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Adapting the Post Office To the Digital Age 299

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 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 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 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 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 XanC ( 644172 ) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:53PM (#33014282)

    According to Wikipedia:

    Article I, section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution grants U.S. Congress the power to establish post offices and post roads. The Federal Government has interpreted this clause as granting a de facto Congressional monopoly over the delivery of mail. According to the government, no other system for delivering mail - public or private - can be established absent Congress's consent. Congress has delegated to the Postal Service the power to decide whether others may compete with it, and the Postal Service has carved out an exception to its monopoly for extremely urgent letters.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @12:53PM (#33014292) Homepage Journal

    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 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.

  • by KnightMareInc ( 978421 ) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @01:48PM (#33014758) Homepage
    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 Dewin ( 989206 ) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @03:31PM (#33015468)

    When UPS can deliver an envelope from New York to San Francisco for under 50 cents, I might re-evaluate. Until then, I'd much rather live with UPS or FedEx disappearing tomorrow than the US Post Office.

    To prevent private carriers from choosing to compete with USPS on the most profitable routes (which would mean the USPS couldn't afford to service less profitable routes), there are Private Express Statutes [wikipedia.org]. Without them, UPS likely could deliver from New York to San Fransisco for less than 50 cents.

    In 1979 the Postal Service authorized the delivery of extremely urgent letters outside the USPS; this has given rise to delivery services such as Federal Express and UPS. These letters must either cost at least the greater of $3 or twice what First Class (or Priority) mail service would cost, or they must be delivered within strict time limits or otherwise lose value. They must be marked "EXTREMELY URGENT". Records of pick up and delivery must be maintained for Postal Service inspection if the time sensitive exception is being used.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Saturday July 24, 2010 @04:07PM (#33015752) Journal

    There's no real reason to improve your skill set in a Union Shop. There's probably a sandbagger with more seniority than you in line before you for a promotion anyway.

    Promotions in union shops are not based solely on seniority. It's a myth perpetrated by people who don't really care whether something they say is true, as long as it supports their anti-US government agenda.

  • by XanC ( 644172 ) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @04:22PM (#33015900)

Forty two.