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Adapting the Post Office To the Digital Age 299

Posted by Soulskill
from the relying-on-spam-is-bad-business dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui write in the Washington Post that with projected deficits through 2020 of $238 billion, the debate over potential changes at the US Postal Service is like a fight over the dessert bar on the Titanic: email has already supplanted letters, more people will send money via PayPal rather than mail checks, people will download their movies and books, check their bills online, and receive information about their investments electronically. Delivery volume for first-class mail fell 22 percent from 1998 through 2007, tumbled an additional 13 percent last year and was down 3 percent in the first half of this year despite heavy mailings from the Census Bureau. USPS's future lies in things that need to be delivered physically: shoes, computers and other objects, and the USPS has assets that could let it take on UPS and FedEx. 'USPS needs to start with the future and work backward to the present,' write Carroll and Mui. 'It needs to forecast volumes for all types of its business five, 10 and 15 years out and design a business model that will thrive under those scenarios. Only then can it figure out what radical changes need to be made now.'"
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Adapting the Post Office To the Digital Age

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  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:28PM (#33014078)
    The first thing that needs to be done is to remove the artificial monopoly congress created for the USPS making it so they are the only ones that can deliver first-class mail, once this happens more people will use mail (USPS or otherwise) because the inefficiency will be gone because it will either be deliver or go broke.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ErikTheRed (162431)

      And then remove their union contract that states that they can never decrease their workforce, even if they don't need as many workers due to reduced volume.

      Here's what I don't get: the Political Left tells us out of one side of their mouth that only the government can be the perfect master of fairness in the workplace, and out of the other side of their mouth they tell us that government workers need unions. At the most, one of these can be true. Some would argue that neither is true...

      • And then remove their union contract that states that they can never decrease their workforce, even if they don't need as many workers due to reduced volume.

        I don't know where you got that notion from but it simply doesn't match reality as I have seen. Post Offices in small towns have closed recently due to decreased volume and the employees from those offices have been let go. Existing offices are not hiring, even to replace retiring workers.

        • There is a huge difference between "decreasing workforce due to decreased workload" and "closing down entirely because you can no longer afford to pay enough staff to deliver 100,000 letters a day when only 1,000 letters a day actually need delivering"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kimvette (919543)

        And then remove their union contract that states that they can never decrease their workforce, even if they don't need as many workers due to reduced volume.

        You cannot convince me they never decrease their workforce. For ten years local post offices with 2 to 6 service windows consistently have only one customer service person on staff at any given time, even through the holiday times. The only time they seem to add anyone on any more is tax day.

        • Would you hire additional workers if you were forced to do so only on the condition that you could never fire any of them without closing down entirely?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            Would you hire additional workers if you were forced to do so only on the condition that you could never fire any of them without closing down entirely?

            Sorry, but the USPS is perfectly capable of reducing their work force without "closing down entirely". I'm not sure where you got the notion that it's otherwise.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:56PM (#33014306)

        Responding to your strawman:

        Even if the 'Political Left' says the government can be the perfect master of fairness, this doesn't mean that unions are useless. It is only because you don't understand unions that you would say this. Unions have started strikes and opposed policies of their employers when it was needed. But this isn't the only thing that unions do. Unions provide a forum for workers of similar skills, set rules of seniority and advancement, and negotiate their contracts from the point of view of the worker. They also handle discipline issues and take care of people in trouble (illnesses, deaths, etc.). As such, they are often very useful to an employer. I work in a nuclear plant and we are almost completely unionized. I work in management (non-union) and I find the unions to be incredibly helpful, not the least of which is because unions do not tolerate safety issues. The fact that unions will go out of their way to protect their workers from safety issues is more useful to me than I can describe. It is my opinion that if there would have been an effective union on the Deepwater Horizon rig, the management shortcuts wouldn't have been tolerated.

      • by spasm (79260) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @01:38PM (#33014666) Homepage

        The contract between USPS and the APWU doesn't say they can "never decrease their workforce" at all.

        You may be thinking of the part of the contract which says that employees hired before September 15, 1978 have "lifetime protection against layoff" (Article 6(1)), and that employees who have more than six years service have a more limited set of protections against layoff (Article 6(2)). Everyone else gets sixty days notice (Article 6(B) and 6(C)).

        The Joint Contract Interpretation Manual is here [apwu.org], and took me a whole five seconds to find via google.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Planesdragon (210349)

        And then remove their union contract that states that they can never decrease their workforce, even if they don't need as many workers due to reduced volume.

        Better idea: just negotiate this in their next contract. Any union worth its membership dues will recognize the occasionally necessity of layoffs, and be willing to trade a "no layoffs" policy for a fair layoffs policy. (ideally, one that spells out what criteria are used, and places laid off workers in a "hire back" list.)

        NY state workers are almost all unionized, and the only reason that we haven't had any layoffs is that Paterson is a short-sighted moron, who made a dumb deal with the unions last year

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday July 24, 2010 @03:52PM (#33015610) Homepage Journal

        And then remove their union contract that states that they can never decrease their workforce

        Why do you care what contract postal workers have? You don't pay for it. The USPS has been self-sufficient since 1972 and have a much higher customer satisfaction rating than either UPS or FedEx. They have higher public favorability ratings than the National Park Service, the US Forest Service or NASA. Apparently most Americans don't agree with your criticisms of the USPS

        And what makes you think you know what staffing levels they need or don't need?

        Here's what I don't get about the Political Right: They claim to believe in "free markets" but don't want workers to be able to collectively bargain for their own best contracts. The only reason the US had a healthy middle class for so many years is because of labor unions. It's not accidental that the attacks on Labor that started under Ronald Reagan and the subsequent decline of unions has coincided with the decline of the middle class and the decline of the US manufacturing sector. Manufacturing in the US was healthiest when labor unions were healthiest. Germany, which is arguably the most successful free manufacturing/exporting economy on Earth happens to be the country with the most favorable laws regarding labor unions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        the Political Left tells us out of one side of their mouth that only the government can be the perfect master of fairness in the workplace

        I'm going to give you a chance to supply one example of "the Political Left" saying this. Please. Here's your opportunity to prove that you're not just making stuff up.

        All it has to be is some citation that says anything even close to what you're claiming. One single example that supports your argument is all I ask.

    • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:37PM (#33014160) Homepage Journal

      the artificial monopoly congress created for the USPS making it so they are the only ones that can deliver first-class mail

      The post office doesn't actually have such a monopoly. The post office is the only company that can deliver to your mailbox, but you are free to put up a mailbox outside your house for UPS, FedEx, or any other service you want. Other companies can deliver as much mail as they want, they just can't use the USPS mail boxes. Other companies are also free to deliver any amount of mail or packages to your door in any way they want, any time they want.

      • by Peach Rings (1782482) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:42PM (#33014194) Homepage

        That's not true, it's illegal for UPS and FedEx to deliver first class mail (normal priority letters in an envelope). The Postal Inspection Service investigates and aggressively prosecutes companies for sending normal mail through other carriers. I remember some story from awhile back where a big corporation was fined a large sum when the postal service found out that the "high priority mail" they were sending through a carrier was just normal priority.

        • by crmarvin42 (652893) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:48PM (#33014252)
          I'd like a citation for that. I send mail via FedEx all the time for work. I don't send personal correspondence that way, but that's because the USPS is cheaper for a simple letter than FedEx is (even with the recent stamp hikes) and I'm not usually worried about delivery time. If FedEx became the cheaper way to mail photo's of my daughter to her grandparents, then I'd probaby take that route. Are you saying that it is illegal for FedEx to deliver mail that isn't next day delivery somehow?
      • by PPH (736903)

        The post office is the only company that can deliver to your mailbox,

        My solution: I don't have a USPS mailbox.

    • by 2Y9D57 (988210) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:40PM (#33014172)
      The monopoly has been removed here in the Netherlands, and the old monopolist -- now owned by TNT -- is going broke. States granted a monopoly on mail delivery in return for a commitment to deliver to every address -- the private companies only want the easy work, delivering in towns and cities. Once the former monopolist goes broke, mail delivery in rural areas will stop forever. To prevent this from happening, the Dutch government will eventually have to legislate -- tinkering with the business models of the competitors -- or accept that if you live in a village or on a farm, you have to drive to the nearest town to pick up your mail.
    • by PrimaryConsult (1546585) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:44PM (#33014216)

      A lot of that "inefficiency" is that mailing a letter from a rural village in the south to a similar village in Alaska costs the same (and has roughly the same quality of service) as mailing a letter from one side of a major city to the other. If you break up the monopoly and allow USPS to exit markets it finds unprofitable, a whole lot of places will stop getting mail. If you break up the monopoly but do not allow USPS to exit markets, then their revenue will reduce even further as the popular ones are taken by competitors.

      Also as far as USPS is concerned, a county made up mostly of farms that sees 15 pieces of legitimate mail a month is not worth their time. But when those 15 pieces of legitimate mail are vital to our food supply...

      • Why should city dwellers have to pay more for their mail delivery in order to subsidize the rural dwellers? By the same token should those of us who live near a major hub airport pay more for flights so that those who need to take a connecting flight don't need to pay any more for their travel than we do? How about this: regulate private mail delivery companies so they have to deliver to everybody and to charge different rates according to the true cost, but have them charge the difference to the government
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bing Tsher E (943915)

          Why should city dwellers have to pay more for their mail delivery in order to subsidize the rural dwellers?

          As the GP posted:

          Also as far as USPS is concerned, a county made up mostly of farms that sees 15 pieces of legitimate mail a month is not worth their time. But when those 15 pieces of legitimate mail are vital to our food supply..

          Maybe you can grow enough food for the people living in your highrise apartment building up on the roof. Good luck. Send us a postcard telling us how it went. Ooops...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Wyatt Earp (1029)

          Because you live in a nation-state where everyone gets access to government services equally.

          Lets take your argument to services other than mail

          Why should people from states not attacked on 9/11 fight in Afghanistan? Why should states without military bases get defended by the United States military?

          Why should tax money from the wealthy go to the poor?

        • The same reason people who make more money should pay more taxes. You may not agree with it, but it has worked for the US for at least my 40 years.

    • OK, in general I am against artificial monopolies, but you can't just say, 'get rid of the monopoly and it will fix everything.' That is a fantasy.

      In the first place, you have to demonstrate that there are massive inefficiencies that will make a difference. Then you have to demonstrate that getting rid of those inefficiencies will somehow make a difference. I mean, do you really think that if a first-class stamp costs 10 cents less, or if a letter arrives 10 hours sooner it will somehow make people wan
    • by Kojiro Ganryu Sasaki (895364) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:52PM (#33014276)

      Exactly this happened in Sweden.

      The postal service had a monopoly on delivering mail across all of Sweden. The postal service was regulated by law to cover as much of the country as possible.

      Then the monopoly law was removed, opening up for City Mail. City Mail took over the profitable city areas while completely ignoring the unprofitable countryside. The postal service is now having extreme difficulties to maintain itself, because it is suffering from competition within the only profitable districts. This leads to lack of efficiency and inhumane policies at the postal service workplaces thanks to regulations from management. (I should know, I have worked there)

      Competition doesn't lead to efficiency if the competition isn't equal, and the competition isn't equal because the postal office still has to serve the countryside. You could say that the regulation is the fault of the government, but the fucking POINT of the postal service is to serve mail everywhere. If that regulation is removed then the countryside will no longer get any mail as the postal service and city mail will both compete within the profitable areas.

      The only other possibility is that prices in the countryside explode to ridiculous levels to compensate for the lack of profit in these areas.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        seen something similar in norway as well. Here the post offices outside of cities are basically gone, replaced with some kind of partnership with a local store or gas station (tho funny enough, that have lead to better opening hours, as the post offices used to maintain normal office ours, not store hours).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

        The only other possibility is that prices in the countryside explode to ridiculous levels to compensate for the lack of profit in these areas.

        Or, instead of simply removing the monopoly protection, extend it to any participant who wants to meet the same terms. If City Mail wants to deliver mail to any part of the country, then they have to deliver mail to ALL parts of the country.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drsquare (530038)

      Actually, the increased competition will remove economies of scale, making it more expensive and less efficient. Imagine you have a street with twenty houses. As it stands, one postman walks up and delivers the mail to all twenty houses. Now imagine there are four competing companies. Four vans drive up, four postmen get out with a bag that's only a quarter full, they all walk up the street, each delivering to five houses.

      You've taken four times as many man hours, and four times the transport infrastructure

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hitmark (640295)

        didnt you just disassemble the whole competition == efficiency meme that seems to be stuck like a plague in MBA classes?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh (216268)

      There's a big problem with this: if you remove the monopoly on low-priority mail (1st class and below), then the USPS will go bankrupt quickly if the other carriers are able to do it cheaper in big cities. Then, you'll have mail delivery in major metro areas, and nowhere else. Small towns, rural areas, will all no longer get mail service.

      The Founders knew that mail delivery was vital for democracy (and if they could be resurrected, they would say the exact same thing about the Internet), and that it had t

    • by winwar (114053)

      "...once this happens more people will use mail (USPS or otherwise) because the inefficiency will be gone because it will either be deliver or go broke."

      This is just plain stupid. I'm not going to start sending more letters because there are more options to send them. Even if they happen to be slightly cheaper. I send things through the mail because there is no other option (email, online). Things like government correspondence, contracts and the like. It happens to be cheap, reliable and recognized as

    • by coolgeek (140561)

      Actually, that artificial monopoly is what makes it possible to send a letter for a uniform price, regardless of where the recipient is. I just visited my relatives who live in Julian, CA yesterday. UPS charges a fairly hefty rural surcharge to deliver to their door.

  • The post office is again talking about canceling Saturday delivery. To me, that is one of the best things they have going for them. Sure, UPS and FedEx will delivery on Saturdays, but for an additional cost. USPS delivers Saturday for the same cost as any other day of the week. Take no-extra-charge Saturday delivery and better rates for many pertinent deliveries than UPS or FedEx and frankly I'm not sure why more people don't ship through them.

    But if they cancel Saturdays then they aren't as advantageous.
    • by dasheiff (261577)

      > But if they cancel Saturdays then they aren't as advantageous.
      I'd cancel Wednesday personally.

  • by Nutria (679911) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:36PM (#33014150)

    realize this, but there's still a whole lot of people who live out in the country and small rural towns where the population density isn't high enough for UPS, FedEx and broadband to be profitable enough to serve these citizens.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @01:01PM (#33014362) Homepage

      realize this, but there's still a whole lot of people who live out in the country and small rural towns where the population density isn't high enough for UPS, FedEx and broadband to be profitable enough to serve these citizens.

      True enough, but then you have to frame the argument as a social issue. Is it a desirable social end for people in rural areas to have services that cannot be developed economically by the 'regular' market? Traditionally (pretty much since the inception of the US) it was felt that subsidizing mail to everyone was worth the cost as it help expand the country and thus the market. In the 1930's the rural electrification [feri.org] expanded AC power to the hinterlands, again as an effort to improve the economy of these areas (and as part of the New Deal).

      So the argument really boils down to whether or not it is worth it in a societal sense to subsidize postal service for rural populations. Of course, then you get to the literally hundreds of cross subsidies that the US (and likely every other government) gives for everything from peanuts to gasoline.

      Then my eyes glaze over and my head asplode.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        depends do you want the food that those rural area's produce? Whether it be meat, or corn, or even strawberries, do you want the items produced transported to your city?

        I think that is a fair trade off The city supports the advancement of the rural areas, while the city gets to eat, and live. Because when was the last time you saw a high rise farm?

        The real problem with the USPS isn't the "last mile" where local deliveries and people actually deliver mail. That is usually pretty efficient. No it's thei

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SvnLyrBrto (62138)

      To my mind, that's just the trade-off you get in exchange for the advantages of living out in the middle of nowhere...

      You get things like a larger house on a much larger lot, easy access to lakes, forests or whatever, peace and quiet, a lower crime rate, cleaner air, less traffic, and so on. I get broadband, culture, good restaurants, a nightlife, public transit, and other such services.

    • I've never had UPS or FedEx say they can't deliver a package. One thing they do is hand it off to their competitor, that might be cheaper to do than to handle the package themselves. They also trade packages when one or the other has a glut somewhere, I guess they probably find it cheaper to trade services than to build excess capacity to handle the busy times.

      Another thing I've seen them do is charge a slightly higher fee for delivery to remote destinations, the worst of which that I've found was maybe $

    • Something I forgot to mention is that it's tough to pay extra to a telco or cable company to extend service to an area they decide isn't worth it. I think I offered $10,000 to the local cable company to put in more equipment or lay cable, I was only a mile outside their regular grid and told there just wasn't a process for that, they just wouldn't give me a price.

      For a couple years, I was paying quite a lot just so I can get a T1 line, it was $450/mo at the time. I had hoped to use various wireless device

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nutria (679911)

        it's tough to pay extra to a telco or cable company to extend service to an area they decide isn't worth it.

        But, but, but... the Free Market is the be all and end all! It's perfect!

        told there just wasn't a process for that, they just wouldn't give me a price.

        This is the down-side of the computerized business: greatly reduced flexibility.

  • by kimvette (919543) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:41PM (#33014186) Homepage Journal

    Okay, here is where USPS falls short compared to FedEx and UPS:

    * ridiculous restrictions on what can be shipped
    * Severely under-staffed at practically every location
    * Inflexible pickup policies
    * Bankers' hours
    * Poor package tracking (often won't indicate an item has shipped until days after it arrived at destination)
    * No guarantees. "Priority" shipping "may be 2-3 days" but then again it might take a week

    If I call FedEx I can get a small shipment picked up usually within an hour, often as late as 6:30 or 7. A large shipment is a little different but even if I need to ship half a ton or a ton worth of goods, I can get a pickup the same day.

    UPS is a little less flexible.

    I used to have a UPS vs. FedEx comparison on my web site. It went something like this:

    FedEx
      * if the driver bothers to find you, the package will be delivered in one piece
      * If they bother to find you, the package will arrive on time
      * Your package will be handled carefully
      * You deliveryperson is probably an ex con
      * Your FedEx air driver can't pick up ground packages

    UPS
      * The driver will always find you, but the package might be beat up
      * Your package might sit at the local UPS hub or UPS center a day or two before going out for delivery
      * Your package will have fallen off a conveyor belt 30' onto the concrete floor because UPS insists on running 60,000-120,000 packages over four hours through a conveyor system designed to handle maybe 30,000 packages over four hours
      * your deliveryperson is probably an ex con
      * Your UPS ground or UPS air driver can pick up either air or ground packages

    UPS used to be excellent - going public has really hurt them a lot. It seemed middle management cared a lot more when they were owner-operated so their net wealth had a lot more to do with how they performed than what their perceived market value is. Now that market cap drives managements' personal profits, they have little regard for customer service.

    But honestly, I don't expect the USPS can ever do any better than either of them. USPS already does a craptacular job that makes either UPS or FedEx look good.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      Okay I don't know where you do your shipping but we don't have any of the problems you seem to have with UPS.
      We have had the same driver for years. Very nice gentleman and I doubt he is an ex-con.
      We ship a LOT.
      And have not had many damaged packages at all.

      We are using the US postal service more now because they are cheaper and the service has been okay.
      If it isn't high priority it goes USPS.

    • by drsquare (530038)

      I don't get the ex-con bit, is someone with a criminal conviction not supposed to have a job?

  • Privatize (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:43PM (#33014208)
    That at least will hopefully improve the efficiency though it won't fix the underlying problem which is that the snail mail is dying. Btw, a question. did anybody else notice the service quality dropping recently. I've had more of my mail not delivered (when I know it was sent) and other people's mail mistakenly delivered to my mailbox in the last year than in my entire life. Could be just my mailman I guess.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      This is where a national broadband investment would pay off. When we can get rid of mail for communication, that will slash the amount of time and energy involved in making and transporting dead trees.

  • radical changes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:44PM (#33014220) Homepage Journal

    I translate that into 'internet email tax' or 'online bill pay tax'.

  • by countertrolling (1585477) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:45PM (#33014228) Journal

    Some of us need an alternative to PayPal... Online only works for those who carry the mark of the beast (have a bank, or PayPal account, or a credit card)

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Buy a pay-as-you-go credit card and use that. Postage is high enough you'll likely save money.

  • by codepunk (167897)

    USPS will never recover and or be profitable, their labor and benefits costs are way too high.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by value_added (719364)

      USPS will never recover and or be profitable, their labor and benefits costs are way too high.

      Should we care about profitability and labour/benefit costs?

      Seems to me if someone has a good job with real job security and some kind of pension thrown into the bargain, we should pause for a moment and realise that most of us will never haver anything like it, and we should be envious.

      Schoolteachers, firefighters, postmen, these are the kinds of people that represent the middle class (or what's left of it). Pers

  • Legal Protection (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    UPS/FedEx can open your mail pretty much on a whim. The USPS needs a warrant.

  • This week I needed to get a package to a friend from one coast to the other in two days with the delivery end being a pretty remote location in the western US. Experience in the past had suggested USPS would say two days, but it would really take three to four. Last year, their "tracking" system showed the package had been dropped off and offered no updates until it was delivered... and that wasn't updated for several hours after delivery.

    This year, Fedex was really two days and tracking was updated at l

  • Build a Robot Kevin Costner?

  • The thing is that the USPS wouldn't been doing as bad if congress wasn't constantly meddling.
    They set up "retirement health benefits pre-funding" at approx $5.5 billion a year. Now pre-funding retirement benefits is a good idea, but that's not what this money is used for. That $5.5 billion goes into the federal coffers. This is after the USPS was forced to overfund their previous pension by $75 billion.
    USPS would have been profitable in 3 of the last 4 years without the pre-funding requirement.
    I
  • The more they stay the same.

    USPS's future lies in things that need to be delivered physically: shoes, computers and other objects, and the USPS has assets that could let it take on UPS and FedEx.

    I could not disagree more. USPS's future lies in mail, e-mail to be more specific, they just need to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done. It's astounding that the USPS doesn't see the opportunity that is right in front of their eyes.

  • by afabbro (33948) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @01:44PM (#33014730) Homepage

    ...and am a very heavy user, for an individual. I mail 6-8 letters/postcards/packages a day, none of which is ebay or anything like that. That's what you get from having friends all over the place, Postcrossing [postcrossing.com], etc.

    I like my postman, and I like the fact that in Portland I am usually near a post office or postbox. I have many fond memories of going to the PO when I was a kid, I used to collect stamps, etc. However...

    • The USPS needs to get away from banker's hours. Hell, banks need to get away from banker's hours! We all work 9-5. The airport office here is open until 10pm (yes, counter service at USPS at 10pm!), but that is a very rare post office. And you have to drive to the airport which is a pretty good drive for me even though I live near the airport.
    • I am continuously offended by the asinine idiocy of "you must take all packages weighing 16 oz or more to the counter". This is supposedly a Unibomber-era security regulation but in reality it's a way for the union to keep window staff high.

    The real problem with USPS is the union. High, inflexible labor costs. No ability to terminate people without an Act of Congress, no ability to do layoffs, etc. By all accounts (some of them quite entertaining [wikipedia.org]), the Post Office is an awful place to work: management that's rotted in place, hip-deep paperwork and bureaucracy, bitter people who do the barest minimum to avoid being fired, no incentives to do better, etc.

    • I am continuously offended by the asinine idiocy of "you must take all packages weighing 16 oz or more to the counter". This is supposedly a Unibomber-era security regulation but in reality it's a way for the union to keep window staff high.

      I believe that's not quite true. The rule is that packages over 13 ounces (they changed it in January 2010 to 13 down from 16 ounces) that only have postage stamps on them to pay for postage, must be taken to the counter. If you use one of the Automated Postal Center (APC) units that most post offices have in their lobbies, you can purchase postage for the package there, pay with a credit/debit card, put the printed label on the package and drop it in the collection bin. Supposedly by paying with a credi

  • by davmoo (63521) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @01:46PM (#33014740)

    A lot of people here are whining that the post office charges too much. So why don't you call UPS or Fed Ex and see if they'll ship a 1 pound package from Supai, Arizona 86435 to Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799 for the same $4.95 that the USPS will charge for flat rate Priority Mail.

    And don't even get me started on first class mail. Even if they were allowed to carry it, I'd be willing to bet money that UPS or Fed Ex would laugh in my face if I expected them to deliver a letter just from one side of town to the other for 44 cents.

    For some mail and packages, yes, UPS and Fed Ex can do it cheaper. But for *many* places and types of mail, USPS is a freaking bargain (and that's why it doesn't make money).

  • Alot of people like to conveniently forget that prior to the economic collapse of the world's economy the USPS was not only sulf-sufficient but kept prices crazy low without taking tax payer dollars. http://www.nalc.org/postal/perform/selfsufficient.html#selfsufficient [nalc.org] http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/postalfacts.htm [usps.com]
  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @02:21PM (#33015004) Journal

    They need to find a way to make money without sending me physical spam, aka "bulk mail" addressed to "occupant".

    What annoys me the most about mail is the huge percentage that I walk straight to the recycling bin.

    However, if they enforced a regulation requiring that all such mail must be printed on compostable paper, using organic ink I'd be quite a bit happier. Into the compost bin, along with the broccoli stalks and onion peels it would go. Then, a few months later that grocery ad for fresh veggies would be turned into... fresh veggies!

  • by PPH (736903)

    It needs to forecast volumes for all types of its business five, 10 and 15 years out and design a business model that will thrive under those scenarios.

    Translation: In 5, 10 or 15 years, they'll drag one of their clerks off the loading dock where s/he is having a smoke break and put them on the front counter when the line extends out the front door.

  • Why profitable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sohp (22984) <.moc.oi. .ta. .notwens.> on Saturday July 24, 2010 @03:03PM (#33015306) Homepage

    The article starts from a false assumption: that the postal service must be profitable, or at least break even.

    Framing the issue this way has nothing to do with what the USPS should or should not carry, or how much they should charge.

    Why is that so for the postal service but not for the military, department of transportation, or most any other government agency that provides a service? Universal free mail delivery is something that the citizens of the US want -- or at least did at one time. As a government service, it's something taxpayers agree to pay for.

    Now clearly the two authors of this article, management consultants, have a different view of that need. Perhaps they are ideologically inclined to expect that government services should break even or better, in which case, they ought to take on a real challenge and explain to the Pentagon how they can "save" the armed forces. Or perhaps they have a financial interest in private delivery services like FedEX and UPS, who knows? It's clear from early in the article, "Should the federal government continue to compete against the private sector?" that the authors have a sense that somehow there's money to made for UPS, FedEx, and other private delivery services if the postal service was forced to compete on the same level as them. I'm sure they wouldn't advocate for reforming USPS if they thought it would take money away from the private sector.

    In any case, before people go trying to reform USPS, let's first decide if we want to continue to support the current expectation of free (for the recipient) door-to-door mail service for everyone in the country everywhere. If citizens clearly want that, then budget (and tax) for it, and shut up about billion dollar "losses" that pale compared to the "losses" racked up by other services we expect as a modern nation. On the other hand, if the country decides that hey, we don't need to deliver everywhere any more, then go ahead, revamp the postal service to be just another profit-motivated competitor.

  • USPS is doomed as long as they continue to outsource their long haul transport to FedEx and UPS. The only way for them to turn it around is to make their service so efficient that the other carriers come to them for long haul transport.

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