I have been reading a lot of articles lately about the demise of the United States Postal Service. The articles are of particular interest to me since by late grandfather was a rural postal carrier in Iowa and I know a number of postal carriers.
The basics behind the demise are simple: people do not send as much mail as they used to send (thanks to email), delivering mail is a huge and expensive process and there is very little progressive thinking in how to fix the archaic business model.
The failing of the U.S. Postal Service is one of those hot-button topics that politicians do not want to touch. Postal service began in 1775 with Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster general. He might be the second most-famous postmaster general behind Wilford Brimley in Seinfeld. The people that care about mail the most — the retired and elderly — don’t have much to do but complain about days gone by. And vote. They can change elections just by their sheer numbers. So messing with the postal system can leave a congressman jobless.
I actually use the post office quite a bit — sending out packages of stuff I sell on eBay and mailing out apparel orders from one of my side businesses. I don’t write letters. I don’t mail bills, save for my car payment which goes to a massive processing center in Illinois that doesn’t take online payments.
Today I went to the post office to send out a package of electric football players I sold on eBay. It was a small box that only weighed 2.3 ounces. I was sending it from Las Vegas to Ohio by first-class mail. The total cost with delivery confirmation was $2.80.
I have no problem with the price. After all, I had built the costs into the eBay listing. My problem is with the receipt. I mailed one small item. Yet, the receipt is 13 1/2 inches long! The actual information about my transaction was only the first five inches. After that was 8 1/2 inches of USPS advertising: Buy greeting cards at the USPS. Order stamps at USPS.com. Get your mail with a Post Office Box. All sales final on stamps and postage. HELP US SERVE YOU BETTER at postalexperience.com.
How many transactions do all the postal offices across the country register per year? There was more than 3 billion pieces of mail delivered last year. Even if only one percent of those pieces was brought into the postal offices for the mailing transaction, the receipts would add up to 390,000,000 inches of paper based on the receipt I received. It seems like the U.S. Postal Service is not only inefficient and costly, but pro-lumber industry, as well.
I know from experience I can buy 10 items at Kohl’s and not get a receipt this long.
In fact, after I left the post office I went to Fresh & Easy to buy groceries. I purchased 10 items and spent more than $38. The receipt was only seven inches long.
Fresh & Easy put a logo on its receipt and absolutely no marketing sayings or promotional links.
And Fresh & Easy faces a lot stiffer competition in Las Vegas from Vons, Smiths, Albertsons, WalMart Grocery and Target than the U.S. Post Office does anywhere.
I am not one of those people that care whether or not mail service is reduced from six days to five. I live on a street where the mail is all delivered to a central box, not to a box on my house. Therefore, I only bother to check my mail every 2-3 days. When I do get the mail I am not sure whether or not it was delivered that day, the day before or even over the weekend. I really don’t care.
However, I don’t want to see the postal service go away completely. Maybe reducing the amount of wasted paper produced in every receipt won’t fix a bloated, broken, deeply in debt system. But it’s a start.