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Where's the Holiday Spirit at the Post Office?

Be nice to those harried clerks: They didn’t create this mess. We did.

These are not the happiest of times at the . It’s not just the long lines or customers who think postal clerks should wrap and package their gift boxes (Hey… this ain’t Mailboxes Etc.!), it’s just that this is a business in real trouble. And we’re all to blame.

Every time we pay a bill online or send an e-mail instead of a letter, we’re putting another nail is the U.S. Postal Service’s coffin. As the New York Times reported, most of our mail these days isn’t letters but ads… just as our home delivered newspapers often contain more sales inserts than news.

Oh, we all moan when they talk about closing our local post offices or threaten to curtail Saturday deliveries. But what’s the USPS to do? They can only raise the price of stamps so much without driving more business away.

Still, their latest proposal seems self-defeating: slow up delivery of first class mail. What are they thinking? This would be like a failing restaurant deciding to use rancid ingredients making their offerings even less attractive.

When you think of it, paying 44 cents to have a letter delivered anywhere in this country in just a few days is a pretty good deal. But delaying time sensitive material in the name of cost-savings seems foolish.

News magazines will be slowed so much on their way to your mailbox that their contents won’t be news anymore, just hastening their conversion to publishing electronically. 

Even Priority Mail, which used to promise second day delivery (wasn’t that what First Class used to offer) for $4.95 is seeing that delivery guarantee slip to “two to three days”. Sure, Express Mail still gets there overnight for less than FedEx or UPS, but $18.30? C’mon!

I like our local post offices. Their employees behind the counter and delivering our mail try hard. But morale must be in the dumps as they all worry if they’ll have jobs in the new year. And what will happen to their pensions?

So next time you’re at the Post Office, be nice to that harried clerk. They didn’t create this mess. We did.

Tony Imbimbo December 21, 2011 at 01:17 PM
A very timely topic. For more about the U.S. Postal Service, check out this Time magazine article: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2099187-1,00.html Some excerpts: "In the end, the debate about the USPS is simple: it's the privatization of a service that is supposed to be universal. But universal access doesn't exactly sync with the market's guiding hand. That's why UPS and FedEx don't ship everywhere. It's just not profitable for them. So where do they turn for last-mile delivery? To the postal service. Those private mail carriers are two of the USPS's biggest customers." [...] "By the USPS's calculations, closing all the 3,650 post offices up for review would save just $200 million, or 2% of the deficit of about $10 billion. But it would also eliminate thousands of jobs. "In Philadelphia one of the locations slated to close is the colonial-themed B. Free Franklin post office. It doesn't fly a flag because the mail delivery there was established before the nation was founded. It uses a unique postmark featuring a franking technique created by Ben Franklin. And it's on the list of post offices slated to close, stirring up sadness and anger for those who love the historic location. "I asked Donahoe what sort of advice Franklin, the first postmaster general, might give his successor today. "I think that Benjamin would probably say, Don't be penny-wise and pound foolish."
Chris Noe December 21, 2011 at 02:27 PM
Thanks Tony for the great addition to the story. Jim Fordam was the custodian at the post office for years. He made sure there wasn't too much salt on the steps to cause an accident and he also made it full of Christmas cheer.
Alex Tytler December 21, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Benjamin Franklin would say shut it down. The usps is like the buggy whip, it has been eclipsed by technology. No more junk mail! Horray!

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