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The Post Office: They're doing it wrong.



A recent article in the Washington Post states that the Post Office is looking to cut 20% of its workforce and replace federally-mandated benefits program with an internal one. This on top of discussions already in the works about cutting Saturday delivery, or moving to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.

I understand the need to balance the budget, even though the government as a whole does not. For quite some time the Post Office has been independent of our taxes, running as a self-sustaining business (if you ignore the fact that its continual torrent of red ink is made up for by general government funds). That said, the leaders of this entity and of our nation seem to be caught up in the trough mentality, and feel that the correct way to run a business and attract customers is to cut services to the bone.

If we cut it, they will come.

The photo at the top of this article is indicative of the syndrome. Once upon a time, the Payson, Utah post office (84651) had self-service machines - a stamp vendor and a scale. (The Salt Lake central post office has a nice device that weighs your item, tells you the postage, and vends it all in one step, so that one can effectively do business 24/7). Payson's equipment, however, got old, and was removed. I asked the folks there if they would be kind enough to replace it (mind you, I said this with a straight face) and was told that they only get equipment like that if they have a certain revenue level.

I also have to deal with central-point delivery, meaning my mailbox is half a mile away instead of on my front door or at the curb - I can't just put the mail out in the morning any more. And if I want to mail a parcel on the weekend, I'm S.O.L - there's not even a parcel bin there, like some stations have. Unless I want to drive the 25 miles North to Orem. I asked the counter folks what it would take to at least get a parcel bin put in - the answer, while delivered more politely, was basically "Make pigs fly."

You're doing it backwards, folks. The Amtrak model doesn't work. You increase service to attract new customers, not cut it.

Now, they are most certainly at choice. They can continue to provide rock-bottom service and continue to cut jobs, but the end is in sight... people are simply going to go elsewhere for their needs, and the whole house of cards will come tumbling down - and that will be a loss. (For a paen to snail mail, click here.)

There was a time in my country when mail was delivered more than once a day; when I was living in New York in the 50's, three times a day was not unheard of, and "Special Delivery" letters were almost as good as a telegram. (For what it's worth, Western Union no longer even handles telegrams - they seem to make enough money routing funds to scammers in Nigeria and elsewhere... but that's a story for another day.) Popular Science Popular Science in 1952 seems to confirm the veracity of the

WOOD
----
JOHN
----
MASS

story (a letter addressed to John Underwood, Andover, Massachussetts) which was delivered successfully, and a comment from a reader in the Snopes fora stated that (s)he wrote a letter in the 70's addressed to "All Those Weird People Out Past the Mitchells [Town, State, Zip]" which arrived correctly. To be fair, I'll add my own confirmation that among the jillionteen pieces of mail handled annually by the Post Office, occasionally one will get eaten by a machine. On several occasions they've pieced it back together as best they could and sent it on to me in a rescue envelope. Many of the people who work behind the scenes care about their jobs, and do it to the best of their ability.

The success stories notwithstanding, it appears that soon, the Post Office will be nothing but a memory, and that will be sad for the over half a million people who depend on it for their jobs, and for me as well. But short of having a financial genius at their head who can return the agency to profitability and attract new customers, I see no other end to the tale.

I shall miss them.


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Comments

oceansedge
Aug. 12th, 2011 10:58 am (UTC)
it is a sad thing.... alas the world moves on, it's easier in the US to deliver this level of service (than say Canada where to the best of my knowledge we've never had Saturday or more than once a day delivery and central point of delivery {Superboxes} has been the model since 1980 - even in the suburbs), but even in the US the unfortunate truth is that electronic mail HAS decreased dramatically the need and use of traditional mail services and even the best service can ever compete with the speed and convenience of email and messaging services.

Canada post has made some efforts towards profitability with their 'epost' system - an electronic mail system for secure information. (bills banking payroll etc) and e-malls (cross border shopping with the taxes and duties and postage figured in) and indeed they do manage to turn a small profit - but then again we don't have the level of service the US has. I do appreciate as a small/home business person - the level of self service they do provide via their website and online tools and until we have molecular transporters the post office will BE necessary for parcel post delivery - but if you look at courier companies - that's an expensive service to provide.

I'm with you - melancoly
secoh
Aug. 12th, 2011 11:42 am (UTC)
Come now. The Post Office is a social service. You guys can't have it both ways :-P

*stir stir* :D
ccdesan
Aug. 12th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
Rabble rouser!
lowen_kind
Aug. 12th, 2011 01:19 pm (UTC)
Actually, despite efforts to gut Amtrak, we are increasing our ridership.

It doesn't hurt that the airlines keep adding fees on top of fees and gasoline has become almost a luxury item.

We are increasing service in some markets and adding amenities to the trains. We hope to roll out Wi-Fi on the Northeast Regional trains shortly, at the request of many passengers.

So this old railroad keeps chugging along, as well as it should.
ccdesan
Aug. 12th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
That is good news. I've always been a rail booster, especially after having experienced what train travel can be like over in Europe. I always loved sitting on a Swiss or Austrian or German train and watching the thing pull out exactly as the second hand on the platform clock hit 12...
kusanagi_sama
Aug. 13th, 2011 04:30 am (UTC)
Out of the entire Amtrack system, isn't it true that only two routes actually make a profit?
kusanagi_sama
Aug. 13th, 2011 04:33 am (UTC)
The government's attempt at privatizing the Post Office is an abysmal failure. They basically dumped it and told them "You're on your own now". Had the government sold the Post Office to FedEx or UPS, we wouldn't have had this problem of huge amounts of red ink and greedy unions trying to get as much money as possible from the Post Office.

My Dad, who retired in 1991 when the government attempted to privatize the Post Office, and several other members of my expanded family have worked and are still working with the Post Office.

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