Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas Mr. Postman

  It's that time of year again, when you receive and send the beautiful Christmas Cards and photos of your family, your kids, or your pet to family and friends.
  I think it's time we gave a Christmas greeting and maybe a gift, long overdue, to the U.S. Postal System.
We've been exchanging holiday greetings on paper for hundreds of years. At first, handwritten and hand delivered holiday greetings were the tradition, but by the early 1800's Christmas cards through the mail had begun to put a heavy burden on the U.S. Postal System. 
  Today, more than two billion Christmas Cards are exchanged (just within the U.S.) annually.....and it's the biggest bargain on the planet that you probably take for granted.

  Lately you may have read that the US Postal Service is struggling financially and looking for ways to drastically cut costs to trim it's debt. Some of these ways include laying off workers, closing smaller offices, or trimming the number of delivery days. 
  Some other, more forward thinking, folks advocate adding more profitable services to the USPS offerings to increase profitability and their ability to pay down debt.
  There are lots of reasons some cite as to why the USPS is having financial issues. Costs are obviously rising. The cost of fuel alone for delivery vehicles, trucks, and jet fuel has taken a heavy toll on the system. Besides that, the U.S. Postal system has seen lower demand as e-mail and web services are much more popular and convenient for Americans.
  And to top it all off, a 2006 law, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, requires the post office to make payments into federal accounts that are meant to fund health benefits for future Postal Service retirees. The law requires that the Postal Service pay about $5 billion a year toward future health benefits for 10 years, until 2017. A 2009 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service determined that the payments were having a "considerable" impact on the post office's profitability. By the way, this burden, while some believe is financially prudent for the future, is not placed on any other government or private institution.
  I have some ideas of my own I'd like to propose (if you're listening Mr. Postman, which I'm sure you're not, because my blog is simply not that popular).
First of all, why is mailing a letter so doggone cheap? It's ridiculous! This is the most unappreciated institution in America. I can give my mail carrier, a total stranger, an envelope and ask him, with a straight face, to take it 3000 miles away, and drop it off at my buddy's house, for 44 cents....44 CENTS!! And he will smile at me, and do it.
Think about that for a minute people...that's insane!! You couldn't do that with anyone else. SO you think your best friend will do anything for you? Ask him or her to do that. Can you imagine?
(Setting, two guys walking out to their cars in the morning, Norfolk, Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay)
You: "Hey Tom, how's it going pal?"
Tom: "I'm good, how about you? 
You: "Well Tom, I need a little favor. On your way to work, could you drop this letter off in San Diego?"
Tom: "What? San Diego?"
You: "Oh don't worry...I'll happily pay you for's 44 cents?...."
Tom: "Uhh no...."
You: "Dude!! I'm paying you 44 cents!!! what more do you want?"
Tom: "Uhh...I want you to shut up now...Thanks..."

Mailing a letter should at a minimum cost about a dollar, at least for out of state service. And based on the above example, that's still a ridiculous bargain. 
The problem is that we have just become spoiled rotten by the service and the crazy low postal rates. We are horribly spoiled. Every time the postage goes up two cents, I always hear somebody opening their big mouth to complain. On those days, I wish I worked at the post office. That would be awesome.
Big Mouth: "Man this postage just keeps going's ridiculous" 
Me: "Yeah I know, it's outrageous that you have to pay a whole 44 cents for me to deliver this piece of mail 3000  miles and drop it off in perfect condition at your mother's doorstep, whether it's snowing, sleeting, raining or my bursitis is acting up.... Are you out of your mind!!! That's the best deal you'll get in your lifetime! Shut your big mouth and see if ANYONE, and I  mean ANYONE would even take it 30 miles or 3 miles for 44 cents... you cheap, ridiculous, spoiled rotten, complaining, jack-hole"

By the way, other ways to deliver the mail are quite a bit more expensive... 

$488 by car assuming no hotel and food costs
$510 by Greyhound bus... again no food and no hotel

One other problem with the USPS is it's inability to keep up with the times. They have the technology, and that's good. They must, to be able to move over 2 billion Christmas cards and all of the other mail too during this time of year. But on the outside they still don't have enough products that young people and 2011 people in general want.
The whole business model seems like it's stuck in 1955. I mean it's old. It's time to freshen up! It's like grandma's mail. Don't get me wrong, I love grandmas...I love them all, but I don't want them delivering my mail.
They may as well deliver in station wagons with wood paneling. I imagine the break room in the Post Office has plastic covered sofas, and bingo on Tuesdays.

And what's going on with that goofy uniform? Why in the world do these guys have uniforms? Is it so we know they're on the same side just in case a skirmish breaks out with other delivery people like the milkmen (yes they still exist) or the Fed Ex guy (which by the way would charge double digit dollars to mail your letter)? My point here is that it's just not very cool, and in 2011, cool matters to a lot of people. How about changing the uniform to a simple ID card and maybe a hat, or t-shirt? It's much cheaper than a dumb old uniform and probably more comfortable. Besides, my unofficial math shows the USPS uniform bill (at only one shirt, one pair of pants, and a hat replaced once a year) to be in excess of 13 million bucks. I could cut that by 2/3 easy....cut out the goofy expensive uniforms. Every little bit helps.
Hey I've got another novel about selling you're own cool (non-old) greeting cards at the post office? Hello?!? Americans love convenience. You probably ought to sell coffee there too and some comfy furniture. Your lines can get a little long. Maybe you could sell gift cards too. Guys would have no problem shopping for Christmas and other celebrations then. 
Dude 1: "Dude, I'm going Christmas shopping"
Dude 2: "Cool, you goin' to the mall?"
Dude 1: "No, the Post office.."
Dude 2: "Cool, I'm coming too... Gonna get one of those postal-lattes"

So, rather than put even more people out of work by laying off more postal workers, and reducing service, lets consider paying a fair amount for what we're getting, and quit whining about our mail service. These are good people doing a great job moving billions and billions of cards and packages every year for extremely low prices.
And maybe you Mr. Postman can sneak your ways into the 2000's and update your look and feel. People will buy more of your stuff and like you more. 
This is just my two cents worth. 
Thanks Mr Postman, and Merry Christmas!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree... the system as a whole is misunderstood and under-appreciated! And my particular branch... those guys rock. Always have a smile and kind word, know their customers by name, and are patient even with unkind people. They help me understand policies and help me find the best deal for what I need. And... they brighten my day.

December 19, 2011 at 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece! And I agree for the most part - but sounds like you didn't know - at USPS you CAN buy greeting cards and gift cards :) At certain locations at least!

December 19, 2011 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Easmeil said...

AHHH... Thanks! I did not know guess is that not many other folks know either. Thanks for reading! Have a great evening!

December 19, 2011 at 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Jim Dougherty said...

Easmeil, nicely written piece on the postal service. I appreciate that you took time to vet out the issues and also to put the massive scope of their operations into perspective. Thanks for bringing this to my attention - I enjoyed the post!

December 19, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Easmeil said...

Thanks Jim, very kind of you.

December 20, 2011 at 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Rick said...

From Yahoo News service:

The U.S. Postal Service said Tuesday it has lost $5.1 billion in the past year, pushing it closer to imminent default on a multibillion-dollar payment and to future bankruptcy as the weak economy and increased Internet use drive down mail volume.

The financial losses for the year ended Sept. 30 came despite deep cuts of more than 130,000 jobs in recent years and the closing of some smaller local post offices.

Losses will only accelerate in the coming year, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe warned, citing faster-than-expected declines in first-class mail. He implored Congress to take swift, wide-ranging action to stabilize the ailing agency's finances as it nears a legal deadline Friday to pay $5.5 billion into the U.S. Treasury for future retiree health benefits.

Congress is expected to grant a reprieve, but that will only delay the day of reckoning for an agency struggling for relevance in an electronic age. Based on current losses, the Postal Service says it will run out of money — or come dangerously close — next September, forcing it to halt service.

"We are at a point where we require urgent action," Donahoe said.

I think it's past time to privatize this endeavor...

December 22, 2011 at 6:28 AM  

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