Skip to comments.Email Isn't Killing The Post Office
Posted on 12/12/2011 4:34:51 AM PST by Kaslin
IT'S GROUNDHOG DAY at the US Postal Service: time once again for the familiar laments about how the agency's financial losses are surging, how demand for its services is plummeting, and how officials have no choice but to close local facilities, raise the price of stamps, and reduce delivery standards.
Last week the Postal Service announced plans to cut $3 billion in costs by slowing down first-class mail service and eliminating about half of the country's 461 mail-processing centers. That would mean an end to next-day delivery of first-class mail. Although that might not seem like much of a threat for something already thought of as "snail mail," the Postal Service has insisted for decades that 95 percent or more of local first-class mail is successfully delivered overnight. When the new standards take effect next spring, two-day delivery will become the new overnight, even for mail that's just traveling down the street.
If all this sounds familiar, you aren't hallucinating.
"In 1990, the Postal Service launched a nationwide plan to intentionally slow down mail delivery," policy analyst James Bovard wrote in his 1994 book, Lost Rights. First-class letters were already taking 20 percent longer to reach their destination than they had in 1969, but Postmaster General Anthony Frank assured Congress that the reduction in delivery standards would "improve our ability to deliver local mail on time." In the weird logic and language of the American postal system, the key to success was to give the public less for its money.
The more things change in Postal World, the more they remain the same. In the 1960s, a stunning 83 percent of the agency's total budget went to wages and benefits. Three decades later, after billions of dollars had been spent on automation, labor costs still accounted for 82 percent of the budget. And in 2011? "Decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office's costs," The New York Times recently reported. "Labor represents 80 percent of the agency's expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors."
That things have been getting tougher for the Postal Service, nobody disputes. With the ubiquity of e-mail, text-messages, social media, and online bill-paying, the volume of mail entrusted to the post office has been sinking for years. In a study published last year, the Government Accountability Office noted that first-class mail, the Postal Service's most profitable business line, had declined 19 percent from its peak in 2001, and was expected to fall another 37 percent by 2020.
The Internet Age may be wreaking havoc with the post office and its mail-delivery business, but what industry in America isn't going through the same wrenching experience? And not many institutions enjoy the benefits that federal law confers on the Postal Service: It pays no income or property taxes, it's exempt from vehicle licensing requirements and parking fines, and it has the power of eminent domain. Most significant of all, it has a legal monopoly on the delivery of mail: The federal Private Express statutes make it a crime for any private carrier to deliver letters. The only exception is for "extremely urgent" letters, and even those may be delivered by a private company only if it's willing to charge a much higher rate than the Postal Service would have charged.
They don't have a legally binding monopoly, unlike the US Postal Service. Yet they're thriving, while the post office is struggling to stave off bankruptcy.
Yet with all its privileges, the Postal Service is struggling, while UPS and FedEx flourish. Why? Because they have something invaluable that the post office lacks: Competitors.
"We have a business model that is failing," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said last week. It's true. But it was true long before e-mail came along. What is killing the post office is the lack of genuine, head-to-head competition that forces vendors to compete for customers by pushing quality up and holding prices down. Only in a government-sheltered monopoly like the Postal Service would labor costs remain as bloated as they have, year in and year out.
More than a decade into the 21st century, there is no reason why mail shouldn't be delivered by multiple enterprises, each one competing for market share and goodwill by providing consumers with a valued service. In nearly every other area, after all, Americans embrace competition. With competition comes accountability. And only when the Postal Service is accountable -- only when its customers are free to take their business elsewhere will the endless round of excuses and losses and service reductions finally come to an end.
No, junk-mail is.
There might be an element of truth to it.
I used to go through a book of 20 stamps every month. Now I rarely mail anything but the occasional greeting card. I stay in contact with friends through email and pay all my bills on line. The only mail I receive is junk mail.
Junk mail is what’s killing the Postal Service.That and poor management.Who in their right mind would continue raising the price of a first class stamp and then cut delivery days while not reducing the amount of junk mail in the system.
If the postal service will not do that at least raise the cost to deliver junk mail.
Remember last year when the Census Bureau mailed out a letter That said “Your Census form is coming.” Then you got the Census form. Then you got a letter saying “You better fill out your Census form”. Then you got a letter saying “Thanks for sending in your Census form.” My buddy in the government said it was part of a government program to give the PO a half billion bucks, nothing more.
In fact, many people I know are in regular contact over email or on message boards. And now that I have a new car, my car payments will be done using Bank of America's online-based payment service instead of sending payments with a real physical letter once a month.
Letters used to be cheaper than long distance calls too. Now, if I talk for a minute or an hour, I pay no extra.
I think email and social media is a RESULT of the Postal Service, not a competitor to it!
What I mean is that good old fashioned letter writing has been a lost art from decade to decade, as you see in today’s schools they are discussing ending cursive writing altogether - is it even worth teaching, as people don’t write anymore!
As service went down, costs went up and the schools stopped teaching the art of good, handwriting and the importance there of, emails and social media simply reinvented conversation - it wasn’t a competition; the other side had already lost!
I have a constitutional right to next day delivery to my tent here at OccupyWallstreet.
Just address my mail to;
Orange Tent with the Peace Sign Next to the Porta-Potties
Cut mail service to residences to twice a week. In the future, maybe once a week.
If you want it faster than that, go to the post office to send and receive.
What can’t wait a few days?
Jeff Jacoby is just plain stupid. He needs to learn the way of the world.
E mail has killed the post office (and Fed X) The transmission of most business documents is entirely electronic. Payments are made and received electronically. Inter company transmittal of documents is now conducted by many on networks that exixt for that very purpose.
Even the IRS has stopped using the mail .Tax stuff is on line for retrieval and returns are e mailed.
I have a constitutional right to next day delivery. /sarc
Lousy service is what is killing the post office. In 25 years, I have never received “overnight” mail overnight. I have told my clients to use fedex or ups, where I always get it on time. In one instance, my overnight mail was never delivered at all, and just disappeared into the system.
When I went to the postmaster to complain, he said he would send letters to me to check how it worked. Got nothing. In fact, I am convinced that knowing how to read is optional in this area.
All the cuts are being made in delivery & handling, which ain't always bad, but if you only cut the legs off, you are definitely missing the FAT. But the FAT is making the decisions. The system needs to be made over from the top down now, not the bottom up!
I'd like to see the numbers compared to non-governmental entity, such as mgt to salaried workers %.
Your mail now travels 3x what it used to. The reason for the delay. They shut down the local processors, move the employees hundreds of miles away from their homes. No layoffs, no labor savings, just crappy service.
Several years ago, during Christmas, I was in the PO. There was a line that led out the door on a miserable day, people with boxes, etc.
There were two clerks in front. (It was lunch hour).
The supervisor came to the front and started to ask people is she could help. She went to one of the empty stations and asked people who needed to, to step over.
One of the clerks at another station went ballistic. He started shouting she had no business there, that what she was doing was “against the rules” and she wasn’t allowed to help. When somebody said something he shouted back that the management should hire more folks to do the job properly if they wanted more clerks up front.
He kept yelling he was going to report her, that this was management abuse. He was really angry. Nobody said anything.
At that point I was leaving, so I never saw the end. But I looked down that line and thought, I wonder how many people here are in agreement, and how many see the system for the monster it is, but can’t admit it?
It was a highly Jewish, liberal area, and I’ve seen people spout off there before, easily. Yet not a word. I kept thinking that, these people agree philosophically, all being libs, but now they are seeing the fruit, and it was nasty. And a lot of them looked a bit sheepish.
And THAT is why the PO is having problems.
I think the real problem that is pushing the USPS over the cliff is security measures demanded by Homeland Security and perhaps put into place by the anthrax attack around 9/11. Some examples from my recent experience:
- I routinely purchase a certain flour I cannot buy locally from a store in the midwest. Every box I have ordered so far has arrived having been opened with holes poked in the flour bags even though those bags were sealed in larger plastic bags by the store. The first order I made from this company, every item in the box had been opened. Subsequent orders have had only the flour bags examined. The local Post Office claims that it is security searches done elsewhere, not by them.
- We have two slots in our local P.O. one for “in town” mail and the other “out of town.” Recently I asked a postal worker if a certain address would meet the definition of “in town.” I was told that the PO no longer allows local PO to sort its own mail but everything has to go to central stations around the county. (Which lead me to believe that the deletion of one day first class has been discontinued a long time ago.)
- For a several months this year, when I tried to mail a book someone purchased from me via Amazon, I could not seal it prior to mailing. The local PO had to examine inside my package to make sure it had a book in it. For awhile they wouldn’t even then let me seal the book myself but a postal worker had to do it. Before they even would mail anything from me I had to sign a statement that they told me they would keep on record saying why I was mailing these items. I had to also agree that the PO wasn’t liable if the item was damaged or not delivered due to it being searched at another place within the system!
If I am having such routine frustrations trying to do business with the USPS, I can only imagine the headaches a large corporation or business must be experiencing. Why wouldn’t you choose another postal method?
Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx.
Number one reason the feds need to sell the Parcel Service.
Government is notorious for spending what capital it does accumulate on wages instead of on technology that streamlines operations. Political pressure is always there to make the employees happy and maybe get a few votes in the next election.
A couple years ago, the Post Office removed stamp vending machines -- one tiny bow it had made to labor-saving -- because the things hadn't been maintained and were out-of-service more than they were working. Capital maintenance had been ignored.
There is no reason why the USPS couldn't compete with UPS and FedEx except that it's a government operation and the incentives do not exist to make it efficient.
problem : postal worker pensions
If the government ran casinos they would soon go broke.
Last week I ordered an HDMI cable online. (Great deal BTW) I placed my order at 2:00pm on Tuesday. The package was on my front porch at 12:19pm Wednesday. Shipping = $4.85 PO wanted $6.00 for 2-3 day service. And, when I checked my email 15mins. later, there was a delivery confirmation including a picture of the item sitting on my front porch!
I had a recent experience which caused me to stop using one of the PO's offerings. For a few years they've had package service where UPS or FedEx transports the package from the point-of-origin to the local PO, then the PO makes final home delivery rather than UPS or FedEx. It's cheaper than UPS/FedEx all the way, but also takes a day longer.
An online vendor I frequently order from started offering this as their standard shipment method (which used to be UPS only). Sometimes I didn't care about the extra day it took and others times I did. By following UPS or FedEx tracking, I knew when a package arrived at the local PO. A few times I went there and asked for the package rather than wait another day for home delivery.
The window workers would grimace and make faces, but four times they did retrieve my package. Those window transactions took about one minute. Then one day, maybe a supervisor, was very irritated and said I was supposed to wait for home delivery, and not come to the PO to pick up the package.
The result was I just stopped using the PO altogether for packages, even when it costs more. What mattered to the PO employees was that I was not following their procedure, and whether the customer was satisfied mattered not at all.
A few facts about this:
1. If I wait on home delivery, the postman has to drive out my 100 yard driveway, honk and wait for someone, or get out of the vehicle and leave the package on the porch. That times several times longer than the one minute it takes for a window transaction.
2. This is a small town PO, and there was rarely anyone else at the window when I'd go for a package.
3. In a large PO, it might not be practical to allow customers this type pickup, but in my PO the window transactions never took more than a minute or so.
4. I haven't used the PO for any packages at all since, if I had a choice.
If they want to send it standard rate by FedEx, I might read it.
Our mail used to go one hour away and for the local mail came back and I thought that was stupid, especially when, at the post office, they had boxes and slots for local and out of town. Now I understand it goes 10 hours away to be sorted, now that’s just plain stooopid.
Solution is pretty straightforward.
Sell it off to private industry. Get rid of all the dead weight. Headquarter it in a right to work state.
That will fix it.
We ship mountains of Pri-mail and 1st class mail per year. The real problem at the Post Office is that they have 2 to 3 employees doing the same type of job that a single FedEx or UPS worker is doing. I have a hunch the list of disabled people sitting at home on the Gov dime has a much higher ratio than the private sector too.
I work for the USPS sorting letters. Do we have a monopoly? Yes, on first class mail but not third class (standard). And my union (APWU) always seems to criticize the management for charging low rates to bulk-mailers. Management counters by saying they need to charge low rates for...”standard”...mail because it benefits the USPS as a whole. Admittedly, labor costs are killing us...but so is the requirement that future retirement/health care costs be funded.
Our pay has been frozen recently and continues to be frozen (fed. employees, EXCEPT military). Under the plant-closing
plans, facilities would be eliminated and mail that would go to a processing facility 10 miles away might wind up going to one 70-100 miles away. That letter going from
White River Jct VT to Hanover NH—just across the river—
might wind up going to Burlington VT (90 mi away) or
Manchester NH (65 mi away) instead of to the White River
Jct facility if that were to be closed. (Example.)
Postal employee here...don’t know how much dead weight there is in the D.C. offices etc...and it prob. costs a lot to
do things like sponsor Lance Armstrong. (But I guess that’s
“advertising” in a partly governmental, partly for-profit
44 cents, soon to be 45, for a stamp. If it were increased to 50 that might may off the deficit and still be affordable, but we have to only increase the rate to keep pace with inflation, and only if a council approves it. Who knows
if a private company were to sort the mail...they could charge $1.00/stamp. Whatever the market will bear.
If it were private, yet unionized, be prepared for possible strikes. “Yeah, Canada Post is on strike again.” We can’t
strike...essential employees. Would prob. be fired if we
did (remember Reagan and the air traffic cont. union?)
I guess in ‘70 or so when we went from USPO to USPS,
management agreed to let us have collective bargaining and we agreed to not strike.
They need to increase the cost of junk mail rather than continuing to have first class rates subsidize it. Junk mail is the bulk of what appears in my mailbox daily. If the price charged to send junk mail decreases its volume I feel that few would miss it.
Two days a week is plenty...95 percent is junk
Exactly! Our small home town PO is not allowed to take a local mail from someone standing at the counter and put it into recepient's PO Boxes which are no more than 10 feet away.
It has to be trucked to the nearest processing center 50 miles away and then trucked back where the clerk THEN puts it in the PO Boxes 10 feet away.
Some post offices have Automated Postal Centers. One here in Beverly MA was open 24 hours. Problem was, drunks would come into the lobby and hang out/sleep, so they restricted hours. Now there's a sign saying "Now open Sundays 6 am to 8 pm!" Yes, the lobby is, so people can use the vending machine.
But I realize not every P.O. has them. (You can buy stamps, weigh packages, etc. using debit or credit cards. Geez sounds like an ad eh!)
The one in Beverly tends to always be working well. And yes, it has no vacation time, no sick leave, no pension...
>>They need to increase the cost of junk mail rather than continuing to have first class rates subsidize it.
On this, you (and I, a postal worker) and the postal unions agree. Though in the case of the unions (or at least APWU) the aim is to get more money to pay our salaries, I’d think.
Kaslin nailed it.
“Email Isn’t Killing The Post Office
No, junk-mail is.”
I couldn’t agree more. On the average, I receive approximately 10-12 letters or important documents during the week. Often times those items arrive on one or two days. The balance of the week (6 day delivery), junk mail is delivered EVERY DAY. Who needs junk mail delivered on a Saturday or Monday or any day for that matter?
Real Problem: affirmative action employees, with affirmative action pay scale and job security provided by your gov-mint!
It's far beyond a discussion. Most 20 somethings don't know cursive beyond signing their name. My oldest sons are both out of high school and never learned cursive. I don't think that is what killed the USPS though. Even before email etc, phone calls had become much cheaper and people communicated that way.
I live in the Atlanta suburbs, but have a bug-out get-a-way cabin in another state. I like to get the little weekly local paper from the city nearest the cabin, so got a subscription and pay to have it mailed to Atlanta home. Lately the editions are arriving about 3 to 4 weeks late. Originally to would take the Wednesday edition to the following Saturday or Monday to arrive (a reasonable time). I checked with the post master last week to see what the problem is and she said that mail is backed up at the big Atlanta main sorting facility. I would say that backing up 3 weeks is a bit ridiculous. I bet the bulk junk mail isn’t that backed up!
Junk mail is a source of revenue for the post office so that isn’t killing them.
Email might be a part of it. But paying bills online probably is larger.
When you think that eBay has in excess of a million auctions ending everyday, and a good percentage of it goes via US Mail, they should have been able to offset.
What’s killing the post office?:
2. Cost of gasoline
I deliberately don’t buy stamps. If needed, I go to the PO for just what I need then. One less thing of value to keep around (kids thought they were stickers to play with), and forces me to consider alternate delivery solutions.
“If it were private, yet unionized, be prepared for possible strikes.”
If USPS ware completely privatized, presumably FedEx and UPS (and any new entrants) would be allowed to deliver first class mail. And then who would care if USPS workers went out on strike?
The USPS needs to be privatized. If USPS, Inc. owned it, it would have competition and it would be modernized. Granted rural areas might not be serviced but someone might specialize in rural mail service.
I think you’re correct. The post office is killing the post office. They raise the price of stamps, talk about cutting service, and are beholden to the union desires. The pensions are killing them just like they did to government motors. I think the post office would like to break the unions and privatize. They are making some really dumb decisions if they really want to stay in business.
UPS and FedEx are also not required to deliver to EVERY SINGLE ADDRESSS WITHIN THE UNITED STATES... While I agree the USPS labor costs are higher, they also deliver places UPS and FEDEX wouldn’t touch. Don’t believe me? Try to get a delivery to a person who lives in a swamp only accessible by air boat...
I am not suggesting the USPS labor contracts should not be re-evaluated, but to compare the USPS to a private for profit business is a disingenuous comparison.
USPS is the only agency in both the public and private sector that has been required to prefund retiree health benefits at the level the organization does. This high amount of prefunding helped create a $75 million dollar overpayment from USPS within the Civil Service Retirement System.
Comparing the highly regulated USPS to private industry is silly...
Sometimes I wished I had a mail box where the junk mail would fall into a deep hole as soon as the mail man puts it in the box
Are you sure it is orange tent? I thought it the 3 room cabin tent with the hot tub and shower with the sign that says 'Defeat O '12'
true, as that would also open up first class mail to other
services. Supp. the USPS has universal delivery to everywhere; even way up in the boonies. Not sure if carriers—including a privatized USPS—would guarantee that or not..
yes, universal delivery, indeed.
>>The Postal Reorganization Act was signed by President Richard Nixon on August 12, 1970. It replaced the cabinet-level Post Office Department with the independent Postal Service on July 1, 1971.
>>The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 abolished the United States Post Office Department, a part of the cabinet, and created the United States Postal Service, a corporation-like independent agency with an official monopoly on the delivery of mail in the United States. Pub.L. 91-375 was signed by President Richard Nixon on August 12, 1970.
The legislation was a direct outcome of the U.S. postal strike of 1970.