Tuesday, March 2

Eliminate Saturday mail?

The US Postal Service wants to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. ~ link
Mr Zip
Because of electronic communication I'm now more open to that than before. I wonder, though,
  • if perhaps it would make more sense to cut Wednesday service so that there are fewer days in a row without delivery.

  • if in addition to eliminating a day of regular delivery another option would be to do PO box deliveries seven days a week and charge slightly more for those boxes (and that specialized service).

  • if merely eliminating a day of service will make enough of a difference. One of the greatest challenges for the USPS is that Congress mandates a level of service that is economically unsustainable without subsidies.

    For example, I'm not against subsidies for rural service to Alaska or Guam. We currently pay the same price for mail service to remote locations as we pay for urban service in the lower-48 states. That doesn't make business sense. But it makes sense for national unity. Such services, which are in the national-interest, should be subsidized. Just as some highways which are critical to the greater good of the country (e.g. the Interstate system) are subsidized so should some services of the Post Office receive national-interest subsidies.
I realize that in some ways this last suggestion will be seen as a step backward. Many see the best way forward as complete privatization of the Post Office. I'm not against the concept. However, the only way that privatization would actually work is if the mandates were totally eliminated -- or at least reduced. But if that happened the expense of privatization wouldn't be necessary. With fewer economically unfeasible mandates and some limited subsidies tied to certain national-interest services the current quasi-governmental agency would be sustainable.

We Americans like to rag on our post office. But the fact is that we've created a lot of unrealistic expectations for them and then we're unhappy when they can't meet them. We set them up for failure and then laugh about how they've failed us. That's not fair.

Disclosure: Neither I nor anyone in my family has ever worked for the USPS. However, I am a postal customer who uses PO boxes and I am used to standing in Post Office lines on a fairly regular basis. I've had a lot of time to observe and ponder why things are the way they are.


Unknown said...

Expectations that are too high? I happen to live in the zip code with what has been called one of the worst branches in the country. It took a week for a piece of mail to get from NPU to me three blocks away. (The postmark was proof. It wasn't just the school saying they had mailed it).

Our carrier signed a registered letter for us. Said she did it so we wouldn't have to go to the branch to get it. (Appreciate the thought, but....)

There is a woman behind the counter at the branch who is so nasty that if you mention the post office to someone and ask, "have you ever..." They interrupt to say "had that really rude one?" I'm not exaggerating.

Anyway, at one point they were talking about doing away with Tuesday mail. While that wouldn't generally bother me, I imagine it would be hard on businesses.

Brad Boydston said...

I think I've been in your post office. :-)

Indeed I've met some grumpy inefficient postal workers. I think my worst encounter was in a Chicago post office two years ago.

If you want to see slow lines go to Guam where everything moves slowly to begin with. So I'd just bring a book every time I went. Even though they were understaffed and slow they were mostly kind. And my time was never wasted. I got reading done.

That is, however, the POs other weakness -- the personnel structure -- unionization and pay system. They have some kind of job security that discourages friendliness in some places.

However, I have also met some extremely -- radically -- helpful postal workers who went way above the call of duty to help.

To be fair to the PO I should say that I've had some very grumpy and inefficient check-out clerks in Walmarts. And that company is definitely bottom-line oriented.