous, with the missing packages being explained by poor postal service vs prejudice.
    4:47 am on 29/03/13 Alan
    It's confirmation bias. You are neglecting to gather information that could tell against your conclusion. There is an obvious difference between impartially evaluating evidence in order to come to an unbiased conclusion and building a case to justify a conclusion already drawn. I won't say what your impressions were of atheist discrimination in the U.S. , but I'm hesitant to believe that you were, as you described, "startled" by your results.
    4:41 am on 29/03/13 USPS Employee
    i don't think you understand how tracking works then. i have ordered many items from overseas that shows up on usps tracking. doesn't mean usps has it. there are items that are drop shipments from OnTrac, UPS, FedEx, etc that shows up on usps tracking. doesn't mean usps has it. maybe you should start with the "basics" on how usps works, or any other carrier for that matter, before pointing the finger. i understand i'm arguing on the side of usps rather than the "issue" of packages not being delivered due to your packaging tape, but assuming that it is narrowed down to one carrier over another is quite unfair. i personally have received drop shipments from other carriers (stacked on pallets) where the package was EMPTY, yet it shows they dropped it off (and subsequently we get blamed for it because it was "dropped off" by the other carrier). i just find it hard to believe that someone would pin it down to one company and make them look bad. i am an atheist. i do not discriminate against anyone's packaging, no matter how ridiculously religious is it. we don't have time to pick through stuff to decide we don't want to deliver it. and your "experiment" has MANY FLAWS. for you to assume items travel at the same speed is ridiculous. items sent together do NOT travel together unless they are tied together at the hip. items don't always leave customs at the same time, just because they get there at the same time. you are making many assumptions about things that you, as someone who doesn't work for usps, does not know. we hear it all the time. items within the states don't always arrive at the same time or date just because they were sent together. i work with highly religious nutjobs who want to talk to me about "god" on a regular basis (because they know i'm atheist), but they won't risk their jobs over a package that says "atheist" on it. get real.
    4:22 am on 29/03/13 Medb Riley
    As an atheist living in America, I can absolutely believe that what you say is true, and that the rationalizations others on this page have offered are exactly that. Atheists are treated like shit in America. No matter how you change your experiment, X-ians will find some fault. I know what I know.
    4:22 am on 29/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Bbop, we'd love to do it again with worded tape... if we can run it again without this exposure having spoiled the experiment, we will. Kris, the timing of the postage would have nothing to do with it as all the packages traveled at the same time and both conditions would have been equally affected by any seasonal delays. And malclave, tracking with usps was too expensive for us this time out - but frankly it wouldn't have helped, usps tracking has been unreliable for months now, often updated weeks after a shipping event, if at all. It would have told us very little.
    4:17 am on 29/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Alan, we've said from the off that we'd like to replicate the study - that's good scientific practice, the very act of challenging one's own findings. And adding an additional worded tape control would improve the experimental design. But few experiments cannot be improved with additional controls and none of these considerations render the above findings less robust. We have a statistically significant bias and and we of course stand by our conclusion that the most likely and parsimonious explanation for that bias is personal prejudice, whilst a far less likely scenario is that the hypothesised greater selection for checks of packages with worded tape on them vs neutral (which would be bad practice for a system that should perform random checks) is leading to the absolute disappearance of these packages - it simply does not make sense... those selected packages would return to the system if there was no deeper attitudinal bias in play, alongside a possible perceptual one. We welcome strong critiques and suggestions that would improve our design for a replication / expansion of the study... critique and challenges are the lifeblood of science (which I must add we are practicing here as laymen!). Not all of those critiques are sound, but many are. All the same, we feel satisfied with the great amounts of positive feedback our study has received from social scientists and statisticians alike, both before and since we posted this page, and none we've talked to have felt that our conclusion of a likelihood of personal prejudice is unreasonable.
    4:01 am on 29/03/13 Kris
    I'm surprised no one mentioned that these parcels were mailed right before Thanksgiving (an American holiday that shuts down most businesses, including the Post Office). I'm more inclined to believe it was customs, but mailing right before a holiday, and during the big Christmas mailing season, is deceptive. Might want to try again.
    3:12 am on 29/03/13 malclave
    Did you use to track your packages? If there is an issue, that might help identify it... if this is really something more than a marketing ploy on your part.
    2:55 am on 29/03/13 Bbop
    At first glance this is shocking... but... I want to see an experiment where other phrases are tested. I'm willing to bet if it has tape that some Christian message it's going to get delayed/lost too. Lets not rush to judgement.
    2:40 am on 29/03/13 Alan
    Many of the comments pointed out one obvious way your study could be improved. You admitted this could only help your experiment. I wonder then, why you didn't write any other tape messages to begin with? It's also curious that, in spite of fully recognizing the added value of additional controls, you don't seem to keen on challenging your own finding. To the contrary, you seem fully satisfied with your findings.
    2:25 am on 29/03/13 Lou Covey
    Russ, Haven't heard too many atheists being beaten up in parking lots out side of bars, so I'm having a hard time accepting that atheists are the new gays.
    1:54 am on 29/03/13 Warren Bonesteel
    Some people don't understand why so much of the world hates christians. Gee. Go figure... Because you keep doing things like this, that's why. Things that are in total opposition to what your own holy book tells you to do. It's ok when you do it, but it's mean and sinful when anyone else does it? Really... If love is not easily offended, then why are you so offended over so many things? Packing tape is now offensive, fer cryin' out loud? In short, you're doing that christian thing all wrong, and everyone but you knows it.
    1:17 am on 29/03/13 malclave
    It's probably just an act of God.
    1:11 am on 29/03/13 Russ
    I'm not surprised at all. Discrimination against atheists is much worse than even against gays. In addition, it's that word itself. It's simply toxic, way more than the actual idea is. Describing your nonbelief in another way (freethinker,agnostic, etc) has become the norm because of it. This doesn't sound like a systematic USPS problem. It's the individual employees. I think the world is changing too rapidly for some of them to handle, and they see 'those faceless atheists' as the ones responsible for everything they hate about modern America. I guess at that point one could easily excuse himself a little petty larceny.
    12:28 am on 29/03/13 Lou Covey
    Just for reference, we have very unreliable mail service where I live. Going out seems to be fine, but inbound mail, even from a couple dozen miles away can be delayed up to six weeks... especially if a check is coming in. We have switched to electronic transfers, Fedex and UPS when something is important. Amazingly enough, mail from Europe can arrive in three days while it can take a minimum of a week to arrive from Los Angeles.
    12:22 am on 29/03/13 ChrisM
    So many commenters seem to be defensive and challenging. The reality here, is that U.S. customers receive their packages later, in large part due to the atheist brand tape. Accept the results as they are. It's not a science paper. It's real life. And something fishy is going on with USPS.
    12:16 am on 29/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Good thought statsgerard! Indeed, the packages with tracking labels look quite different and I'm sure someone would think twice before tampering with them. We have still managed to lose a few of those in our time, but not at the rates in this study (worth stressing that our overall loss rates since we started the business are quite a bit lower than the rate of loss in this study, but then we've used ATHEIST packing tape on only about one third of all shipments).
    11:34 pm on 28/03/13 statsgerard
    Several people have suggested tracking the packages as an improvement to the experiment. Keep in mind that this will change the experiment. One can imagine, for example, a saboteur who is secretly "losing" the Atheist packages would be reluctant to do so to a package sporting a tracking number. For the results to be comparable to the first experiment the tracked package would have to be indistinguishable from a "normal" one.
    10:37 pm on 28/03/13 ChrisM
    If you were shipping guns, I'm sure they'd arrive right on time.
    10:30 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Hey Tim, we're working on that... just ordered a big batch :)
    10:13 pm on 28/03/13 Tim Wright
    Hi there, How can I buy your atheist packing tape? It's awesome. Tim
    10:07 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Hear hear K. We're completely open to the criticism. The three of us who ran this study have a background in experimental social science and we're conscious that the serious criticism is healthy and in most cases well-founded. It is somewhat frustrating that the thoroughness of our thinking and approach could not be completely squeezed into an infographic (e.g. our taking into account previous date on the rate at which US customs captures our packages) but we'll get to that when we write it up. Also frustrating that our budget didn't let us do it as expansively as we'd like, but (if we can figure out how to replicate without awareness of the present study being a problem) then we will probably have some more funding... e.g. a Social Psychologist in the US will collaborate with us and has access to funding, and we'd certainly like to get some financial support form USPS. Once we have their response, we'll open the research design to the likes of yourself and keep the whole thing open source throughout. Speaking of which, we'll be putting our data up shortly...
    10:02 pm on 28/03/13 K
    Also, I forgot to mention, I am very sympathetic to your budget constraints. You are a shoe company, not a well funded university lab. Again, all of these criticisms are meant in the spirit of collegial cooperation, not insult.
    9:58 pm on 28/03/13 K
    My gut instinct says that the majority of the ATHEIST labels that were waylaid, were waylaid because of malicious discrimination. But gut instinct, arguments to authority, and anecdotal support do not science make. The general accuracy of your findings are probably sound, but because you used controls the way you did and that the USPS and her employees are on alert, the precision and repeat-ability of the study are in question. That is to say, I really want to know how many of these packages were waylaid because it was unusual generally, and how many because of the label in particular, and so on. Its not enough to have a general notion that some employees on the chain have a bias, I would like to be able to start to quantify that bias precisely and accurately, and I know you do to, because you did so! While you may think that certain factors are innocuous or unlikely, your biases aren't scientific! They're just your thoughts and reasoning. The whole point of having a study is to put good numbers on all of that. I offer all of these criticisms in the spirit of treating you seriously, which means serious criticism. If you want to put hard numbers on something and claim the mantle of science, you invite at least all of the criticism I can muster, and more.
    9:56 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Bill & others, we understand the questions about the experimental design are coming from sensible places... and we'd love to include your thoughts in how we design the follow-up study. Will think on a forum for that and let you all know when we have it.
    9:47 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Kessy, we did, and we're hopeful of an open and interested response as we'd like to do further research with their help. For now, however, their only response has been this automated one.. "Thank you for contacting the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General Hotline. The OIG Hotline was established to provide stakeholders, US Postal Service employees, and the American public with a confidential means of reporting incidences of suspicious activity to the OIG concerning fraud, waste, abuse, and misconduct within the US Postal Service. While we can’t guarantee we can recover lost money or items, your information can help alert Investigators to problem areas and possibly prevent others from being victimized. Your concern has been received and documented in our database. If additional information is necessary, someone will contact you."
    9:45 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Bill, asking for further details vs jumping to the assumption of something being seriously flawed is the better course of action... of course further data lies behind the study. Re Customs... I do understand why people are asking, but as I've said, our data on that (and data rules over people's occasional horrid experiences of customs) just doesn't bear it out as a factor worth giving major attention to. And regarding the tape, indeed, we can't wait to introduce further controls into our next study... but do you really think the arguably more eye-catching nature of packages in one condition, potentially leading them to get selected for more thorough processing, is the most likely explanation we have for the complete & permanent disappearance of packages in that condition? And do you think the USPS would be wise to have a system that chooses the most eye-catching packages for inspection? If I was trying to get something illicit into the US, I would use the most innocuous packaging possible.
    9:36 pm on 28/03/13 kessy_athena
    Have you guys sent your results to the USPS directly? I imagine the USPS Office of the Inspector General might be interested in this.
    9:35 pm on 28/03/13 Bill Logan
    My judgment of your study being "seriously flawed" was dependent on there not being more to the study than what you've put in the infographic. As it is, I look forward to seeing the complete published study. As for your being able to talk about a likely bias in attitudes against atheists on the part of staff in US Customs, that's more questionable. It's why people raised the issues of what words and lettering were on the packaging tape. If packages are being selected for inspection, is a package more likely to be selected if it has no markings or if it has markings of any sort? That's why the issue of the words on the packaging tape matters. As it is, a more precise conclusion from what you've reported (again, without seeing the actual academic study) is that people in the United States experience quicker delivery of international shipments when those shipments are sent in plain brown packages versus packages with noticeable external markings. You haven't actually isolated an "atheist" variable. And there are reasons based on experience for why many people in the comments are more inclined to blame US Customs than the US Postal Service. Do you yourself not often receive international shipments in Germany? Or is customs in Germany a marvel of efficiency?
    9:30 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    USPS Employee, I don't want to repeat what's in the comments below... see our points about customs, and the handover from DHL to USPS. As far as we know, the flights are on DHL planes and, in our experience of shipments we have sent with tracking, USPS tracking takes over as soon as the package is on US soil, even before it enters customs. As I say, we concede customs is not USPS, but we've seen such a small, insignificant amount of our packages enter into customs in the past, that we really don't think that is a variable worth worrying about.
    9:23 pm on 28/03/13 USPS Employee
    how far did your packages get? can you even say it made it into the USPS mail stream? Customs is NOT the postal service. we do not have our own airplanes. we use commercial airlines, who have employees that are NOT usps employees. if your packages are coming from overseas, MANY other organizations have their hands on it before it gets to usps. your "study" needs more research.
    9:10 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    USPS employee, please read comments below... you have colleagues who disagree with you. Sorry the study appears to be kicking your organisation when it's down... we are very fond of the postal service and hate to see its decline... and we of course see this as a case of a few bad apples vs something institutional in the USPS.
    9:08 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Hey Bill, see our comments below.... as you conclude for yourself, there's a lot more that we have chosen not to squeeze into this infographic (e.g. detail concerning controls, no we didn't just receive no complaints) but which will be present in the academic write-up (which is being handled by a Prof of Social Psych at a respected US university). "Seriously Flawed"? Quite a strong statement, and not as all in line with the thoughts of statisticians and academic scientists we've presented the research too.... all of whom see it as robust enough to publish. Of course we could improve the design and make it even more robust and we hope to do so in a replication. The customs question is the trickiest one I concede... very tricky to separate the two government agencies without tracking. But tracking is also incredibly unreliable and we couldn't justify the cost of it just for that one question. What we can point to, however, is the number of packages that have ended up in customs in more than 600 other shipments we have sent to the US in recent months, and they don't number more than 5 or 6 (sorry, top of mind right now, but we deemed it so small a frequency as to not be too significant enough a factor in the 178 packages). Strictly, we can talk about a likely bias in attitudes towards atheists on the part of staff in USPS / US customs... but our findings remain startling.
    9:05 pm on 28/03/13 USPS Employee
    this is stupid. i work for USPS. we don't read each and every package tape or markings. we look at addresses. that's it. i am an atheist. if any packages come up "missing," that employee would have to take it. if they take it, they WILL get caught. we are watched all the time, without notice. if some "loving christian" wants to steal, they will burn in that place their loving god created for people that aren't "his" sheep. don't blame the usps as a whole. there are shady people in every business.
    8:50 pm on 28/03/13 Bill Logan
    Interesting, but as others are pointing out to you, your experiment was seriously flawed (unless there's much more to the "study" that you aren't revealing for some reason). As others have pointed out, the shipment chain isn't DHL to US Postal Service; the shipment chain is DHL to US Customs (ICE) to US Postal Service. You wrote that all the packages had customs labels, but that doesn't mean the packages will automatically bypass US Customs. US Customs always has the right to inspect any package sent to the US. From my experience receiving international shipments, US Customs is likely the source of your problems, not the US Postal Service. At a minimum, you would need to do this experiment with three sets of packages (with tape saying "ATHEIST", with tape saying another word like "ATHLETE", and with plain tape). It should also be done domestically as well as internationally. Finally, you mentioned "control scenarios" with packages sent to other non-EU countries like Canada and New Zealand. Did you actually do this experiment with all packages going to those countries, or was your "control" just that you've never gotten many complaints from them?
    8:39 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    K, check out comments below on that point... it's true it would be a better experimental design to have a third or even fourth experimental condition like that, sadly beyond our budget in this first instance, but it far from undermines our findings. It's an unreasonable conclusion, far from the most parsimonious, that the mere presence of words would have led to the disappearance of so many packages, when heavily worded and branded packaging daily passes through the postal system with nothing like the delay and disappearance rates we're reporting. I think the study is imperfect, and we do want to replicate it, but respected statisticians and academics who we've run this study past believe that our conclusion of a "likelihood" of personal prejudice impacting delivery times is robust, and it will be submitted for peer review, alongside the more expansive replication we hope to make. CJ, there are indeed other variables and we'd love to replicate to control for all, though we think we did a reasonable job in this first study. USPS is the only carrier that DHL (German post) hands over to in the US and, if USPS decided to further hand over the shipping to other third parties, then it doesn't exempt them from responsibility. All 178 packages left the same post office in Berlin, on the same day, and these shipments (we know from previous tracked shipments) always leave by plane from Frankfurt, and usually to one disembarcation point in the US. Unfortunately, tracking woulöd be no good as USPS tracking is deeply unreliable, often only being updated days or weeks after the event, if at all. GPS trackers, on the other hand, would be sweet :)
    8:16 pm on 28/03/13 K
    I think the controls are flawed in the experiment design. If I understand correctly, one set of packages had no label, and the other one had an ATHEIST label. This is like testing with lab rats where one side gets nothing and the other gets the experimental chemical. Instead, you need to give the first rat saline, or in this case, package the box with a tape that says something else. Of course, now that the experiment is reported, further repeats will be spoiled, but I think you can have a series of taped packages that say GODLESS; HUMANIST; CONTROL; CHRISTIAN; SHOES and so on in the same style and see if it is the word atheist or its close associates that are being handled or rather having a label with a type identifier on them.
    8:13 pm on 28/03/13 CJ
    Just so yo know, long haul carrying of posts and packages has been turned over to 3rd party carriers such as Fed Ex, UPS and others. Over seas shipments may see packages shipped same day to same address split as room availability on any flight or ship is not unlimited. If one DOES happen to go by air and the other by sea you will see weeks difference in time to destination. Also, two flights may enter the U.S. at different airports, again causing shifts in delivery time. Not to mention that the USPS has had to curtail services due to being forced forced fund retirement 75 years out. As well, we have had some pretty major winter storms in the northeast U.S. this year. So, there are many variables to take into account beyond the USPS. Just sayin. P.S. Try sending them with tracking numbers and you will see the route the package takes and how long it stays at each stop.
    7:35 pm on 28/03/13 Johnny C Note
    I mean seriously, what is up with the caveman riding the dinosaur in your illustration? The razor wire fence with the guard tower on the border with Canada? I can just picture the smack talking going on in your offices, usually beginning with "Dumme Amerikaner." Real original, guys. Congrats on sinking to the same level of ignorance and subjective bias that you most undoubtedly claim to stand against.
    7:25 pm on 28/03/13 Johnny C Note
    no doubt a lot of people in the USA are wacked out in the head. The USPS is comprised of a certain percentage of these people. We have a lot of religious zealots here. I wouldn't blame USPS as a whole so much as certain fanatical people who work at different points along the way who deliberately screwed with the packages. Some were probably "offended" and threw them away when no one was looking, thinking they were doing their godly duty, others probably singled the packages out for closer inspection (in some cases probably in complete ignorance of what atheist actually means, confusing it with something else entirely), and some may have actually taken them home to see what was inside. Not a revelatory experiment. What did it prove? People in the USA are F-ed up. Wow. Anyone who lives here could have told you that. I think it's become a tired cliche for Europeans, especially Germans, to constantly rub this fact in our faces and make broad generalizations, "ridiculing" us on the world stage over and over. OK. EVERYONE GETS IT. This country is comprised of over 300 million people, all of whom are subjected to the most intense and sophisticated political and religious propaganda and brainwashing apparatus ever conceived. Goebbels would have been proud. This has been going on for most of the last century. Some people aren't that bright and they fall prey to this programming. Many do not. If we lived in a more open, progressive and tolerant environment, like Deutschland, for instance, I doubt so many here would be so mentally wacked out. I invite one of you people who work for this company to come stay here for a few years, and see what this place does to a person. Ha, I doubt you would even consider it, because we both know you couldn't handle it. BTW I am 100% atheist. Yet, I don't like the smug, condescending tone of the experiment overall. More of the typical USA bashing that you find throughout Europe on a daily basis. Funny, you people are only a few decades removed from the type of insanity that is going on over here. Trust me, there are millions of us here that would love for this country to become more progressive, like present day Germany. We are fighting a losing battle with hordes of ignorant people and malignant leaders and corporate heads.
    6:58 pm on 28/03/13 Bill
    Ha ha ha... ha ha ha ha... stupid Germans. You're always on the wrong side of history.
    6:55 pm on 28/03/13 Patmustard
    Great experiment guys. I agree with Lisa S that another tape with overtly religious or other sorts of writing on it would be an interesting control. Also tape with writing that has an actual opinion on it would be interesting ("Atheists burn in hell" or "Hurray for Atheism" for example)
    6:18 pm on 28/03/13 David Bonney
    Lisa S. - see our comments below, it's a good point. true that another condition with innocuous / nonsense writing would enhance the experimental design and we hope to do that in a replication. but it's not reasonable to attribute the observed bias to this alone - packages with extraneous writing (FRAGILE, AMAZON) are regularly shipped on time and without disappearance. The permanent disappearance of so many packages in such a small sample as 178 could not reasonably be attributed to there being additional worded branding on the packaging.
    6:10 pm on 28/03/13 David Bonney
    Miraclemet, that makes zero sense - sample size of 178 is completely statistically significant! For exapmle, there are approaching 7 billion humans on the planet, any yet psychological studies involving less than 1000 subhects are conducted all the time and are perfectly robust, allowing scientists to draw conclusions that can be extrapolated to human behaviour in general.
    5:56 pm on 28/03/13 Lisa S.
    Well, now you should have had a second control, a box with tape on it that said something either completely neutral (like "box" or "package" or something without a double entendre meaning!!) or, perhaps, something more opposite in meaning, like "God". And see if packages with other writing get just as delayed. Because it might just be the presence of the writing, not necessarily the content of the writing. Without another control you have no way to make that claim.
    5:36 pm on 28/03/13 miraclemet
    USPS ships 9.5 million packages/day (based on 2012 estimates of 3.5b annual package shipments). How can you even vaguely consider your 178 package sample size to be statistically significant?
    5:36 pm on 28/03/13 Bobbie Schafer
    I thought it was interesting that the comment from DJ MichaelAngelo was focused on the controversy of the name Atheist, since history has shown that the real Michaelangelo was gay; also controversial, and obviously a name he picked himself. :-)
    5:06 pm on 28/03/13 DJ MichaelAngelo
    Why on earth would you name your company something so hated and controversial? It's you guys' own fault for choosing such an odd word "atheist" with negative connotations for your company name. What, was Nazi Inc already taken? Abortion Corp not available? Really dumb move there, guys.
    4:15 pm on 28/03/13 David Bonney
    Interesting write-up from "Big Think", with nice parallels to Milgram's lost letter technique...
    3:30 pm on 28/03/13 Josh E
    Sounds about what I'd expect! Not surprised at all. I'm guessing SC is from the east coast? As my friends from there always doubt the religious zealotry that is in this country.
    3:20 pm on 28/03/13 Alex
    This could still be a customs or other similar issue as others have mentioned. I've definitely heard similar reports of strange shipping delays to Germany from other US shippers. Amusing webcomic to this effect is here:
    2:07 pm on 28/03/13 Gustavo Duarte
    This was an interesting experiment, thanks for the write up. The idea for introducing a "third tape" into the mix is a good one. Maybe it could say "Alien Shoes" or similar, something that is catchy / different but isn't discriminated against. Measuring a "Christian Shoes" wouldn't be bad either. I suspect however you're in the shoe business, not in the USPS research business. Finally, this reminded me of the Annals of Improbable Research:
    1:40 pm on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Some response to recent comments... Trevor, thank you for your kind words. We are trying to be as open and transaparent as we can and have given quite a bit more info than most reports on studies or experiments normally do. We'll be sharing our data today - only reason we haven't done it yet is that we didn't expect the story to blow up so quick and we couldn't get hold of our statistician til late yesterday. And we're happy to answer any questions, also to replicate the study on a larger scale... we've asked for USPS's help to do this. I think at this stage there's a lot we can't communicate in a single infographic, but a Social Psychology Professor has offered to write this study up for publication in a peer-reviewed journal and I think, at that stage, all the detail to thoroughly evaluate the study will be present. Londubh, a good call... see in comments below, we would like to replicate the study with some more conditions like that. And, SC, first off, we don't absolutely conclude discrimination outright... we say it's likely, as it is, in the absence of better explanations. And we accept, like all good scientists should, that the question will benefit from more experiments, with more conditions and controls. Of course our experimental design can be improved, as we have outlined below. However, to say that there is no substantiation for our conclusion, that some USPS workers are likely to have acted in line with a prejudice, is not a good reading of the results. The USPS guidelines you mention conflict with the guidelines and expert judgement we sought when setting up the study (admittedly from a postal expert in Germany rather than the US) see our comment below. Also, with things such as FRAGILE and DO NOT BEND and AMAZON often being written on packaging, there is decent precedent for having writing additional to an address on a package. We also cannot accept that sorting machines removing our packages due to this additional writing would lead to these packages disappearing completely and never being seen again. I would be more inclined to heed the thoughts of USPS workers, like Noah below, who suggest human involvement it likely. As for why we didn't track the studies, simply a matter of cost... and we want to replicate the study with normal postal tracking AND with GPS trackers. To have done so at the outset would have been prohibitively expensive and had we chosen to wait until we could afford that and not forged ahead with our still robust experimental design, we would never have been in the healthy position we are now to be able to talk about a very real problem we have with shipping, to present reasonable hypotheses and conclusions, and, importantly, to discuss what more we can do to get to the bottom of the problem.
    11:22 am on 28/03/13 SC
    I'm an atheist, but I find your study incomplete and your immediate conclusion that you are the subject of discrimination more than a little presumptuous. Further, the unsubstantiated claim that Americans are prejudiced against atheists to this point is offensive. USPS guidelines clearly state that one should remove or black out all extraneous text on a package before mailing it. A reasonable comparison would involve using three kinds of tape with text on it: one saying ATHEIST, another saying something neutral, such as SHOES, and another holding an opposite viewpoint, such as CHRISTIAN. Also, why didn't you use tracking information? Until such an experiment is carried out, your claims of discrimination are unsubstantiated and needlessly incendiary.
    8:46 am on 28/03/13 Mark Neisler
    This is obviously the work of God and yet you still disbelieve?
    5:29 am on 28/03/13 Michael
    Out of curiosity— did you verify that it was the USPS tampering with the packages rather than US Customs? I propose a similar experiment with packages originating in the United States.
    4:30 am on 28/03/13 Thomas
    Gail, what do you mean when you say "an appropriate gun safety law"?
    4:24 am on 28/03/13 Londubh
    If you were to run the test again, could you perhaps also introduce another condition, that of "christian" tape, somehow? There's often claims of "a war on christianity" in the united states, and it'd be interesting to see if there is any postal evidence thereof.
    4:23 am on 28/03/13 Brian
    Bauhaus inspired shoes? So they are on meth and crash their Subaru?
    3:17 am on 28/03/13 Trevor Ditmar
    Hello friends. I was wondering if you may be able to provide more information on your process by which this experiment was administered. I believe you did a fine job of performing a simple test, large enough to subtract a margin of error and still retain a clear statistical bias, and small enough that you wouldn't be suffering notable monetary losses to the company... However, a few acquaintances of mine (on of them a former USPS employee) believe that the lack of being entirely transparent in your process is incredibly damning. One side note that you may be interested in hearing: Michigan is now limited to only three processing centers in the entire state, so our mail is generally very late all of the time. Thank you so much; keep up the awesome work!
    2:38 am on 28/03/13 Katie
    It makes my nerdy heart happy that you included the statistical analysis on the bottom!
    1:03 am on 28/03/13 DL
    Czech Republic. Sadly, the state-owned postal service is infamously piss-poor at anything save inconveniencing people and wasting money, but the customs post is actually run by the customs office and are not really answerable to anyone. Private shipping companies are able to pass things through customs more quickly, probably because they just keep pestering the customs clerks until they expedite the package, but you can still get random delays of up to a fortnight, especially if they decide the package is somehow "suspicious" (eg. they suspect you declared it with a lower value than it actually has to skimp on the tax), and any minor thing could cause them to do just that.
    12:59 am on 28/03/13 Sophie
    It's unbelievable that something like this is going on on such a large scale. As a relatively new and independent business, it must be especially hard for you guys to see your valuable products going missing so regularly. On the upside, the news about your magnificent study has brought me to your website, and I must say I absolutely love the shoes and am seriously considering buying a pair.
    12:55 am on 28/03/13 David B
    I agree with several other commenters: please do the test again with and without your tape, and also with and without tracking so that you can identify the last known location of missing or wayward packages.
    12:40 am on 28/03/13 Noah
    I worked in the USPS for about 13 years, and I'm an atheist. While tampering with the mail is a federal crime, I knew many "good christians" who would do something like "accidentally" throw something in the wrong bag if they saw something they didn't like on it.
    12:39 am on 28/03/13 AtheistShoes
    DL, what country are you shipping from?! That sounds quite an archaic postal system you have to contend with. We have never once, to my top-of-mind knowledge, had a problem with a package being held up on its way out of Germany en route to the US. Customs have never intervened at that stage in the process. And we also have control scenarios with packages being sent to Canada, New Zealand, Norway etc... not all within EU. Honestly, we have 9 months of tracking data all of which demonstrates that delays never happen in the EU and are always at the US end of things. I fear your own experiences with your domestic shipping providers may be quite different to ours.
    12:28 am on 28/03/13 Devlin
    Sad to say that I am totally not surprised. Any way to repeat the test but sen it registered mail so it has a tracking number and shows exactly where it went and how long it stayed there?
    12:22 am on 28/03/13 DL
    As someone who lives in a largely atheist country and often ships stuff to or from US, I am very skeptical of your conclusions. In our practical experience, the place where both outgoing and incoming packages get held up most is the customs post EU-side. We happen to know this for a fact, because we've had to "rescue" several packages from them by physically going there and personally intervening. Apparently, the customs clerks randomly check the writing on some packages and if they suspect that the declared content or value thereof is not accurate, they will go on to scan or open the package, at times going so far as keeping whatever they find inside, if they decide they like it, and just hope nobody will notice. We got lots of stuff held up this way, including CDs, metal trinkets, or a plush cat. This induces random delays (because you can never tell up front who will be checking the declaration and what they'll find suspicious) and at times causes packages to disappear. The "controls" you performed universally fail to account for that, because packages that do not leave EU do not have to pass customs.
    12:02 am on 28/03/13 JW
    I would love to see a test that includes a third, anti-atheist message and see if the time to delivery actually improves over the control. Packing tape that reads Jesus Loves You or something....
    11:52 pm on 27/03/13 statsgerard
    I love that you did this experiment, and was delighted to see that you added the statistical results in footnotes. I agree that a nonparametric test was appropriate given the non-normal data. Just one nitpick: You say "... data was clumped toward the y-axis (+ve kurtosis) ...". Surely you mean positive skew, not kurtosis? Kurtosis is the "peakedness" of the frequency curve; skewness is a measure of its asymmetry.
    11:47 pm on 27/03/13 Jack
    Are you certain the USPS is the problem, and not ICE? My experiences with shipments from Europe (east and west) have shown issues with ICE (customs), not USPS. YMMV, etc.
    11:29 pm on 27/03/13 Maven
    This article is written from an atheist perspective and assumes that UPS workers in some way acted to delivery the atheist marked packages less often than those with 'vanilla' packaging. The difference in the delivery rate of the parcels could also be due to an act of God.
    11:21 pm on 27/03/13 gail
    Hello. I live in the New York Metro area where diversity is abundant and embraced, except for atheism. My kids and I have lost friends over our beliefs or lack of. It is the opposite of being gay, we have legal rights, but no social rights here in the USA. If I dare express my views, you cannot believe the hateful and appalling retorts I receive. But I have to live with all kinds of religious ideals, icons and misinformation on a daily basis. Also, in 2013, anything German, other than cars, still has notoriety. What can you expect from a Country who can't pass an appropriate gun safety law?
    11:11 pm on 27/03/13 Eric J
    Maybe it was Customs holding the packages before giving them to USPS. How did you conclude otherwise?
    10:42 pm on 27/03/13 John 2
    Obviously, we should definitely add the US to this map ...
    10:31 pm on 27/03/13 Kristin
    Nope Nope Nope you've got it all wrong, guys. It's nothing to do with religiosity, trust me on this one. It has to do with "questionable" packaging. Every time I receive mail from Iran, or other "question" nations (I'm in radio, it's a legit communique fyi) it's ALWAYS delayed- and to add injury to the insult- the mail is opened and rifled through with a disclaimer that my package was "damaged during processing". Oh really?? Why is the quote "damage" only enough to open said packaging: on the seams so it can be opened and inspected? If you think the USPS is some nameless machine, you're mistaken. They are a bunch of suspicious, paranoid, "do gooders" who's job it seems is to police citizens.
    10:18 pm on 27/03/13 A W
    I think atheism becomes offensive to some when Dave assumes that because someone is, rural, small town, conservative, and or christian would intentionally delay a package. he is assuming because of where someone lives or what they believe means they would sabotage a package. thats no different than saying an atheist will stab me in the back and steal my stuff, because, well, they have no morals. (or really, pick any stereotype) Just because someone believes in God does make them a dim witted hide under the sheets at night person. which, fair or not, is how atheism gets portrayed as viewing non atheists.
    9:59 pm on 27/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Hi Dave, thanks for the comment. Just to clarify, we're not saying the bias is systematic... but rather we suspect it's a minority of disgruntled / unhappy people who feel very strongly on the topic of atheism. I guess the problem is that these individuals are able to affect postage in such a big way. And maybe we'd find similar results if we tested with other contentious issues, e.g. abortion. The results were actually across the nation, not just in rural communities... actually that was the most surprising aspect of all this. We have been in tough with the Inspectors and we hope they'll help us to replicate the study, or a similar one, on a bigger scale. Cheers Dave.
    9:58 pm on 27/03/13 Ric
    Unbelievable! I honestly don't understand how Atheism is considered so offensive to some folks. There is some mileage in the idea below.
    9:55 pm on 27/03/13 Dave
    Hi- I'm an atheist Postal worker and I'm having a difficult time believing this could happen. Believe me, I'm not defending the Post Office- I hate working there. But, out system is huge and there's no way there could be a systemic effort to waylay your packages. Could it happen in a single Post Office, in a small town in rural, conservative, Christian areas of America? Sure. Indeed, I'd bet on it. But, to have that happen at the level of incidence that you're describing is, quite literally, astounding to me. Have you guys approached the US Postal Inspectors? I would, if I were you. Best of luck resolving this- Dave.
    9:49 pm on 27/03/13 bonzi
    So, OCR teaches us that: * Letter bombs are concern only in the USA * Only USPS uses OCR address recognition machines, or theirs are significantly inferior to those used in Europe * Atheism is a religion * Saying "I am an atheist" is similar to saying "I carry a bomb". Interesting. To be fair, it *would* we interesting to repeat the experiment with several more batches, say with tapes labeled with "Westboro Baptist Church", "In God We Trust", alternating cross and fish symbols and, say hammer and sickle.
    9:45 pm on 27/03/13 StanFlouride
    I forwarded this article to my Congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi and one of my Senators, Barbara Boxer (I'll skip Feinstein). I hope the open an investigation.
    9:37 pm on 27/03/13 AtheistShoes
    I think you're right Bob. The way we wrapped the packages with brown tape was certainly quite decorative and odd, but we definitely want to control for the word factor in the replication. Still, I think the absolute disappearance of packages is tough to explain by decorative packages being set aside for closer scrutiny... though I have to say we'd be very happy if the replication of this study showed that there is no bias at all.... we're big fans of postal institutions in general and we hate to see their decline across the world.
    9:26 pm on 27/03/13 Bob
    Another consideration is that people may be applying an incorrect meaning to the results. It may not be that there is a bias against atheists, but only against packages marked as atheist. For instance, it might be that curious postal workers are stealing (or setting aside to show their co-workers) packages that look funny, and I would argue that a package with "atheist" tape all over it qualifies. Thus, to remove the bias of having tape on one and not the other, the tape on the other would have to be equally (if not more) compelling as a strange-looking package. Obviously something like "this is not a bomb" would probably get the wrong kind of attention, but hopefully you can come up with something else equally interesting an unusual.
    9:26 pm on 27/03/13 AtheistShoes
    And Re. the question of how the results would look if we ignored the Michigan data, the average delay moves from 3 days to 2.56 days.... so still significant. WITH Michigan: t(73)=4.04, p=.000, mean difference = 3.02703 95% confidence interval 1.6572 to 4.3969. WITHOUT michigan t(72)=4.996, p=.000, mean dif 2.56, CI 1.5395 to 3.5838.
    9:13 pm on 27/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Re. Doubter's earlier comment that we should have run parametric tests vs non-parametric our statistician disagrees, saying... "'non-parametric test' more robust to data that breaks normality. It is also less sensitive than parametric test. It is the conversative option."
    9:09 pm on 27/03/13 AtheistShoes
    UPDATE - we have contacted the Inspector General of the US Postal Service and asked for their help in replicating this study on a larger basis and with a couple of tighter controls. It'd be cool if they were happy to do it.... let's see!
    9:06 pm on 27/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Hey Pete, a few people have asked to buy the ATHEIST tape... so we're looking in to getting enough of it made that we can sell it. Watch this space!
    8:59 pm on 27/03/13 Pete
    Any plans to sell rolls of this tape? I'd use it for all kinds of stuff. Boxes, leaky canoes, people's mouths. Please sell it in your storefront? I promise not to masquerade as a distributor.
    8:58 pm on 27/03/13 Steve in CA
    How embarrassing. Not that I'm surprised. Nice shoes, though - so that's one positive that's come out of the USPS' incompetence!
    8:57 pm on 27/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Doubter, we had an academic statistician run the analysis and we'd encourage you to take it up with him - let me see if he's happy to be contacted directly. We're also happy to share the data, a few people have asked and we'll gladly send to you as well. One commenter on another page already calculated that the Michigan result would have had a slight reduction on the overall delay time, but really not a dramatic one. I can't say much more than that now, but I will address your questions to the statistician. Oh, a last though, we're probably going to write this up for peer-review, and that would perhaps be the best forum for you to judge whether or not this study is a fraud. But we'd have to be really really stupid to have made up this study, don't you think?
    8:54 pm on 27/03/13 Jason T
    All I want to know is where I can buy my own ATHEIST-branded packing tape.
    8:32 pm on 27/03/13 doubter
    I noticed that you did a wilcoxon non-parametric test as well as a t-test of the data. You should have done a wilcoxon parametric test. I'm surprised that you could have gotten p=.001 from such a small sample. And, since you don't show the raw data, nor mention anything about the standard deviation of the trial nor the control, we have no way of knowing how much the delay of that one package to Michigan affected the statistical analysis. I'm also wondering how you get 9.96X out of 1:9. I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing is a fraud - that no such experiment was ever done. The numbers just don't seem plausible and your statistical expertise seems questionable. How would we know? And PS: I'm an atheist.
    8:22 pm on 27/03/13 AtheistShoes
    And thanks to everyone who told us about the typo in our url .) We're a little nervous about trying to change that while there's so much web traffic, but we will get to it soon.
    8:13 pm on 27/03/13 Brian
    Wow, Christians objecting to people expressing atheism. Because, we don't ever have to hear about your archaic religious beliefs.
    8:07 pm on 27/03/13 AtheistShoes
    Thank you everyone for your comments! We're going to try our best to get through the below and reply where most helpful. For the moment, ignoring the more impassioned comments / accusations that we're turning atheism into a religion / hand-wringing from the religious, let us focus on the intelligent observations concerning design of the experiment. For starters, the question of controls in our study. For those who ask whether the bias in results could be due to something outside of the US, we eliminated that possibility through rigorous controls leading up to the study and at the same time as the study. Having sent many packages within Germany, and throughout Europe, we can conclusively say that there is no bias outside of the US. Over one thousand instances of tracking show that all packages sent to the US arrive in about 1 week, and that differences in delivery times are resultant from what happens after that, once the packages are State-side. Regarding the question of a better neutral tape control being tape with some other word than atheist, be it a neutral word or a nonsensical word, that's a great idea and we'd like to replicate the study to do that. However, we don't think at this stage that the strong observed bias can be attributed to our using worded tape in one condition, and not in the other. We consulted a postage professional before conducting the study, who confirmed for us that the automatic sorting machines would have no problem discerning the address on our ATHEIST packages and would not be more likely to select them for special processing. He also confirmed that a good deal of human processing would necessarily be involved in the process. And, if the ATHEIST packages do get held up by automated sorting machines, then how can we explain the instances when ATHEIST packages arrived at the same time as neutral ones? Or the instances of complete disappearance of packages? A temporary hold up due to a sorting machine would not lead to the complete elimination of a package. Furthermore, all packages had the relevant customs information on them to ensure they would sail through any border checks (please note there are no German customs checks when a package is leaving Germany, only checks upon entering the US) and this customs information was equally applied to neutral and ATHEIST packages. Overall, there are 2 or 3 things we can do to improve the experimental design, e.g. the tape suggestion above, a larger sample size than n=178, the inclusion of GPS trackers in the packages, and we would love to replicate the study (that is if this coverage hasn't biased our participants). Actually, we'd love the help of USPS to fund further research and we'll be getting in touch with them on this basis. Thanks again! The ATHEIST Shoes Team
    7:53 pm on 27/03/13 John G M
    You've misspelled your url in the lower-right most portion of the above graphic. -Best.
    7:40 pm on 27/03/13 DoMoreScience
    I agree with OCR (comment quoted below). This is an interesting start to an experiment, but your conclusion is not sufficiently justified. The most you can actually say is "we observed that packages with the tape were delayed or lost more often." You cannot claim human bias was involved until you control for that with another experiment or two. Try sending packages with "atheist" in a font that looks less like a barcode. Try sending a different word in the same font as your original "atheist" tape. How are you verifying delivery/delay times? If you have tracking numbers (which would be the only reliable way), shouldn't you also have intermediate location information, so you can see at what point the packages were delayed? I'm interested to see the results, but so far you are accusing people of bias and federal crime without sufficient proof. Please do better! "It could be OCR software being thrown off by the branded packaging tape; your control-experiment has no wording on it. It could be that the word ATHEIST just adds a level of suspicion about the content of the package commensurate with the trust USA has for that religion (atheism in this case). Try adding a label in your control experiment that says "ALLAH" or "BOMB INSIDE" instead of "ATHEIST". Mail bombs are for real, as are bombs built into soles of shoes. Homeland security has a hand in USPS, I'm pretty sure. Moreover, how did you go from a statistics into the conclusion that USPS takes offense at your overt godlessness? Religious paranoia? If the same experiment showed a lot of missing shoes in a largely atheistic country, would you instead say "we suspect the postal workers there are such big fans of our shoes that the shoes never reach their intended destinations"?"
    7:19 pm on 27/03/13 algonac afghans
    From US to Germany, anything I send my sister spends 2 weeks in German customs. Nothing atheistic about that.
    7:12 pm on 27/03/13 Shirley
    Your study is flawed; the 'control' packages should have had words printed on their packing tape as well. All that you've proved is that packages with extraneous lettering are more likely to be delayed than packages without on them. If packages were still sorted exclusively by humans this might have more merit, but they're not. You're as likely to have 'offended' a computer with your packing tape as you are a human postal worker with that tape's message.
    7:02 pm on 27/03/13 Cinnamon
    I hope there is a Consumer Law that protects you and that you can use to SUE USPS. These slackers are already on a business-losing streak and to do this to fee paying customers (in this economy) is more than shameful! It makes you wonder if people with Muslim names receive the same level of service from USPS (i.e. lost, damaged, ripped openparcel, kicked around parcel, ...).
    6:43 pm on 27/03/13 U.S. Atheist
    I live in the US. Most people here are not very bright - just look at who we elect. Many of us are religious, which means we prefer belief over facts. In other words, most of us are dum-dums.
    5:20 pm on 27/03/13 Daniel
    It's cute people are saying the USA is largely atheist. Cute.. If you simply consider the percentage of religious people in the US, 73-76% are Christian based. Extreme views, such as young earth creationism, account for 46% of america. Quite embarassing actually. A paltry 15-20% have no religious affiliation. Look it up, the data is there.
    5:19 pm on 27/03/13 Dave
    Having worked at the United States Postal Service as a Station Clerk (meaning I handled all the packages coming into the facility), I'd believe this. After all, those packages are sorted by hand in a number of ways, most importantly including when they are being distributed to the Carriers for delivery. I can just see the clerks getting a laugh over the labeling, and "misplacing" the package for a day or two, or considering it "suspicious" and then setting it aside for additional "processing". I hate to say it, as I have a number of friends who still work for USPS, but I still believe it.
    4:47 pm on 27/03/13 Jason B
    Pardon my typos. In a hurry and lack of coffee this morning.
    4:42 pm on 27/03/13 Jason B
    To all thsoe saying keep your beliefs to yourself. I have people coming to my door pushing religion on me. I walk down the street and get stopped by the "are you saved" people. I get on the subway where I have no choice but get stuck listening to the jessus shouters who stand there preaching at the top of their lungs. The billboards all across the coutnry that I pass saying Jesus loves you, are you saved, come to my church, no come to my church, no mine is better!. More wars, injustices, rapes and crimes have been committed in the name of god, allah, etc than ever was attributed to atheism. So don't come here with your omg my religion can beat up your religion rhetoric. Go back to driving your minivan covered in jesus stickers and leave the rational thinkers alone.
    4:34 pm on 27/03/13 OCR
    It could be OCR software being thrown off by the branded packaging tape; your control-experiment has no wording on it. It could be that the word ATHEIST just adds a level of suspicion about the content of the package commensurate with the trust USA has for that religion (atheism in this case). Try adding a label in your control experiment that says "ALLAH" or "BOMB INSIDE" instead of "ATHEIST". Mail bombs are for real, as are bombs built into soles of shoes. Homeland security has a hand in USPS, I'm pretty sure. Moreover, how did you go from a statistics into the conclusion that USPS takes offense at your overt godlessness? Religious paranoia? If the same experiment showed a lot of missing shoes in a largely atheistic country, would you instead say "we suspect the postal workers there are such big fans of our shoes that the shoes never reach their intended destinations"?
    4:02 pm on 27/03/13 Laura
    Maybe it has something to do with the electronic sorting... And one box having so much writing on it; the other only necessary postal info
    3:52 pm on 27/03/13 peejay
    i wonder if you used tape that said "Super God Stuff" then the packages would arrive even faster. use their god shit against them.. proper subterfuge
    3:21 pm on 27/03/13 Sam
    Somebody else said this, but seriously write up and submit this study in a peer-reviewed journal. Your methods appear to be reasonably sound, and your results reached a very high level of significance. This is the kind of thing that when published actually changes minds/guides policy/makes people think/gets republished in the media (more than it already is). Please consider it, or allow a colleague/friend at university to do so!
    3:18 pm on 27/03/13 Michael V.
    Also, LOL @ all of us engaging in religious debate on an online shoestore. I mean really, do any of us really think spouting off back and forth is really going to change anyone's minds? Maybe this is part of the problem in the first place. All we hear and read is the anonymous whining of one person or another. We never get the chance for real discussion. There's no resolution or understanding, just anger.
    3:11 pm on 27/03/13 Michael V.
    People are claiming these shoes and tape are antagonizing. This little bit of uncomfortableness and anger that you feel, imagine living in a country that engulfs you in reminders of your non-conformity. There are plenty of Christian clothing stores for people to buy obnoxious, gaudy Jesus shirts, and let's not forget that you have gigantic crosses on every church, oh and my state is riddled with "JESUS" billboards every few miles. I have men who come to my house trying to get me to join their church. Imagine if Muslims or Scientologists walked your neighborhood, wouldn't you feel that they're being antagonizing, and shouldn't they just live and let live? I'd hardly say that christians are forced to keep their beliefs "entirely in their minds". What's some shoes and tape to that?
    3:10 pm on 27/03/13 Athiest 50% off
    Your experiment should have been done with the source and destination in one country. There are so many factors and control points that could have affected your data. If there was any inappropriate actions taken on the parcels, how do you know it was not US Customs, or Deutche Post? Also, are you continuing to track the parcels? Did the intended recipients contact their local post office? Did you use tracking numbers. As a conservative atheist, I must also ask: Why are you trying so hard to be in the lime light? Does it make you feel better to be in a way "pretending to be a religion" where your feelings can be hurt if you don't believe?
    2:49 pm on 27/03/13 Rev David Green
    Not an American, not an atheist. Very disappointed that this would happen in the USA or anywhere else. I think there is an ironic leap of faith in assuming that the reason for the delay is discrimination (other commenters have pointed out what other control experiments would be needed). That said, it's what I would describe as a reasonable leap of faith to be making and I don't think you're wrong to do so. Here's hoping the campaign yields better results for you as a company going forward.
    2:42 pm on 27/03/13 Eron
    Let me guess where rr is writting from. Iran, Afganistan, ok I think we all know the answer. Just please be carefull not to send him any correspondence with the atheist tape, even thought I seriously doubt he left any valid info, as that might give him a coronary. Even thought it would in effect take another hateful idiot out of the gene pool and might even qualify for a Darwin(pun intended) Award. :)
    1:56 pm on 27/03/13 James Randi
    It's a matter of fear. Religion is guided and supported by fear of not being among "The Chosen." Hatred of anyone free of superstition drives the hysterical comments that appear in these responses. We are threatened because we're free... James Randi.
    1:48 pm on 27/03/13 scott
    Love the shoes, grabbed a pair last time I was in Berlin. I'll order some more IF you'll include a roll of tape :-)
    1:44 pm on 27/03/13 Pete
    It would be nice to see all your data, i.e. arrival date by destination (state) and tape/no-tape condition. Also some commenters have a point about a proper control being another text on the tape. Anyway, it's totally lame that any packages went missing at all!
    12:41 pm on 27/03/13 GradyPhilpott
    Submit the study for peer review.
    10:56 am on 27/03/13 chow
    Funny how alot of commenters suddenly became logistics experts, judging from the certainty with which they try to explain away the study. A follow up study that can preempt many further such complaints should use controls with similar tape only other words like jesus, god and so on.
    10:53 am on 27/03/13 Matthew
    This is a great little study, really well presented. And a comment to a lot of the other comment. It is noted early on that this issue only applies to the USA, which suggests that other postal services to go into a pink fit when they see the word Atheist on a box. So the USPS are either defective in their approach to tape, or approach to Atheists, but defective either way. And again another comment on comments, it is a surest signs of bigotry when yells: "You had it coming because you are... black, white, female, gay, Jewish, atheist", "Because you folks are always in our faces about being all... black, gay, Jewish, etc..." So to you Christians bagging this little study, feel free to fuck right off you bigoted cnuts. And have a fantastic day!
    9:51 am on 27/03/13 Johan
    You have spelled the address wrong in the last picture (the one with the cat and the bunnies). It misses a t and says "atheisberlin"
    9:50 am on 27/03/13 Jesus
    My children, please, do not comment with any kind of negativity towards the atheists. Remember your training and you will make it to Heaven. I refer you to my holy of holy books and this portion Matthew 5:39. When the atheists make fun of you or counter your beliefs do not belittle them or attack them for their disbelief. Remember, just ask yourself, what would Jesus (me) do? I wouldn't hop onto message boards or rant about their discourtesy. I would give them a hug and wish them well in life. Our Father expects the same of you. So all of you that responded in anger to this should go confess your sins of not loving your neighbor and put this business behind you and learn to become a better person in the eyes of God. Amen.
    9:49 am on 27/03/13 BD
    USA post offices look for abnormal packages. Most drugs are sent in unusual packages so they are opened searched and resealed. If the tape said "GOD'S LAST STAND!" or "HAIL MARY!" you would have seen the same problem. One of those would have made for a better control.
    9:34 am on 27/03/13 Tom
    That is absolutely hilarious (and a little depressing). Thanks for letting everyone know. If you track the packages you can probably find which routing centers they went through and subsequently which anti-atheists caused the problems. (I kinda doubt USPS would do anything)
    8:56 am on 27/03/13 Ignostic
    Should atheists be free to be obnoxious about their atheism whereas believers should keep their beliefs entirely in their minds? If someone wears atheist branded clothing I can only be certain that they are asking for trouble with people who could have a problem with that, just like believers with their silly believer attire. If your shoes were Jesus branded and the delivery personnel of the USPS mostly atheists you'd get the exact same situation because atheists aren't saints either (pun intended). If you were smart enough you'd have never branded your packaging that way because anyone with half a brain could have foreseen this sort of trouble.
    8:13 am on 27/03/13 Jonathan
    If atheists were simply atheists it be one thing. The problem is that the majority of atheists I know are obnoxious fuckheads who get off on shoving their non-beliefs in everyone's face. You complain about Christians being self righteous pricks but you're all just the same. Get off your high horse and move the fuck on. Religion(or lack thereof) aside, your shoes suck ass.
    8:10 am on 27/03/13 Ari
    What do you expect? Do you see christians, muslims, jews or buddhists shipping packages with "their religion" tape? What you are doing is the equivalent of some KKK person shipping with "racist", N-word or "White power" tape on their package. You people who talk of "god botherers" seem to be so 'bothered" by god that you talk about him even more than believers.
    7:33 am on 27/03/13 Satan
    Come on guys, you had it coming.
    7:12 am on 27/03/13 dpmaine
    Greetings. Would you please post photos of a package with the tape that caused problems, and without?
    6:45 am on 27/03/13 Kendall
    Why do you assume the USPS is the issue, and not something or someone within Germany? Also, you really need to try a test with tape that has some kind of "neutral" message also. Or, try tape with angels on it and see if packages arrive faster.
    6:27 am on 27/03/13 DexX
    Gotta love the excuses from the godbotherers. "Oh, it's your own fault for not keeping your beliefs secret. if you're public about it, we are justified in treating you badly." Great job, Christians. I'm Jesus would be SO proud.
    6:14 am on 27/03/13 Daniel
    Maybe we just don't like having views pushed in our face from either side. Ever think of that? Live and let live. And why do you have such an anti-God complex? If He's not real forget it and move on.
    5:19 am on 27/03/13 John V
    If you end up with a surplus of Atheist tape, you can send it to me in the states. I promise not to stick the end to the door handle of a post office, put the roll on a stick, hold it out the window of my car, and drive around the post office until the tape is gone.
    5:17 am on 27/03/13 Mich
    Extraordinary! Please file a complaint with the US Postal Service. The USPS is essentially a utility in the United States. The delay in your packages' being delivered is no more acceptable, or legal, than my local water company throttling my home water flow because I'm an atheist. Or my electric utility limiting my house electrical delivery to 500 Watts because I'm an atheist. File a complaint and back it up with the data. You might consider legal action. I mean, we here in America are so very fond of lawsuits...
    5:04 am on 27/03/13 Matt Braynard
    Even the atheists in Germany are whiners...Your logic is ugly as your shoes. Having any extra writing on a box is going to slow it down because it is going to be noticed and read. And guess what the most common printed words on tape are? "Fragile." Writing on messages on tape or the box are distractions from the delivery process. What's really the problem is you, and others like you, because it's not enough to have your own beliefs, you have to antagonize others with them. That's why you put the printing on the tape: to antagonize others and make yourselves feel smug. And the result is that you took something practical, like shoes and tape, turned them into something obnoxious, and got screwed by it. The worst thing about atheism are the people who believe in it.
    4:16 am on 27/03/13 Robin
    @see are: The bottom fine text shows statistical significance.'s_t-test's_exact_test They don't show anything short of actual results: a significant bias in quality of shipping against atheist-branded packages. The controls in Germany and Europe show that it is a USPS problem, not an international shipping problem. It may well be a customs issue or "like one dude", but it's probably not. While customs may account for the 3.03 day delay on the atheist-branded boxes, "one dude" wouldn't encounter 178 different packages going to different places, and neither "one dude" nor customs should cause atheist-branded boxes to be 9.96 times more likely to disappear.
    4:11 am on 27/03/13 Shawin
    Those shoes look like something an atheist would wear.
    3:55 am on 27/03/13 see are
    this is nonsense. if the tape is actually a problem, and not just confirmation bias, its because anything out of the ordinary just flags the packages at customs... and if it is somebody who doesnt like athiests, its like one dude who is responsible for your problems, so to condemn the whole usps, much less the whole US, is beyond ridiculous... youd think athiests would be a bit more rational, but congrats for turning a persecution complex into a publicity stunt.
    2:31 am on 27/03/13 Shane
    "rr", you should probably learn some grammar. And manners.
    1:40 am on 27/03/13 Mark Panzarino
    I am posting this on my Facebook page, and will certainly be complaining formally when I order my Atheist shoes -WITH TAPE- should they take any longer than reasonable! I applaud your outspokenness!
    1:24 am on 27/03/13 Erin
    the shoes are cool, but i want some of that tape!!
    12:43 am on 27/03/13 ET-10 Simmons
    As a postal employee I find this simply unacceptable and I apologize. These would all arrive at the same location coming from Germany before they were shipped to final destination. I'd love to see the tracking on the package which took over a month to make it to Michigan. You should definitely file a complaint with the US Postal Inspectors..
    12:30 am on 27/03/13 Cem
    I wonder if you could manage to deliver a single package to Turkey with that Atheist packing tape, lol.
    10:31 pm on 26/03/13 Bill
    Could you post the data, please?
    10:25 pm on 26/03/13 NJ
    Just to point out, the URL in your infographic is wrong, you are missing the second t in atheist! (WHOOPS!)
    7:33 pm on 26/03/13 Verandaguy
    Hope you report your findings to the USPS, or another body of authority.
    7:15 pm on 26/03/13 Mike
    Since the boxes are all coming from Germany, they probably all go through the same customs agent or group of agents. I wouldn't be surprised if you traced this to a handful of disgruntled individuals. And don't use obnoxious tape.
    6:36 pm on 26/03/13 jeff
    I think however they got lost is a good thing. Those are some butt ugly kicks.
    5:00 pm on 26/03/13 Chris Cray
    It's not just religion. I learned as a child that using my full name Christina would generate an additional 3-7 days from date of order to date of shipment arrival. Especially when ordering "boys" merchandise.
    4:58 pm on 26/03/13 Robert
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm buying a pair today.
    4:47 pm on 26/03/13 Richard
    Well I live in Germany and received my package with neutral tape a year ago. Perhaps then you didn't have the atheist tape yet. But honestly I was wondering the whole time before receiving the packet, what would my 80 year old neighbour (and landlord) think of me if he receives the package for me. You see, even me who proudly wears the shoes everywhere has concerns when it comes to certain prejudices. Thanks for the great job.
    4:35 pm on 26/03/13 Adrienne
    Fascinating. I do wonder if some of the shoes missing aren't stolen out of sheer curiosity. The lateness seems to be straight-up stonewalling. We keep getting others' packages from USPS and after I called to complain about it, OUR next package arrived late and mostly destroyed (a book soaked with lemon floor cleaner). It might be a coincidence, but it does make me wonder. I would love to see Mark's idea with different tapes executed.
    4:29 pm on 26/03/13 Nathan
    Great presentation, I'm still laughing. Even if this whole thing is a marketing gimmick, it's brilliant.
    4:15 pm on 26/03/13 Roger Stroope
    If you control for the Michigan package what does that do, if anything, to the overall lateness of atheist branded packages?
    4:03 pm on 26/03/13 mark
    i'd love to see results if you labeled boxes christian, islamist, and scientologist
    4:03 pm on 26/03/13 Sully
    Maybe your results show the opposite? The USPS is so full of atheists, they're stealing the shoes for themselves (or at least "borrowing" them for a few days to impress their equally godless friends)?
    4:02 pm on 26/03/13 Sully
    Maybe your results show the opposite? The USPS is so full of atheists they're stealing the shoes for themselves (or at least "borrowing" them for a few days to impress their equally godless friends)?
    3:48 pm on 26/03/13 Etaoin Shrdlu
    The intended recipients whose packages did not arrive should file mail theft reports at
    3:17 pm on 26/03/13 A
    Not exactly a large sample size, but I wouldn't be surprised if you're right
    3:00 pm on 26/03/13 Paul
    so sad to see this kind of discrimination from a "developed" country...
    2:57 pm on 26/03/13 Mh
    I see that some Godfearing folk are already frothing at the mouth with vulgar statements in the comments. Not very saintly of them.
    2:49 pm on 26/03/13 rr
    you are pathetic fucking bitch atheist, go fuck you moron.