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USPS Losing Battle Against the E-mail Age 734

Posted by Soulskill
from the think-of-the-circulars dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An article in the NY Times explains how the United States Postal Service is in dire financial straits, and will need emergency action from Congress to forestall a shutdown later this year. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said simply, 'If Congress doesn't act, we will default.' Labor agreements prohibiting layoffs are preventing one avenue for reducing costs, and laws forbidding postage rates from surpassing inflation rates keep income down. On top of that, the proliferation of e-mail and online bill-paying services have contributed to a 22% reduction in snail-mail volume since 2006. They're currently hoping for legislation that would relax their economic requirements and considering an end to Saturday delivery."
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USPS Losing Battle Against the E-mail Age

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  • by Lieutenant_Dan (583843) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:19AM (#37314502) Homepage Journal

    All /. posters should commit to mail their comments for one week to make up the difference.

    Soulskill will provide the mailing address shortly. To verify your identity, you will have to mail your username/password, and our army of volunteers will use a special login form to verify your identity.
    This system is so brilliant, I may even patent it.

    • by xaxa (988988) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:28AM (#37314586)

      I joined Postcrossing [postcrossing.com] last month. I liked the idea of sending random people postcards, and in return receiving cards from other random people.

      I send cards to a child in Finland, a girl in Germany, a student in Taiwan, a recent-graduate lawyer in the Netherlands and a woman in Siberia. So far, only the first two have received my cards, and I've not received one in return yet -- but it's only been two or three days. (I live in the UK, so it's no surprise that the cards to Finland and Germany arrived quickly.)

      I like travelling and meeting people from other countries, so hopefully I'll like reading the cards I receive too.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Neat idea. Should have called it Post Roulette.

      • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:21PM (#37317696)

        But let's get real, such an effort even if successful may fund one postal worker. The USPS is one of the biggest employers out there.

        I think they should do several measures:
        -Alternating day service. Route 1 gets Mo-We-Fr delivery, and Route 2 gets Tu-Th-Sa delivery. Mail carriers cut in 1/2. Express Mail already is handled by a different special carrier (I'm told) so that's unaffected.
        -Cut down all underperforming post offices that are within a certain radius of other, more successful, USPS locations. I'm close to such a one, that is in a shack of a location, and within 7 minutes drive of it's main branch. It has one guy working there, less than 75 PO Boxes, half of them unrented (the next most rural place I know has at least 300 boxes, 90% rented). USPS has been trying to close it down for years but the union is resisting, even if the worker is taken to the main branch. Hard to understand.
        -Open up automated kiosks to serve as advanced versions of blue mailboxes in malls/supermarkets/what_have_you. Emulate redbox, except for packages. Try a trial run. (All the USPS advertising is for flat rate boxes, they WANT the package business. Might as well try something novel.)
        -Back in WW2, Post Office has Vmail. It's mail on special sized letters, shrunk to microfiche, and reprinted. Save many cargo ships for other purposes - they used to be pioneers. They should have an email to mail service - afterall laywers and a ton of businesses need to send out certified mail all the time. But why should they have to print it, run someplace to mail it, and keep track of slips of "certified" this and that? Send it to the USPS server, let a central place print it out, and mail automatically, for postage plus a small fee. The software keeps track of what was sent.

        Just a few ideas. The USPS has to change and fast. It has to reduce their workforce. It has to do a lot of things. But ceasing to exist should not be an options, lot of online and offline commerce depends on them and will do so until perfect replicas of objects can simply be generated, like in Star Trek, just like computers can copy data files. Then they can call it quits.

        • by rolfwind (528248)

          Oh, and right now I will tell you where USPS absolutely lags behind where it could get an easy jump. For ebay, it absolutely sucks right now making international shipments for things under $300. You see, UPS and FedEx for a small guy will cost around $100 overseas (not something a buyer is likely to pay) to send a package. With USPS it costs 4-5 for really small items to, say $30 for something under 4lbs. The problem is that USPS lacks tracking - buyer says he never got it, Paypal will side with the buy

    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:39AM (#37314678) Journal

      The problem is (and why I am starting to use epay rather than check+snail mail)... The USPS loses too much stuff

      In the four years since I've moved into my current residence, they've lost one mortgage check (eff that, from now on I drop the damn thing off in person), and one electric bill.

      That may not seem like a lot, but it is enough for me.

      Translation: they aren't losing my service because of competition, rather their own inability to reliably provide their offered service.

      • by nbvb (32836) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @09:34AM (#37315242) Journal

        ... and you think dropping a check off in person will help?

        My (previous) mortgage company deposited my mortgage check... and I have no idea whose account got credited for it, but it wasn't mine.

        The check cleared, I marked it as such in my bank book, and the only clue something was wrong was when I went from 0 bill collector calls (since I pay all my bills on time) to 4 in one day all about my mortgage. Even after I opened a case, and they started investigating, AND finally credited me back, they STILL had the hounds calling me.

        I had to tell them the next call was going to my attorney before they stopped.

        So, even dropping that check off in person won't necessarily help. Mistakes can (and do) happen.

        • So, even dropping that check off in person won't necessarily help. Mistakes can (and do) happen.

          True. However, you can reduce the probability of an issue arising by reducing the complexity of the system. By trusting USPS with your cheque, you give USPS the chance to lose it. If you don't send it by mail, they can't lose it.

        • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @10:29AM (#37315782)

          In cases like that you send a registered letter to the agency requesting proof that you owe the debt. That will stop them dead in their tracks, especially given that lately even legitimate mortgage debt often can't be proven to be owed to the party wanting to collect.

    • by Frankie70 (803801) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:38AM (#37316540)

      The real reason for USPS problems is not e-mail or online bill pay. The real reason is the Postal Act of 2006 which requires USPS to pre-fund 80% of future retiree health-care obligations by 2016. This costs USPS 5.5 billion $ per year. If not for this, USPS would have shown a 600 Million $ profit over the last 4 years.

      None of the USPS competitors (or for that matter any other company) has this burden. It's very likely this was lobbied for by USPS competitors - No lobbyist left behind.

  • Battle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mensa Babe (675349) * on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:20AM (#37314512) Homepage Journal

    For at least 15 years I've been hearing that various postal services all over the world are "losing battle against e-mail age" while in fact that scary "e-mail age" (or Internet age, as I would call it) should be the best thing they should hope could possible happen. Never before in human history we were buying so many goods from remote locations all over the world to be delivered by ... postal services! And now they want an end to Saturday delivery? They should start Sunday delivery. They missed the opportunity to start the biggest online payment system in the world so they should at least focus on being the best at delivering good bought on the Internet, not being worse still.

    The "proliferation of e-mail and online bill-paying services" should have been started by USPS because they already had the infrastructure to do that and the client base. If back in the nineties everyone paying bills at USPS were told that they could do the same faster, cheaper and more conveniently at USPSpal.com then people would do that. The problem is not that the world is not friendly to postal services but that they don't want to change. They missed the train and now they want our help to survive. This has never worked in the long term before.

    • by EdZ (755139)
      The problem is, letters are easy and cheap to deliver. Hell, they can even be sorted and router automatically almost end-to-end. Parcels, however, cannot. Every bit of handling, sorting, etc is done pretty much by hand (with the possible exception of tracking). Normally, high volumes of high-margin mail would subsidise parcel rates, but this is no longer the case, hence the current problem.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        FedEx and UPS seem to have pretty much fully automated the processing and routing of parcels pretty much end-to-end.

      • by repetty (260322)

        The problem is, letters are easy and cheap to deliver.

        You must have grown up in a family of postal carriers.

        Transporting tangible, physical objects hundreds or thousands of miles away is not cheap. Well, maybe compared to 50- or 100-years ago it's less expensive.

        This problem is a GOOD THING.

    • It's true (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dj245 (732906)
      The USPS doesn't want to change, or can't. They are an supertanker with 2 steering wheels- the USPS leadership on one and congress on the other. They already do USPS money orders, why not make them electronic? They feed letters into automatic sorting machines at various points along the delivery route, why can't they have a scannable barcode with tracking information on each piece of first class mail?

      One point that I would make is that a first class envelope usually carries a lot more weight than an e
      • Re:It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

        by laird (2705) <lairdp@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:49AM (#37314760) Journal

        The big problem for the USPS has is that they are required to do whatever Congress says, and prohibited from doing anything else. And, in particular, Congress has its own agenda, so even when the USPS knows what to do, it takes them years to decades to be allowed to make changes. For example, they were recently authorized to change smaller post offices from being dedicated buildings to being a service provided within an existing business - that took YEARS to pass, because congressmen didn't want to lose a "real post office" for their constituents, so the USPS was required by Congress to lose money on hundreds of tiny post offices. And if they need to raise the rates, or streamline operations, they are routinely blocked by Congress, because the voters don't care if the USPS is losing money, but they do care if the rates go up, or if people are laid off. Ideally the Congress should give the USPS more autonomy, to be able to manage itself without Congress imposing political concerns.

        • Re:It's true (Score:5, Informative)

          by devotedlhasa (1298843) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @10:08AM (#37315588)
          Congress and the Bush Administration passed the 2006 PAEA law which forced the USPS to submit over $5 billion a year in trust fund payments. This trust fund serves the purpose of transferring federal deficit to the USPS and artificially lowering the government's accumulated debt. This is really a story about bad government policy and not about how technology is replacing the need for a post office.
      • by blueg3 (192743)

        Part of the reason is that they're legally barred from entering into other lines of business. It came hand-in-hand with the substantial legal protections they get.

    • Re:Battle? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by itsdapead (734413) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:43AM (#37314716)

      Never before in human history we were buying so many goods from remote locations all over the world to be delivered by ... postal services!

      Except that the nationalized postal services face a lot of competition from private courier firms who aren't hamstrung with government requirements to provide a universal service and can cherry-pick the best routes.

      That's certainly the situation in the UK: the postal service is obliged to charge a ridiculously low price for the basic first-class letter, and to deliver & collect them from right out in the sticks, but has long since lost ts monopoly on postal deliveries, so faces lots of competition for lucrative business deliveries around major cities. They mainly survive by delivering vast quantities of junk mail.

      If you want a universal postal service you have two choices: give 'em a monopoly to make up for the universal service requirement, or just accept that they won't be profitable and that you are going to have to put money in and get a service out. Then tackle the remaining problems with inertia and unions head on, instead of messing about with ideology-based pseudo-free-market kludges in the vain hope that the invisible hand will make it all better.

      • Re:Battle? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sarhjinian (94086) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @09:21AM (#37315088)

        If you want a universal postal service you have two choices: give 'em a monopoly to make up for the universal service requirement, or just accept that they won't be profitable and that you are going to have to put money in and get a service out.

        This is a good point. It also explains why health care, tax gathering and education---especially, but not solely, in the United States---are similarly expensive clusterfucks.

        Either fund and administrate them adequately, or don't bother at all. Half-assing it for ideological and/or penny-pinching reasons results in the worst of both worlds.

      • by AnonGCB (1398517)

        Not going to address the free market bashing because that would end unproductively, but you should be aware that, at least in the USA, due to Lysander Spooner kicking the USPS' ass, they technically have a monopoly on delivering mail, and UPS, fedex etc only get by by paying USPS a rather large fee, and classify their services are specialty delivery services.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        I'd mod you up if I hadn't already posted. The budge problems could easily be fixed if the USPS would do what USPS and Fed Ex do in terms of charging something that reflects the amount of service provided. As it stands I could go on vacation in Hawaii and mail a first class envelope to Maine for the same cost as what I pay right now to mail that same envelope across town.

        And it gets even worse in cases where the USPS has to deliver the mail by helicopter or by horse because somebody chose to live in a place

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Ups and downs of being a regulated business, if you are then generally you don't get to do everything else because of illegal cross-subsidies. You'd have to get a change of mandate and long before that was over they'd be too late to the party. As for packages, there's competition on those as far as I know (FedEx, UPC being a few) so the most profitable areas are served by the lowest bidder, they can't just roll out everywhere without considering cost..

      Personally, yes I do buy quite a few things online and I

    • Re:Battle? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:59AM (#37314860)

      There is the US Paradox, which has always plagued the US. High Population Low Population Density. This makes any infrastructure policy in the United States very expensive and difficult to implement.

      Other countries have higher density that makes serving a large percentage easy and that gains outweighs those few outlying people.
      Countries with Low Density and Low population is still easier just because there isn't so many end points that you need to go to. And a lower population is easier to come to an agreement if they want it or not, and if they are willing to pay extra taxes or not.

      The US in terms of geography is the 3rd/4th largest country (Roughly the same size a China), Covering almost every geographical condition. Rain Forests, Desserts, Mountains....

      USPS is probably crossing or have crossed the sustainable line of demand needed to keep USPS going.

      • Re:Battle? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sarhjinian (94086) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @09:24AM (#37315130)

        This would be the case were Canada's postal service not working reasonably well, despite Canada being as problematic in terms of population distribution.

        The difference is that the Canadian postal service is allowed to run more or less autonomously, whereas the USPS is subject to constant congressional meddling. It's the American paradox: decry government involvement and authority in general, but allow four or five hundred cooks in the kitchen at all times.

        • Small-government in the US these days means privatizing the profit, but socializing the cost and risk.

      • Re:Battle? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn&earthlink,net> on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:04PM (#37316760)

        But the USPS is constitutionally mandated. It'll be interesting to see how they deal with that. My expectation is that they'll ignore it, and let the system collapse, but I'd only give that about a 60% probability, perhaps slightly lower.

  • by Blymie (231220) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:21AM (#37314524)

    Weekly delivery of bills, junk mail, offers etc is enough. Lay off 60% of the delivery workforce, the other 20% will be needed for daily "express" deliveries.

    Alternatively, deliver 3 days a week. Does anyone really need mail delivery daily?

    • by gatkinso (15975)

      Here here!

    • Re:weekly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by demonlapin (527802) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:27AM (#37314580) Homepage Journal
      The mail still needs to be moved and processed six (seven?) days a week. Cutting home delivery frequency would save money, but probably a lot less than you think.
      • by bberens (965711)
        Fuel and trucks are a huge cost, they're just not considered a cost that can "go away" in the sense that labor costs can go away if you lay people off. Decreasing the truck wear/tear and fuel costs by 50% or so would be a massive savings.
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Alternatively, deliver 3 days a week. Does anyone really need mail delivery daily?

      Assume that the USPS has enough mail carriers to cope with 100% of todays deliveries (ie each carrier works a full day, and that the USPS doesn't carry excess workers). Now reduce the delivery days by 50%, but the public does not change its habits. Now each mail carrier is only working 3 days a week, but has double the amount of mail to deliver. So in the interim you have to hire another set of workers to carry the additional load, or get the current workers to work twice as hard.

      • As long as each house is getting at least one piece of mail per day, the carrier is already going to the effort to visit each house. Is delivering four pieces of mail to a given house that much more effort than delivering two?
  • This continuing argument about Saturday delivery is first, highly flawed, and second, not going to save any reasonable amount of money. The Postal Regulatory Commission says it will take 3 years to implement and only save about 1.7 billion a year [go.com] starting in the fourth year. And even the GAO states that "it would also reduce service; put mail volumes and revenues at risk; eliminate jobs; and, by itself, be insufficient to solve USPS's financial challenges [gao.gov]".

    So while the PO loses its one attractive monopol
    • Bad news - the other guys deliver on Saturday, too.

      The only USPS monopoly services are media mail and cheap, lightweight stuff, neither of which are profitable.

    • I'd like to live in your world where $1,700,000,000 isn't a "reasonable amount of money"..

      It may not be enough by itself, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered among other solutions. A paltry billion here and there - pretty soon you start to see savings!

      Eliminating jobs would be a good thing by the sounds of it, unless you'd rather another "bailout" situation.

      Here in the UK I don't think we even have Saturday delivery from the Royal Mail..

  • That all the postal services have been so slow to get into parcel delivery. We all order on line these days and surely it would have gone some way to offset the impact of reduced post.
  • by Trepidity (597) <<gro.hsikcah> <ta> <todhsals-muiriled>> on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:23AM (#37314542)

    The USPS is losing a long, drown-out battle against the impossibility that it's supposed to be both an unsubsidized "private-sector" corporation that's "run like a business", but also is micromanaged by Congress and not permitted to make sane business decisions. They are required to deliver six days a week; have exact stamp prices down to the penny for many services mandated by Congress; are required to provide certain extra-subsidized services, e.g. cheap shipping at "media mail" rates; are not permitted to levy surcharges for delivery to expensive locations (e.g. remote areas); and they even have their pension plan micromanaged by Congress, which is one of the current cash-flow pressures (Congress changed how the pension accounting has to work).

    Basically Congress needs to decide if the USPS is going to be a government-mandated service that delivers flat-rate mail to every corner of the country six days a week, and subsidize it accordingly, or if it's going to be a private-sector business that will neither be subsidized nor micromanaged.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:23AM (#37314544)

    To what purpose, I don't know, but making them fund pensions and expenses in a way never budgeted and that no other Government Sponsored/Sourced/Seeded Corporation has to, it is designed to fail.

    Anyone know why, other than to break the unions and piss away the pension money?

  • duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:23AM (#37314546)

    And this is a surprise?

    Lets see:
    Can't raise the price of stamps faster than inflation regardless of actual cost to deliver.
    Can't layoff employees
    Can't reduce the delivery days
    Must deliver to everyone

    How many people see a positive outcome for this 'business'.

    • Re:duh (Score:4, Informative)

      by hrvatska (790627) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @09:19AM (#37315066)
      You missed can't fund its pension plan at the same lower level as its private competitors.
      • Nailed it. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GodInHell (258915) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:07AM (#37316142) Homepage

        You missed can't fund its pension plan at the same lower level as its private competitors.

        In 2006 Bush and the Republicans put a forward funding mandate on the USPS. That payment is due this year, to the tune of $5.5B -- 5,500,000,000.00. Guess how big the shortfall is expected to be in this "crisis."

        It's easy to make government fail, just cut revenues below expenditures, then cut expenditures, then repeat -- sooner or later the food isn't safe, the roads fall apart and Medicare can't be sustained any longer. Unfortunately, one party in the U.S. has embraced this as a "policy" of "governance." The other party is full of messaging fail.

        -GiH

  • by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:23AM (#37314548)

    From everything I have seen over the years they are between a rock and a hard place. They either need to be set free to be a private corporation or be yanked back in to be a complete government service. Both political parties over the years have successfully pushed the USPA into a situation where it has the worst traits of a government organization and a private corporation.

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:25AM (#37314562) Journal

    A postal service is simply too important not to have, just like the roads. It is necessary for the smooth running of a country to be able to reliably move physical goods from one point to another in a moderately expedient and cheap fashion. It is so important that the very basic service should be run by the government.

    Has the US government done anything to actively sabotage the USPS?

    I know that in the UK, the Royal Mail has been sabotaged to the point of being unable to opeate profitably. The Royal Mail has been forced to outsource the only profitable part of mail, which is the bit where you take letters and charge people for the privelige. As a result, there are suite a number of companies who rake in vast amounts of money doing the easy bit. The hard bit is the sorting and delivering which the Royal Mail still has to do and is legally not allowed to charge very much for. In a sane world, the latter part would be funded by the former part. But the government has managed to separate the two so that the Royal Mail simply cannot turn a profit so that it can then be sold off. In general, though mail in the UK is still a profitable venture and the Royal Mail would run itself comfortably if the world was half way sane.

    Has the US government done something similar?

    • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @09:28AM (#37315184)

      Has the US government done anything to actively sabotage the USPS?

      Yes. Not every dollar of lobbying spent by UPS / DHL / fedex has been wasted.

      From the fine article

      "laws forbidding postage rates from surpassing inflation rates keep income down."

      The inflation figures are fabricated by the govt to be unrealistically low, because so many outlays depend on it being low, in addition to incumbent reelection campaigns. Realistic inflation figures would mean realistic COLA increases for SS and frankly almost all other salary expenditures. However bad our deficit situation is now, being realistic about inflation would make it even worse. Therefore the numbers are doctored up until we can sorta afford the result. (Same thing with unemployment stats)

      On top of that, the proliferation of e-mail and online bill-paying services have contributed to a 22% reduction in snail-mail volume since 2006.

      Everyone I know either got email in the 90s, or frankly never will get email. For me it was '90, at least for a globally accessible internet address, if you're counting BBS / compuserve I guess I go back to '83. For my elderly mother in law it was 99. Everyone else in between. Other than children coming of age, I have never even heard of someone in my circle of friends / family / coworkers getting email after '99. It would be like blaming myspace for a sudden drop of TV viewership in 2011. Something that did start around the latter half of the 00s was the global economic second great depression, which is still going on. I would say economic local maximum peak year was probably about '07 and we've been in decline since then. That Might have a little to do with it. Abandoned homes don't get much mail. Unemployed people don't order many packages from Amazon (who mostly deliver with UPS around here, anyway). Business that close don't send bills or get payments. There are multiple "dead malls" in my area where seemingly permanently empty storefronts will never tx or rx mail. Ditto semi-abandoned industrial parks, etc.

      Outside the article, think about it. UPS doesn't deliver on Saturdays, unless you pay some crazy rate, assuming they still offer that service. Does anyone care? Anyone? I'm told that UPS doesn't even attempt to deliver every day, in some rural areas. Like the driver gets the "north route" on even days and the "south route" on odd days and that's just how it goes. Does anyone really care? If my mailbox never got anything on Saturday, and twice the junk every other day, I really wouldn't care. Much like when they switched to "alternate week recyclable pickup", I gave a big "meh".

    • Has the US government done anything to actively sabotage the USPS?

      I'd say Reaganite morons have done a lot to actively sabotage our postal service, because despite the fact that its existence is enumerated right the fuck there in the Constitution [usconstitution.net], it represents a huge item that they can sell off to their campaign contributors. And most of the 'troubles' with the postal service did start to erupt in the 1980's, when Reganism and the "privatize everything" mentality were running wild in our government -- whi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:33AM (#37314614)

    Strange that /. is missing the real crux of the problem; a bad 2006 law:

    >In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring the Postal Service to wholly pre-fund its retirement health package – that is, cover the health care costs of future retirees, in advance, at 100%.

    most organizations are allowed to fund retirement and pension funds in a graduated manner that provides funding at the time of need rather than decades in advance. Its almost like this crisis has been engineered...

    Source:
    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/18/is-benefits-law-dragging-down-the-postal-service/

    • by Chowderbags (847952) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @10:22AM (#37315730)
      This really is the single largest problem that the USPS has. They basically have to pre-fund 75 years of retirement benefits and they were only given 10 years to do it. There is no other business or government agency that has to do anything even remotely similar to that and without that their financial situation would be impeccable.
  • ...with literally 3 letters and 2 catalogs a day being shipped to my home address.

    Of course, my wife spends money at a reedonkulous rate through catalogs like this, but my neighbors seem to get 'bundles' of mail every day just like we do as well.

  • by crankyspice (63953) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:41AM (#37314692)

    It's much easier to get evidence of delivery in if it's USPS ("official records" don't need the testimony of a custodian of records in, e.g., California state courts, unlike FedEx/UPS "business records"); that, and statutes requiring USPS (e.g., CCP section 1013), are pretty much the only reason I use the postal service anymore...

  • Lousy service (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @08:41AM (#37314694) Journal

    They've got a delivery route to every single household in America every single day, and yet they can't seem to track a package through their system or guarantee a delivery day. Even their "Next Day" service is "We'll do our best, but it's not really a guarantee, and even then there are some places where we charge you the "next day" rate but we know it will be two days."

    Fedex and UPS do essentially a semi-custom route each day, and they drivers are pretty well taken care of (though they have long hours certain times of the year), and they can track and guarantee your delivery dates, for essentially the same price as USPS. USPS needs to be a value option, or a better/more reliable service. Right now they're neither, and they cannot compete.

  • I don't think we need 6 day delivery. I really don't think we need even 4 day delivery. Mon/Wed/Fri should be enough. There used to be a time in American history where people were expected to go to the local post office and check if they had mail. With USPS tracking, people could sign up to get mail waiting emails or voice mails. Then, if the mail was important enough, they could go and pick it up or wait for the next scheduled daily delivery. Would provide a vastly more efficient system in the long run I b
  • Look at the bulk of mail you get over the week in the mailbox.

    For us, it's about 80% junkmail.
    Of the 20% that matters, probably 17-18 points of that are bills, which could easily come as email, but in any case don't (or shouldn't) require first-class handling.
    The other 2 points are miscellaneous mail that matters for one reason or another - magazines, notifications, netflix, etc.

    Do the postage charges for junk mail really cover the costs? I'd definitely agree that the bulk rates can float above inflation -

    • by vlm (69642)

      In fact, we personally have discussed that we wouldn't be put out if mail delivery stopped entirely - we could stop by the post office on the way home from work 1/week.

      My wife is a rural postmaster's daughter, and lets just say the local retailers loved him and his post office... Guaranteed the entire village walked past their storefront at least once per week, if not daily. I'm told the "new urbanist" types have a similar line of thinking, to encourage downtown walking foot traffic.

  • by snsh (968808) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @10:44AM (#37315904)

    The web and electronic services offered by the USPS are certainly part of their problem. You would think that by now, almost everyone would be logging into USPS.com to print POSTNET/IM barcoded prepaid envelopes and labels with inexpensive tracking and delivery confirmation options. You would also expect USPS.com to contain complete information and offer every service your local post office offers.

    Instead, USPS.com has not changed much at all in the past 10 years. You cannot print out an envelope with delivery confirmation from your PC. Delivery confirmation is not even available for the first-class envelope you use to pay your electric bill, unless you stick in a couple of styrofoam peanuts to make the envelope 1/4" thick to convert it from a flat to a parcel. The post office does offer a certificate-of-mailing service, and their legacy certified and registered mail services, both of which require you visit a post office and handwrite all the information out on paper forms.

    The USPS offers a bloated Windows desktop "Shipping Assistant" application, which still cannot print out a simple envelope.

    They updated the USPS.com website about a month ago, but that was barely more than a homepage redesign. click a few times and you're back to their old web apps.

    It's such a stagnant situation that the only viable fix is to have the federal government just sign a contract with stamps.com and make it a free service for everyone.

  • Some ideas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thesis (1983882) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:07AM (#37316146)

    Currently you can get shipping materials for free https://shop.usps.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10052&catalogId=10001&categoryId=10000036&parent_category_rn=10000002&top_category=10000002 [usps.com] which is ludicrous. They need to stop giving away shipping materials and charge for it like everyone else does. Countless times I have known of folks to hoard the materials, and use them for shipping using other carriers, or for personal storage. This needs to stop NOW.

    Raise the rates on the bulk mail, even if it requires congressional approval to do so. Bulk mail companies already pay way less than the general public to send their spam direct to your box, and at times they receive hefty discounts as well ( http://www.dmnews.com/usps-provides-more-details-on-summer-sale/article/131151/ [dmnews.com] ) which should be stopped. The First Class postage we pay subsidizes junk mail. It is high time they pay their own way. The ridiculous threat that bulk mail companies will stop using USPS if rates for them are increased is pure bullshit. Call their bluff, and raise their rates, for they can afford it. Do you really think they will start using FedEx or UPS to deliver their junk? The US mail is a government monopoly they must use, due to the cheapness of it when compared to other options. A friend of mine who works in the sorting of US mail told me that bulk mail has steadily increased every year.

    Additionally, the Postal Regulatory Commission believes that bulk mailers do not pay their fair share, and that their rates should be increased roughly 22% overall. An audit found that the current rates bulk mailers pay run afoul of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act http://www.prc.gov/PRC-DOCS/UploadedDocuments/ACD%202010_1697.pdf [prc.gov] , which is hotly contested by the lobbyists in the bulk mail industry. The current Postmaster General caters to the whims of the bulk mail industry, and needs to be gone.

    Create a Do Not Mail registry, which works similar to the Do Not Call registry. Currently I have no way to stop all the loose-leaf flyers/advertisements from infiltrating my mailbox. The sorting and delivery of this bulk-junk takes up a considerable amount of time, including mine. The junk mail problem alone has me flirting with the idea of eliminating my mailbox entirely, for I can pay all my bills, and do all my banking electronically now. Granted, this may cost money initially, but I can dream, can't I?

    Granted, there are many problems leading to the current crisis, and I have only touched the tip of the issue. We have to start somewhere.

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