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Monday, December 5, 2011

Death of the U.S. Postal Service?

The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service is planning on eliminating First Class delivery and next day delivery of letters and postcards. If these changes proceed their fastest service will be 3-5 days.   

Think about that. 

While every thing else in our world is becoming ever faster, the Postal Service is actually preparing to become slower. And get this:  The cost of a first class (or whatever they’ll call it) stamp will increase 1 cent. So we’ll receive slower service at a higher price.  What a concept. Hope you stocked up on those “forever” stamps.

With that being the case I have to ask: What purpose does the post office serve in 2011-2012?

The agency is considering shuttering 252 out of its’ 487 mail processing centers.  As a result, approximately 30,000 workers could lose their job.  Such a move would result in over 3 billion dollars per year in savings. Obviously, with losses annually in the billions, the current business model just doesn’t work. 

In 2012, what business model would work for the post office? What niche would make sense in today’s world?

People communicate differently today. Email, texting, Facebook, blogging. Think about it when was the last time you actually wrote a letter and mailed it to someone? When it comes to business transactions we also have quite a few alternatives to choose from: UPS, Fedex, email, online banking, EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer), paying by phone.

If you are of a certain age many of the staples you grew up with like typewriters, landline phones, cassette tapes, phonographs, and others have all pretty much bit the dust. When I was a kid we had to actually get up to change the channel on a television. Heck, these days most of us would lose our minds without our TV remotes! But, I digress.

This drastic overhaul of the post office would represent a different kind of loss. Some consider it a mainstay of America.

Is the post office more a matter of tradition or can it still serve a utilitarian purpose? 

One excellent utilitarian purpose that comes to mind is the delivery by postal carrier to far-flung suburban and rural communities.

In addition, some people still receive checks regularly in the mail, pay their bills through the mail, prescription drugs, receive and deliver Netflix, and other time sensitive material (magazines/newsletters) is all via the mail. It’s hard for some of us to believe but many people are happily living their lives without computers. Of course that means they can’t access all of this new technology.

One excellent point that I heard earlier today is that there is still a need for a universal delivery service – One example being, “How else would the IRS get in touch with you?” “What about jury duty notices?” I know. Not the cheeriest of examples but you get the point. Think about this: sending someone a letter of condolence. You really can’t do that via email.

How much do you think UPS or Fedex would charge to send a single letter? I’ve got to believe it would be more than 45 cents.

What do you think? Is it time to consider doing away with the U.S. Postal Service altogether? If not, what role should the agency play going forward?

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