Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Postman Goeth

I know that’s not politically correct. But, “the letter carrier goeth,” just didn’t work. I am well-aware that women have been delivering the goods for the U.S. Postal Service for a long time now. The regular on our route and the occasional substitute both are women who do good work.

Unfortunately for the men and women of the postal service they are working for a dying outfit.  The latest pleas to Congress for financial relief cite a $5 billion dollar budget deficit and more of the same in the future if major changes are not made.

Perhaps “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” could stop postal workers from performing their duties, but e-mail, Facebook posts, tweets, twitters, and electronic transfers are doing them in.  Recently, our rural mailbox has been empty on one or more delivery days a week.  That has never happened before.

Going . . . going . . .
No matter what Congress does, the trend to less snail mail will continue.  We now do most of our banking and some purchasing electronically. We rarely write a personal letter to anyone; it’s so much easier and faster to dispatch an e-mail to friends and family. That’s been a monumental switch for some, including me.  My mother and I exchanged hand-written letters almost every week from the time I left home at age 17 until she died at 86.

Although Mom and I pasted three-cent stamps on our letters when we started corresponding, and the cost increased only to a dime or so during the many years we exchanged letters, we were desirable customers for the postal service.  First class mail was the big money maker—easy to sort and deliver in big volumes. It and parcel delivery subsidized other services.

Now, even the junk mailers who get reduced rates have cut down on their postal business as they increase their advertising on web pages.  For many years, my hometown newspaper arrived by mail for a cut-rate second class charge.  A few months ago, I converted the subscription to electronic delivery. My cost was considerably lower, and of course the news arrived more promptly.

Congress delivered a hard blow to the postal service years ago when they deregulated parcel delivery.  As a result, UPS and Fed Ex have skimmed off a lucrative part of the business. That is nice for them, but it helped drive the postal service to the wall.

The postal service recently once again asked Congress to allow it to discontinue Saturday deliveries to save a bundle of money.  The proposal has come up before, only to be met by deaf Congressional ears.  Ditto the idea of closing unneeded post offices in small towns.  The latter refusal is hard to understand, because mail services to urban areas have subsidized rural deliveries since the U.S. Postal Service began, and that was long before every rural resident had a car or truck. 

Some say the postal service needs to be more creative by finding new ways it can serve.  They cite examples such as France, where post offices service small savings accounts.  Fat chance of something like that happening in the U.S., where branch banks and credit unions abound.

Actually, the trend here has been in the opposite direction.  A small post office issued my social security card when a proud father took me there years before I started my first job. Post offices don’t issue social security cards anymore.  In fact, you can apply for one online, in a process said to take about 15 minutes. 

Merely shutting down the postal service won’t do.  Many of our rural areas, including some close to our home, can’t get computer services.  The nation needs big expansions of broadband coverage before the letter carrier becomes extinct.

Letting the postal service bleed to death over the next few years also is not a good solution.  It should be phased out in an orderly manner over a long time.  For starters, eliminating Saturday deliveries would cause no problem for us, and I doubt it would have much impact on others.

We must drive five miles to the nearest post office, but two miles farther down the same road is another one.  One would do nicely for two cities whose combined population is less than 8,000.

Listen up Congress.  Do what the postal service people are asking you to do.  They are in the midst of a lethal decline that is not going to reverse or stop.


Tom Sightings said...

We have six post offices within four miles of our house. Seems they could get rid of quite a few without causing too much hardship.

Then they ought to raise prices for the junk mailers. Our mailbox is clogged with catalogs -- altho' B does buy things out of catalogs now and then, so they know who they're targeting. Still, it's more than we want by a factor of four or five. And they weigh a ton when you take them out to the recycling!

joared said...

tMy correspondents of all ages and I still prefer birthday, other greeting cards we can hold in our hands, that we exchange with one another by U.S. mail.

I enjoy receiving picture postcards from those on vacation trips.

We don't have an abundance of post offices around here I don't think. I would be very unhappy if they close the nearby one that distributes my mail -- would have to go an incredible number of miles to the one I'd have to use as the Postal Service has talked of doing. Wasn't too many years ago when they built this new station instead of continuing to use one we have close by.

I've had a few days when I received no mail which never occurred until recent year or so. Receive far fewer advertisements in mail.

We're lucky to have a local paper (also a version on the web) that publishes bi-weekly, Weds. and Sat. Editor has pondered such a change but hasn't said what they'd do.

I suppose it's inevitable the Post Service may go the way of the Pony Express, or maybe they'll have to go back to the ponies for delivery to all those rural areas that don't have Internet service.

JHawk23 said...

Yes, unfortunately the "post office as we know it" needs serious change and maybe we'll even have to pull the plug on its life support system eventually (right now I believe there is still a legitimate, if fast declining, need for snail mail).

The reason we can't close post offices is the same reason we can't fix social security and can't introduce some rationality into medicare. It's lack of a shred of courage amongst our politicians.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

The demise of the Post Office was in the cards the day competiion was introduced. Now days, most things can be sent by a private carrier.

I almost never use the PO...only for our mortgage payment and electric and water, although I suggested to David we pay those bills online.

The PO stole the "neither rain, nor hail nor gloom of night..." from the phone company which actually went out in the gloom of night, and in violent storms to repair lines.

After its decimation by the Federal Government, the phone company is recombining and soon the old AT&T will reign once more.

Perhaps it takes demise to find yourself? So much for government tinkering. Dianne

Bill Hamilton said...

Your blog about the Postal Service is a gem, a true gem! I have wondered for years why delivery has been preserved for 6 days every week. I've also wondered why some of the obvious solutions to the post office problems have been so ignored by our non-compromising lawmakers. I spend so much time sorting through the junk in the mailbox I hardly have time to keep up with my electronic mail!

Dick Klade said...

Joared: We also continue to send cards by snail mail. Wife Sandy creates most of the birthday cards we mail; the personal touch still matters.

Kay said...

I'm really OK with stopping the Saturday delivery. We do still get huge amounts of unsolicited mail which is such a waste of money and resources. I tried to stop it by sending a request to the Mail Preference Service, but it got returned to me as Not Deliverable. Ironic.

Anonymous said...

Actually it was Congress that has caused the demise of the US Postal system. In 2006 they passed a law that requires the USPS to prefund retiree health care benefits.
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