The U.S. Postal Service raised its rates for many classes of mail again this month, in a move that it said will hopefully raise $340 million for the remainder of the current fiscal year which ends September 30, and a total of $720 million over the next twelve months. But it should be obvious to anybody who has any kind of business background, even a kid with a paper route, that it won’t make any difference.

How many people do you know who actually write and mail personal letters any more? Why take the time to write a letter, buy a stamp, find an envelope, and drop it off in a mail box, when it’s so much quicker and easier to make a phone call, send an e-mail, or a text message?

Why mess with standing in line to mail packages, when Fed Ex and UPS will pick them up, and get them to their destination quicker and for less money?

Let’s face it, the Postal Service is an archaic operation that is hemorrhaging money, and that cannot or will not adapt to the changing needs of its ever-shrinking customer base.

As a commercial customer of the Postal Service who spends thousands of dollars a year with the post office, at locations nationwide, I come away from at least half of my encounters with postal employees anywhere from somewhat dissatisfied to outright pissed off.

The cost of mailing a single copy of the Gypsy Journal publication that I send out by First Class mail increased from $1.39 to $1.48 in the last week. When you consider that I send out hundreds of these a month, nine cents each adds up. So what am I getting for my money?

I get to stand in a long line at the post office, where there are usually one or two clerks at a counter designed with six to eight work stations. When I finally make my way to the front of the line, a disinterested clerk will argue with me that the same item I sent out yesterday under one rate now needs to go out under a different rate, and when I ask why the price changed, they can’t explain it to me. The rules are never the same from one post office to another, and sometimes the rate isn’t either.

For example, when we mail out papers to our subscribers in Canada, some post offices require that we fill out a Customs declaration for each one, and at the next post office, they tear the forms off and tell us they are not needed.

Another example – last year at the post office in Taylor, Arizona, the clerk wanted to charge us $1.47 for a 9×12 envelope, and I asked her why the same items, mailed out the day before in Snowflake, the next town, was only $1.37. She had no idea. So I told her I’d pass, drove four miles to Snowflake, and the very same envelope cost $1.37. Why?

Every year, the Postal Service spends millions of dollars to design, print, and distribute postage stamps. In Fiscal Year 2008, they printed 37 billion stamps, at a cost of $78 million.  In that same year, they destroyed $2.8 billion worth of stamps, some of which were printed more than 10 years ago. Stamps that the Postal Service paid to have designed, printed, shipped, inventoried over and over, and eventually shipped back for destruction. What a waste of money! Do we really need dozens of different stamps, for every holiday and every celebrity or politician who has died? Couldn’t all of that money spent on artists, engravers, and printing so many different stamp designs go toward reducing operating costs instead?

I have never worked for the post office, but I’d sure like to run it for a year or two. I’d get rid of the deadwood, put employees on incentive plans that rewarded performance and penalized lack thereof, and standardize stamps to just a basic one in every denomination. That alone might not turn things around, but it would sure be a step in the right direction. 

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18 Comments on If I Ran The Post Office

  1. Janis Thomas says:

    It’s not just the post office Nick. In NJ, when we would travel the Garden State Parkway with our motorhome, the toll collectors never knew what amount toll to charge us. We drive a class C RV with a tag axle and one collector wanted to charge us the bus rate of $6.00. We held up traffic while she contacted her manager who told her we were not a public bus and to charge us $1 per axle. We finally printed out, from their website, how they determine what fee to charge, since the employees didn’t know.

  2. concerned in texas says:

    Hey Nick,

    The Post Office (USPS) sucks big time, but no where as bad in a major metropolitan area. A couple of decades ago I was doing some direct mail marketing and learning about the ridiculous Post Office rules in Chicago. We ran into so many arcane rules that I finally took a sample piece to the Main Post Office in Chicago. The luck of the draw put me in front of an old curmudgeon who opened the envelope which contained a half dozen brochures from recent mailings. Our plan was to piggy back the distribution of brochures within one envelope. Mr. Know-It-All was beside himself because several of these brochures had our bulk rate indicia printed on them. He said: Post Office Rule such and such does not allow a “live indicia” within any sealed envelope. I asked why? He said it was because one of our envelopes could get torn open in processing and that would put live indicias into the system. So, being a smart young whipper snapper I said: “so not only are you are making it difficult for us to do business with the Post Office but now you are telling me that your machinery might tear up our envelopes.”

    I thought he was going to have a heart attack. I always hated doing business with any post office in any large city and the same holds true for me today.

  3. John McCarter says:

    And now we find out that the new Statue of Liberty stamp the post office is selling is based on a replica that’s in front of a Las Vegas casino and not the real Statue of Liberty. Do they bother to think before they act?

  4. Palmsrv says:

    The thing I love is that, even though they are losing millions each year they are still able to spend millions sponsoring different Olympic Teams.

  5. Debbie says:

    I understand what you are saying about the inefficiencies and aggravations of doing business with the post office. But maybe I’m just a romantic–I see it in another light as well. The following is what I wrote in my blog when we were travelling from NJ to California and back in 2007:

    “At home, we complain all the time about the mail delivery and the post office. But when you are on the road, you realize that the post office still has an aura of trust and reliability about it. Almost every town has a sign directing visitors to the post office, and it is automatically the place you look for to mail cards or letters from, with an expectation that if you do that, you can expect your stuff to be delivered. In Interior, SD, several people came into the post office to do business while I was there, and the lady at the counter knew everyone by name—it was clear that in a small town, the post office is really a community center of sorts. It represents a bit of familiarity in a strange place, too. Maybe I’m just a homebody at heart, but I appreciate seeing the post offices as we pass through small towns. It makes me feel a little less far from home!”

  6. Connie Bradih says:

    We too like small town post offices. They represent what the post office should be. I rarely if ever wait in a line, we can get General Delivery mail with out a problem, they are friendly and kind. But heaven help you in a medium to large town post office. You, the customer, are dirt and have to wait in a long line to be treated like dirt. And which post offices are they closing? Why you bet the small post offices which are the only ones that still represent what the post office should be. Go figure.

  7. Dave B. says:

    My wife is a retired postal worker. You wouldn’t believe what goes on there. It is true that the small offices are much better than the large city ones. The large offices are way too top heavy with managers. There are lots of supervisors doing little or nothing. They put each other in for bonuses. Many have salaries in the six figure ranges. They plan meetings at nice resorts and give each other awards. Meanwhile, the workers at the plant are left to figure out things by themselves. The manual is so thick that it is hard if not impossible to find the answer. My wife worked as a regular employee and as a manager. When she tried to discipline a worker for coming into work late each and every day, she was replaced in her position. And who is getting cut back now? You guessed it, the workers not the supervisors! They’re probably putting each other in for another bonus.

  8. Dale says:

    We lived on Long Island, NY and all that time never had problems with the post office. They could be finicky but at least the rules were consistent. (We had a lot of small post offices due to the large population.) Now the post office closest to where we stay in the winter is in Celebration (FL). The lines are long and the wait is longer. They do not have post office branches, only postal locations located in places like a gas station, candy store, etc. While they are efficient, they often run out of supplies, etc. The post office kind of reminds me of where I used to work – in order to get promoted to be a manager, you had to have air between your ears so that you wouldn’t question anything.

  9. Linda Sand says:

    The reason they print so many types of stamps is to encourage collectors to buy them but not use them which may be their only actual profit center. However, do people still collect stamps? I know that when I worked a couple blocks from the main post office in Minneapolis it had a special section in which collectors would shop which kept them from tying up the regular windows but that was a long time ago. That may be outdated now, too?

  10. Linda says:

    Your ideas for improving the post office are all good—–which is why they’ll never be implemented. They make too much sense.

  11. Jodie S. says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think that Bad Nick’s picture makes him look more like an apple-cheeked Santa than the grouchy curmudgeon he makes himself out to be? I guess the truth always comes out.

  12. Elaine & Mike says:

    I have to agree with concerned in Texas. The only time thank heavens we have had a problem with the post office service is in Chicago, they have a bunch of idiots working there. We had our mail forwarded to the main post office, when we got there despite notification of the package it was not there and could not be found. The post master checked and it was reported that it was taken off the truck at 4AM,then put back on the not deliverable and truck leaving at 5 am. What a bunch of lazy a– folks their. needless to say we were not happy at all.

  13. T & R Martin says:

    A lot of oldtimers depend on the post office to mail/pay their bills & I am sure it is a nuisance for companies when they have to deal w/snail mail. Many of my friends do not even own a computer, but don’t worry, we will all be dead soon & everybody can pay their bills via cyberspace. What if your computer breaks down & you don’t have enough money or resources to get it fixed? Aw shucks, the bills can wait. But as for you Nick, I can see the frustration especially since you are in a position of dealing with them on a large scale, perhaps the training of new employees needs to be stepped up. As for the ignorance & rudeness, I think that is a more personal thing & we meet them everywhere we go. So folks, when you receive your Gypsy Journal appreciate what it took to get it to you.

  14. Frank Serrao says:

    What happened to the change Obama talked about? Now we’re paying higher postal rates, hence we have less change in our pockets. Its just business as usual. Wake up America. Don’t repeat the same mistake again in 2012 by voting for these idiots.
    Donald Trump is calling it like it is. Its time for REAL CHANGE.

  15. Frank Serrao says:

    What happened to the change Obama talked about? Now we’re paying higher postal rates, hence we have less change in our pockets. Its just business as usual. Wake up America. How do you like the higher gas prices too. And how about the unemployment rate. Some change huh. Don’t repeat the same mistake again in 2012 by voting for these idiots.
    Donald Trump is calling it like it is. Its time for REAL CHANGE.

  16. Dee Walter says:

    Doesn’t the Postal Service way of doing things remind you of the way the Government is run? Sounds like the same people doing the same thing. The hard working people are the ones getting screwed, by both (the PO and Govt).

  17. Barbara Kirkhart Palmer says:

    My own experiences with the post office have been largely fine- in Bellevue, WA, a fairly large city, the overworked employees at the desks are unfailingly polite, helpful, and kind, especially to the many speakers of foreign languages that have come to live in our wonderful city. As we travel as full-time RVers across this nation and back, we have almost always found friendly and helpful postal workers who either receive our general delivery mail and deliver it to us when asked, or who explain which post office will accept general delivery mail if theirs doesn’t – it was a surprise to me to find that even in small towns,not all post offices accept general delivery mail – now we always to call to verify before having mail forwarded. that said, we do not use the post office for anything other than the occasional birthday card to be sent or for forwarding what little mail we still get via the post office (mostly magazines and special interest group newsletters – Nick will be glad to know that we are among those who receive the Gypsy Journal via e-mail). I can’t imagine a US without the post office, even in its current state of (quasi-governmental) disarray. Rest assured that the fat cat managers who do nothing but pad their own resumes and lick the “”s of those above them are alive and well in corporate America – maybe even more so than at the post office!

  18. Richard Warner says:

    While I agree with some of what you say…there is one major difference between the USPS and a any private company. A private company that operates thousands of outlets nationwide can close any of those locations which are unprofitable. The USPS has to get permission from Congress. Just try to get a post office closed in Podunk, USA and congressman “I.M. Porcine” from that district will be all over it.

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