The Postal Service On The Precipice, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 22 2011 @ 5:36pm

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I guess folks who don't have computers and email (folks who are usually poorer, more rural, and/or older) just wouldn't get mail?  And for them and everyone else:  No more letters to family.  No more postcards from far away places.  No more Christmas cards or other greeting cards.  And what about bills?  How does a creditor establish that a bill was dispatched to the customer's legal address, with a presumption that you received that bill and, therefore, must pay by the due date?  Via email?  Would you be required to have email to get billed services such as electricity, gas, water?

There's a reason the Constitution requires a postal service.  I shudder to think that we will decide it is too expensive to maintain.  Perhaps we should first look to remove the USPS obligation to fund pensions for 75 years,  or stop subsidizing business advertisement with low postage rates.

Another writes:

I find the argument that the Internet makes the Post Office obsolete somewhat odd. Virtually everything I buy online comes to me via USPS.

When I buy something from Amazon, it's most likely going to come via Super Saver shipping and USPS. If I buy something from a small seller on Ebay or Etsy, it's also most likely to show up at my door via USPS. If I add some DVD's to my Netflix list, it's the postal service that is bringing them to me.

And it's not a coincidence that that's the case. All too often I've found something online and at the final stages of checking out canceled my order because I've discovered they only deliver by UPS Ground or some such non-sense, and that my $15 order would have a $8 shipping cost attached to it. Heck, sometimes I've had the shipping turns out cost more than item itself, particularly back when I lived in Hawaii.

The same goes for when I ship things out to people. I choose the USPS because it's just cheaper than any other option. And there's always a line when I go there because I'm not the only person that's come to that conclusion. I completely disagree with Maurice McTigue that the goal of the USPS should be to increase the speed of its deliveries. Trying to elbow into a market of express mail that's already being served seems silly when the entire market of slower and cheap delivery entirely depends on the USPS right now. I don't need my brother's birthday present to get there tomorrow if I plan ahead, but figuring out how I'm going to pay for that shipping if that service disappears is going to be a much more major problem to me.

The consistent thread here seems to point towards a more obvious solution to the Post Office's problems than dissolving or privatizing the whole whole venture: They could just raise prices till they are no longer losing money. I'm sure there are some interesting quirks that drive the workings of the Post Office that I'm unaware of, but their prices are so much lower than most other shipping, that I can't see an increase in their rates decimating their current near monopoly of things coming to my house.


Now I hear that USPS is planning to shut down one day of service, and the day they seem to be going after is Saturday. Why? Saturday sets the post office apart from FedEx and UPS. They don't charge extra for Saturday, we like getting mail on Saturday. It is part of their brand.

Consider an elimination of Wednesday instead. Most home users of the post office don't care much about Wednesday; we'd hardly miss it. Two days on, one off, two on, one off would be a nice delivery pattern. And businesses, who do care about Wednesday delivery, might just be willing to pay extra for it. The post office could offer Wednesday business delivery for an extra charge and bring in business instead of losing it.