By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Government
Do we still need a national mail delivery service? Executives from the U.S. Postal Service plan to grapple with this question at the PostalVision2020 summit on June 15.
That's the question officials plan to address at the PostalVision2020 summit on June 15 in Washington, D.C.
While the U.S. Postal Service -- an American infrastructure story if there ever was one -- manages thousands of layoffs and mounting losses to the tune of $7 billion in a single year, executives plan to look beyond immediate business troubles to focus on a simple, existential question: now what?
Speakers scheduled to present at the conference include Google chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf, interactive journalism thought leader Jeff Jarvis and an array of top consultants.
A knee-jerk response to the question at hand would simply be, "The show's over." Faced with highly disruptive e-mail, social media and instant message channels, it appears that the USPS's business model has migrated away from its post offices and to the screens of millions of smartphones -- for good.
But it's not that simple. The USPS doesn't just deliver personal letters; it also delivers tons upon tons of advertising, packages, magazines and newspapers. Most of these services can be replaced by electronic means -- but not all of them.
Either way, the business model isn't built for this dramatic shift.
Jarvis muses at Buzz Machine:
If all of us are connected, we don’t need the USPS to deliver letters; email is precisely the reason that first class mail is already plummeting. We consumers are, in my view, subsidizing the delivery of advertising because 71% of the USPS margin available to cover its costs comes from first class, only 21% from advertising. Yet in 2009, the USPS delivered an equivalent number of ads vs letters and by 2020 it will deliver far more ads (86 billion ads vs. 53 billion letters, according to the USPS projection). Should an ad-delivery service be the province of a government-anointed entity? I don’t think so.
On the flip side, parcel delivery is on the rise, thanks to the immensely popular online retail industry. Jarvis' recommendation: turn postal delivery into an as-needed service -- and instead of investing in the postal service as we know it, let's move funds toward ensuring broadband connectivity for every American.
USPS officials seem to see the writing on the wall. In April, they approved a scheme to sell gift cards at more than 2,000 locations in an attempt to raise new kinds of revenue. But this move will do little to impact the bottom line as the postal service shutters hundreds of locations nationwide.
What do you think?
May 9, 2011
First let try to clear up a few misconception about the postal service. First thing is the post office is totally self supportiing it does not recieve any funds allotments bailouts or subsidies from any goverment agency. It is only under the jurisdiction of the the goverment. Back in 2006 Goodold boy bush needed to bail out the goverment so they passed a law that required the posstal service to PREFUND 100% of its expected health care costs for every future retiree.No other corperation in the history of mankind has been forced to do this. The office of goverment accountablity has already had audits that show the USPS has over funded this requirement by between 50 to 75 BILLION DOLLORS> jthere is a bill in congress now to try to correct this punitive measure and return this over payment. Again try to remember this is money that was earned by the USPS in the course of its mission delivering your mail..IF the predunding wasnt so punitive the USPS would have had a profit for the past 4 years during one of the worst times in history. Please try to remember USPS hasn t gotten a penny from the feds for over 40years.. The postal service has for the past 4 years been the highest scorer for satisfaction of any goverment controled entity.How does that grab ya.Feel the love hug your letter carrier
YES!! can anyone say --- power failure? Server problems?? databases hacked??? Y2K??? Outside of the occasional threats like the Unibomber - not much stops the USPS. There are places that don't get the internet - same as they don't get free TV and need cable. Until folks can get access to high speed lines and WiFI they can't be forced to work with an outdated 56K modem to deal with the outside world. If society cannot guarantee reliable and competitive (ie all areas have same access) access to the internet to all- how can can society expect all to not require a reliable source of delivery such as the USPS. The best way to stop junk mail is to charge businesses for sending all the junk. For those that complain about the occasional misdirected piece of mail --- were it not for all the other junk that postal carriers have to contend with - much more attention could be given to the important stuff that is left.
When you send email, sometimes it makes it and sometimes it doesn't. There is no universal way to guaranteed an email was sent, was received or was read. There are some proprietary programs and systems, but they are expensive and only a tiny part of the population has access to it. How many of you have had email problems? Sometimes an email will sit in the Out ox forever and never be sent. Microsoft Outlook is famous for this. You hit send, and nothing happens. An email window just disappears and you wonder if it got sent or the operating system or mail program had a failure. Home many times have you had someone be upset with you because you did not respond to their email when you never received it. They say they sent it, but you say you didn't receive it. Sometimes people say they sent email, but they really didn't. What about the emails that get sent to your spam folder, and you never see it? Even if the email was delivered to your computer, it never made it to you. Email is sent using "store and forward". It is sent in "hops". Hardware failure can does result in emails being lost. Our email nodes are not failure proof. Without guaranteed delivery, you can't receive a court summons, a jury summons, mail a deed or an important document. The USPS has a way to guarantee delivery. Actually several different ways. In the 1990's a big effort was underway to make electronic delivery reliable. One proposal was to let the USPS be the overseeing agency, since a lot of what is needed was already in place. Everyone would have an identifier, and you would receive the email wherever you are. There would be no fixed email address. Today we have email addresses that change frequently because an ISP goes out of business or another ISP or business has better email features. Many people have multiple email addresses. Companies that do transactions with monetary consequences have EDI (Electronic Document Interchange). They have reliability built in. An email can be traced every step of the way. But these systems are expensive and complicated. There are multiple different, non-compatible systems. Homes and small businesses don't have it. Some say, well just implement and require it. Just think of how the IRS is run with all their computers. If you make an error on the return, it takes them years to tell you. Do you want a for profit entity that is hot absolutely responsible for accurate delivery. Current U.S. businesses are anything but reliable. Just look at all the complaint filed against businesses. And you want a business to handle all your email transactions? Do you want one company to be able to read all your and your company's email? To prevent that, you will need encryption that people and governments cannot read. Governments won't like that, Until you can get proof of sending, proof of receipt by an actual, physical person, you will still need the highly reliable USPS. And until you find a way to make electronic mail and computers easier to use, fool proof, and available to absolutely everyone, you will have a financial nightmare with all the things that can and will go wrong.. The USPS when you think about it, is not a bad deal.
When created, the USPS did not have a requirement to make a profit. It merely provided a service. It is false reasoning to later say the USPS should be shut down because it is failing to make a profit when it never was supposed to. What other organization in our government is required to make a profit? The military? The Drug Enforcement Agency? The police? The FBI? The CIA, congress? Homeland Security? The Education Agency? NASA. As soon as you start requiring one part of the government to make a profit, why stop there? Make every part of the government a profit center! If the army does not make a profit, get rid of them. If educators don't make a profit, get rid of them. And so on. Then think how much things will cost because the profit mark up will be in every facet of life, and we all will be drained of our last penny. Think before you speak and act.
Investing in broadband and community e-cafes along with educating the internet resistant segment is a better option - technology is making possible what we thought sometime back is impossible. Laws are being amended to soft copy of documents admissible as evidence. Time for lateral thinking in public spending as well. Change resistance is understandable but change is inevitable. Cheers
Until internet is personally and individually available to everybody, everywhere (at least in the U.S.), with confirmation of receiving guaranteed, we will STILL require some sort of legal paper delivery service, as well as for standard, stamped mail. The Post Office now does this, some delivery services also do for other than stamped mail, but at higher cost, telephone/fax - sometimes acceptable for some documents; internet - no. We still need some sort of package delivery system to every mailing address, hopefully, at not too exorbitant a delivery cost. The Post Office now does this, some parcel delivery services do, but at a higher cost; the internet - no. Advertisers like paper sales notices delivered to every address cheaply. The Post Office now does this, so do some door-to-door delivery services, to the apparent disgust of many who dislike so much extra paper they must trash or recycle. You may call it 'junk' mail, the Post Office calls it 'revenue' mail. Oh, the internet? Yes, it ALSO has ads, and all over the place! The Post Office provides cheap or free mail service for non-profits, and is REQUIRED to provide FREE mail service ('Franking privilege') for our Congressional Senators and Representatives! Here are some places to cut services to save funds! Set limits as to how much is allowed for free!
Do away with the USPS and cut off half of America. Not everyone uses the newest technologies,, nor do they have the access to it. Rural America is still poorly served.
There are still companies, including the government, that insist on mailing you a form for you to complete and mail back. While FAX is an option for some, it is not universal for individuals nor for some company policies.
The Postal Service gets no tax money other than regular postage. Junk mail has increased because it is inexpensive and it WORKS. There are many legal uses for First class mail that eventually be resolved via electronic means. Until then we are stuck with 'snail mail'. However, we should not have to endure postage increases every couple years. I submit these increases could be limited by 1) charging more for junk mail and 2) limiting delivery to Monday thru Friday. (extra fees could be charged for Saturday delivery)
Legal notices, including things as mundane as late payment notices, still have to be sent as hard copy. And there will be people unfamiliar with the internet for many years. I'm no fan of privatization for it's own sake, but everything besides letter delivery can be privatized. The USPS should only be doing those other things to subsidize letter delivery. If it can't generate enough profit, then comes the hard choice - to subsidize letter delivery out of the general fund or to levy a special tax on those companies that are making money doing what the USPS used to do.
The USPS must deliver to everyone everywhere - and not just in the USA. If the PO was wiped out then delivering to that small 30 miles off the beaten track house would cease. - A package delivery to that place would cost the last mile delivery fee of $60 to $100 in current prices. If a company is in it to make money, then they WILL not deliver to places where they cannot make money or charge a WHOLE lot extra to do so. Going the electronic route ONLY works if EVERY address has a permanent electronic system address and an account for every person tied to that address also - which would require a universal online connection that email ALWAYS must be delivered to regardless of the person at the other end. This means every person in the USA would HAVE to be tracked all the time in order to deliver email to them via their name or to an email "occupant" account at that address. This also means that people who "cannot afford" the computer and telecom fees would be given all this by taxing everyone else so that they are not "dis-enfranchised" by not having an electronic method of getting mail. And you would STILL have the problem of physical delivery of goods to people even if email and regular "mail" was all electronic. There still would be both systems running side by side. The only way around the last mile delivery would be to go back to the old 1800 days and make EVERYONE go to a cental post off to get mail and NEVER deliver anything to a house or even the multiboxes they now put out in neighborhoods. That would wipe out the letter carriers and just leave the backoffice sorters and vans / planes / trains of moving mail from post office to post office. You get to trade your time and effort in going to a post office anywhere from 50 feet to 50 miles away for their employees delivering it to your doorstep.
1. Not everyone wants access to the Internet. Parts of rural Kansas, where my wife and I lived for 20+ years, have an aged and aging population for whom the Internet is as mystifying as the Model T was for my great-grandfather (who ultimately mastered it). Such people depend on the postal service, whether to receive mail at the post office or by carrier delivery. 2. Though we have tried assiduosly to have our names removed from the databases of third-class mailers, we are still inundated with third-class mail. Perhaps it is more expensive for them to purge their databases than to mail to all the names therein; for our pleas have thus far gone unheeded. Suggestion: raise the price of third-class mail as an incentive for such mailers to use the Internet. 3. Track the mailings of those entities that are permitted to mail at the non-profit rate. Allow these organizations 5-6, say, mailings per year at the 11.2??? non-profit rate. After that, raise their rate to that of first-class commercial mail, which is still cheaper than the 44??? retail rate. Magazines are already required to report on the number printed, the number sold by subscription, at retail outlets, given away, left over, etc. Why consider the non-profits? Because we receive far too many mailings. Here are some examples by my count for one year: A: 15; B: 12; C: 8; D: 11. Now, some of these mailings came AFTER we've made our contribution. Reduced mailings mean reduced administrative costs, which could [but not necessarily] mean more money to support the work of the non-profit organization. If there is a negotiated drop in contributions with reduced mailings, raise the postage rate by a negotiated price. These organizations are not run by stupid people. They know when they are most likely to receive contributions and when they are least likely to receive contributions. They've probably adjusted their mailings accordingly. They just need to reduce the number of mailings. 4. Examine the salaries and benefits of postal employees and compare them with the most similar jobs in the federal government and private enterprises. Adjust the costs of postal employees accordingly, requiring employee contributions to cover health care costs, retirement benefits, etc. Implement any additional employee-borne costs with a minimum of hardship for postal employees, but no outlandish retirement benefits. No employer-collected union dues, if any. Reward those employees whose performance exceeds the requirements of their positions. 5. Allow post offices to offer services other than mailing. Examine the practices of postal services in other countries and adapt [which implies changing as necessary to fit different circumstances] the best and most profitable practices. 6. If necessary for the postal service to operate annually with only a small deficit or [just imagine!] a small surplus, reduce the number of post offices by consolidation, reduce the number of carrier deliveries, adjust the number of employees to match negotiated work loads.
Really, none of the other commenters here have said anything to persuade me otherwise. I do not have the luxury of a more reliable post office in our affluent suburban town. We receive misdirected items, "discover" lost items (when the sender asks us about them later), and receive damaged items as well, all courtesy of USPS. "Information" can more accurately, inexpensively, and reliably be moved electronically. Packages can be handled on an as-needed basis (no need for 6 days a week "routes"). And, as many other have pointed out, the entire planet would be served if the tons of "junk mail" were either brought to a halt or at least delivered at a huge premium to the senders. That is simple economics and makes a lot more sense than all the "carbon offset" garbage circulating today. The final solution: make it a profitable, competitive business that no longer requires my tax funding to survive, or whittle it down until there's nothing left.
You would not want a wasteful miscellany of small competing delivery services. You want economy of scale, meaning one big (monopoly) carrier - one you can trust. The idea is an old one and it came to pass - but the logic is timeless. All that changes is what has to be carried. In the early days, information was carried as well as goods. Now it is only goods. But the logic is still timeless - and paradoxically, as the number of packages carried diminishes the logic becomes more powerful. The economies of scale diminished as volumes increased, and maybe there once was a time when volumes were high enough to support competing carriers without any one carrying inefficiently small volumes. But no longer. Whatever it costs, as volumes drop the universal carrier, well planned, well run and well managed, will deliver the best possible service at the best cost.
I think few people mail recipients would complain if we stopped delivering advertisements and other junk mail. That would also save literally tons of paper and space in the land fills. The commercial carriers do a good job of delivering packages. If the USPS was not subsidized I doubt they could compete in that area. I would suggest something like the phone do not call list to reduce advertising and junk. And I agree with twice a week delivery with a possible ending of USPS deliveries.
I may be old-fashioned but I like paper backup. Just think, your entire life savings and investments could be wiped-out with the press of a key. I just lost my telephone bill to electronic billing and auto-payment. There was something comforting about that monthly paper bill that itemized my calls. May the USPS live forever (not likely).
There's also the legality of the post office. It is a common practice to mail yourself documents so that the envelope shows a postmark in order to determine an exact date and time the documents were delivered...no other delivery system does this...sure, email does, but it can be spoofed! There are many legal issues that revolve around a post office stamp cancellation that if we were to get rid of it, there is no real replacement!
The Post Office is the brunt of more than its share of jokes, but my experience is that it is still the most reliable way to get things delivered. Part of the problem is that they aren't allowed to charge reasonable prices. It's 44 cents to get a piece of mail across the country, taking between 1 and 3 days. I'd gladly pay 50 cents for this service, and at that rate perhaps they could make a profit. For parcel delivery, I've experienced more misdirections via UPS and FedEx than by the USPS. And email? Well, I generally get all of my bills both via email and through the USPS, unless I absolutely cannot get it both ways. But one particular biller can't seem to get the email sent reliably, and there are occasional misdirections into the spam box (which I therefore have to check every day). So, my opinion is that until somebody comes up with something better, we still need mail delivery. Email isn't better yet, nor are the other delivery services. Let them charge a rate that makes a profit. Let them go to 3 delivery days per address (mail comes MWF or TThS). It's still a very necessary service, and being necessary, should be able to turn a profit.
Of course we still need mail deliver. The internet is not safe. Only fools pay their bills on line. Legal notices and tax bills should always be sent by mail. And yes, I want my delivery at least five times a week. The only peace officers that effectively pursue the criminals behind identity thefts are the USPS inspectors when they use the mail to commit their crimes. Local police forces and the FBI wll just basically tell you that's too bad, cancel your credit cards and bank accounts.
Every day my postman dumps a chunk of ads for supermarkets, restaurants and service providers in my mail box and every day I take out the chunk and, after checking carefully for 'real mail' that may have got interleaved, throw the whole lot in the recycling bin. Obviously I want this to stop but it is impossible to stop because the mechanism to 'opt-out' of these mass mailings does not exist. Apart from the waste of my time and energy, there is also the appalling waste of natural resources in creating and distributing and disposing of this junk. This needs to stop!
The post office is still a good way to send small packages across country at a reasonable rate. The post office should change their billing to reflect the change in how their service is used. We should be glad that the post office did not force its way into electronic mail when email started to become more popular.
Seems the answer is simple - just deliver the ads and packages along with whatever 1st class mail there may be just 2 or 3 times a week. We'll get over it and used to. Next day service is available through many places for those who just have to have it.
The postal service is a self-sustaining, self-funding governmental entity. It receives no tax dollars to conduct its business.
Given the number of fools, one would expect to see more problems. The fact is that the volume of letters has gone down and will continue as more fools find on-line bill payment reliable, safe and efficient. There was a time before phones were common when the mail was delivered twice a day in large cities, just as there was a morning and an evening paper in most large cities before radio and TV. I'm not sure I understand your comments about mail Fraud. I believe that the FBI, with the proper authorization, should be able to get information from the USPS just as they can from utilities and other businesses. USPS has been an institution for which all Americans can be very proud. Despite the claims of libertarians and conservatives, it neither made us communist nor damaged our fundamental freedom. It provided an equal access infrastructure through which commerce could function reliably through out the land (even where it would have been quite unprofitable for business). Everyone talks about the times it didn't work, of bags of mail left in closets or whatnot, but these are decidedly the exception (given the enormous volume that did make it to its destination--something that is not news worthy). Ultimately, daily letter service is silly. Parcels and priority mail could be delivered every day, but otherwise, daily service is too costly given the drop in volume. Either that or the cost of mailing a letter needs to go up dramatically to cover the luxury of daily service.