Where Can I Mail a Letter?

Everyone is well aware of the current financial difficulties of the United States Postal Service.
There might be a reason they are having some of the current problems. Just a thought.

I have a daughter who is profoundly handicapped who lives hundreds of miles away. I try to write her every week. Sometimes it’s a card or postcard, at other times it’s a plain old vanilla letter. When I travel, I try to find a postcard from the area or some other representation of the area in which I’m located.

This week I’m traveling. I wrote her a letter. I stopped at the front desk of the military berthing site where I’m staying and asked where I could mail a letter. They couldn’t tell me.

“We used to have a mailbox out front but they took it out,” the lady told me.

The USPS is complaining that they are losing business so their response is to make it more difficult to utilize their services? Actually this is no surprise if you’ve stopped into a post office in the past 25 years. My experience is that if you arrive 1 minute before the post office is scheduled to open there will be a line waiting. There is no way the USPS employees will open the gates to wait on those customers until opening time. It doesn’t matter if the president is standing in line – it just ain’t gonna happen.

However, if one of the USPS employees is telling another employee a joke or a story, that must be completed before the customers can be allowed up to the counter. This means that if the post office has a scheduled opening time of 9:00 AM and there is a line waiting, the rehash of yesterday’s game may not be completed until 9:05 – 9:07. After, and only after this can customers be served.

The USPS claims that it is seeking to reinvent itself because of the competition from e-mail, UPS, FedEx, DHL, et al. To do this they are focusing on two areas – bulk mail and package delivery. I don’t know about you, but almost all my USPS delivered bulk mail goes directly from the mail box to the recycling bin.

Oddly, the profitable commercial delivery services are not competing for the bulk mail business. I suspect that if bulk mail were truly profitable the commercial interests would be very interested.

If I heard correctly, there was a brief comment on the news this morning stating that when the USPS delivers packages they are planning on no longer taking them to the door. If it doesn’t fit in the mailbox, you’ll have to go to the post office. UPS delivers to the door. FedEx delivers to the door.
Of course another cost cutting measure of the USPS is to close post offices. So they won’t deliver your package to the door and it will be more difficult to retrieve your package at a post office.

One might become cynical and begin to believe that the USPS is doing everything possible to ensure its own demise. Despair.com has a poster showing a telephone covered with cobwebs; the captions says, “If we don’t take care of our customers – maybe they’ll leave us alone.” You don’t suppose the USPS failed to recognize that as satire?

Perhaps the USPS should reinvent itself as the Old Post Office. Back when I was a kid a mailman had a uniform, a leather bag and a three wheeled cart. Total cost, a couple of hundred dollars; carbon footprint – nil. Today each mail carrier has a vehicle, most specially built trucks with left hand drive. Fuel economy is worst with stop-and-go driving, so the fuel economy must be abysmal. Total cost, tens of thousands of dollars (at best); carbon footprint …

Would returning to old practices solve all of the problems? Of course not. It might, however buy time to figure out what role the USPS should play in the future. It’s obvious that the business model the Postal Service has chosen is not working. Slightly modifying the course of a plane while it is in a dive only changes where it crashes, not whether or not it crashes.

The down side is that would take more people if we went back to the old style of mail delivery. If only there were high levels of unemployment – then we could hire some of those people to deliver mail. And what if the federal government had a “stimulus” plan to inject money into the economy; in that case the mail carriers could be paid with stimulus funds! Who knows, there may even be some senior managers or industrial engineers among the unemployed who could figure out how to come up with a long term solution to the USPS conundrum.

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