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.