The 21st Century U.S. Postal Service has not yet arrived

Managing complex print and mail projects was something I did for nearly thirty years. A large aspect of those thirty years was spent figuring out how to minimize the cost of postal mail. On a project-by-project basis postage often was more than half of the entire print production and mailing expense.

This past Monday’s article in the New York Times was more about Fedex and UPS than it was the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). This is the same Postal Service – by far the largest on the planet, which continues to lose money, (more due to pension obligations than operating revenue) yet attempts to make it up in volume. The more recent focus of the USPS is delivery of packages and it’s about time.

If you haven’t noticed the USPS has been delivering packages on Sundays for quite a while. Clearly the delivery of packages is the only viable future for the USPS. Currently First Class mail contributes less than 50% of the revenue for the USPS. Yet even as recently as 2015 the USPS delivered 47% of all the mail in the WORLD. Advertising mail and periodicals combined with delivering packages directly for clients as well as other shipping services (Fedex, UPS, and DHL for example) already provide the lion’s share of revenue. That trend is just continuing and the percentage of first class mail versus other mail will continue its decline.

Several years ago (as the article states) the USPS attempted to forgo the delivery of Saturday mail. Outrage followed – primarily from advertising and periodical mailers. And the whole idea was scrapped. It’s time to reconsider that now. Would mailers be ok with NOT delivering on Saturday at all? Or might they pay a premium to be delivered ON Saturday when more people are home?

Why are things being done the way they were twenty years ago or fifty years ago or…? The Pony Express was a really long time ago. So were the 1990’s.  It can’t all be bureaucracy right? Does the recipient really care if they get their mailed statement, invoice or monthly bill on Monday instead of the prior Saturday? If it’s important to the mailer then the mailer can pay for that specificity.

How about paid fast lanes for delivering faster? For the USPS while that already exists (think Express Mail and Priority Mail), when it comes to the U.S. Postal Service ‘Net Neutrality’ has no meaning. Or does it? Should it? Advertising mailers have had the ability to pay for faster service (first class mail or overnight service from Fedex and UPS), but the costs of acquiring customers via first class mail has never been a successful mass marketing technique. The weight and dimensions of packages and other mail pieces have always impacted costs. There’s no expectation that the USPS should deliver a heavy package at the same cost as a lighter one. Data streams are about speed and volume not weight.

Given its history as a civil service workplace (there are nearly 7 million USPS employees), the USPS HAS modernized its services and practices to more effectively process the way mail is used today. Yet most of the moves are reactionary and ultimately protective of the status quo. I doubt Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk would design today’s USPS in such a way that people would recognize it compared to what currently exists.

It’s long past the time for USPS to get out from under the oppression of the pension obligation that has stifled its ability to change. I feel there’s a viable future for the

USPS if the focus is on doing what the USPS does that nobody else does every day – Deliver to each and every household and business.

At least as long as there’s mail to deliver

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver
This entry was posted in Delivery, Postal Mail and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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