On Wednesday the USPS announced that as of January 1 the price of a first class stamp will be $0.45 (up from $0.44 for those of you that might not be familiar with the cost of mailing a letter in the United States). There has been much written about the declining fortunes of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and coincidentally (or not) an article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune entitled ‘Can the postal service be saved’ http://trib.in/nf7FMK , caught my attention.
My first thought was, should the postal service be saved? Callous I know, but an organization that has changed not nearly enough in over 200 years will no doubt be difficult if not impossible to ‘fix’.
My subsequent thought was – what would be the reasons it would even be worth trying to save the postal service? Here are the few I came up with.
1) Experience. The postal service has the most experience in delivering to nearly all Americans where people and businesses are as well as the optimal routes to get there.
2) Costs and Service. The postal service delivers for Fedex and other third parties. Without the USPS, pricing for those third party services would no doubt increase and likely their service would be impacted negatively.
3) Avoid increasing U.S. unemployment. With 9.1% reported unemployment putting the remaining (as the USPS has shed more than 200,000 jobs over the past several years) 500,000+ employees on the street at this time would be devastating. The USPS is the second largest civilian employer in the country (after Wal-Mart). However the impact would be much more substantial than that as there are an additional 3.1 million people indirectly employed in jobs affected by direct mail marketing http://bit.ly/ptSGuA.
4) Trust. The postal service is a trusted institution. Americans by and large trust the postal service to deliver mail accurately and efficiently. That cannot be said of many U.S. institutions recently. When you compare mail delivery in the U.S. to that of other countries, the USPS fares quite favorably.
5) Opportunity. Although it may not always be apparent there are opportunities for the local post office to offer additional services – driver’s licenses, car registrations, passports – are just a few of the adjunct services that could be added.
Why do I say blow it up first? It is written a bit in jest but a bit seriously as well. I could have as easily written a post offering 5 reasons the postal service should be shut down. Like an archaic model built 200 years ago that has too many vestiges operating today. Or the fact that the postal service has been used as a civil service pasture for veterans and others but they’ve not been given the training to compete in today’s and tomorrow’s economy. I could go on. But at the very least a complete overhaul needs to occur in order for change to truly take hold.
Postmaster General Pat Donahue is saying some very right things – but will the postal service survive long enough to implement them?