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Thursday, April 7. 2011
Taxpayer Alert: The Coming Postal Service Bailout.
Among the reasons government agencies cannot run things efficiently are these:
1. The incentive structures are irrational, and there is no profit motive
2. There's always taxpayer money to fill the gaps, so you don't worry about costs. In fact, they are sort of expected to run at a loss.
3. Politicians always intrude on the operation for their own purposes
4. Giant unions like the Postal Workers run the workplaces
I don't know about you, but I always send my packages at my local mail shop via FedEx or UPS, not at the PO. I do not want to wait in line while people take their coffee breaks, and the clerks at our PO, though friendly enough, move as slow as molasses. With email and with commercial competition, I think the USPS is near-obsolete.
The same people want nothing more than to run my medical care. Say I: "Over my dead body."
Tracked: Apr 07, 20:38
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Barrister--this is I believe the first time you and I have agreed on something!
I would agree with your point about the obsolescence of the Post Office. However, my packages all go USPS as it is cheaper and rumor has it that UPS seems to have a real problem with losing packages.
As the Post Office is a good paying job in my area, the quality of the help is generally pretty good. Probably much higher than in most urban areas of the country. One time I stopped in a neighboring town to mail a package but the PO was closed for lunch. The lady inside was eating her sack lunch. I turned and headed back for my pick up and she came running out after me and took my package.
In the town where I most often visit the Post Office, Perry is always friendly and cheerful.
Of course the counter point is why are one man Post Offices still open?
I don't have all the answers for cutting excess costs at the USPS, but an obvious one to me would be to cut the mail delivery to three days a week. One carrier could deliver mail on two routes on alternate days. The number of carriers could be cut in half.
But it seems like every time a proposal is made to cut Post Offices or reduce delivery service, Congress gets involved.
I don't have the answer for that.
In the past, I've disagreed with doing away with Saturday mail delivery - mostly because I feel like we've paid for this service and it's up to the USPS to figure a way to support this on their ever increasing postage.
I think I'm ready to flip. The Saturday mail is largely ads and other junk and I'm ready to cut services to save money
That certainly won't solve the budgetary problems at the USPS, but it would help.
Postal service is becoming a business model that is become more untenable every day. I think it's clear that it is going to have to morph into something much different than it is today - probably something much smaller and more targeted. If mail is subsidizing packages, they ought to drop packages and concentrate on mail, though I have no problem with their package delivery.
I think Barrister is right that there is a lot of inertia related to govt. enterprises that makes it an uphill battle in the first place.
Maybe the whole thing could be privatized (gee, there's an idea I haven't heard for a while!). What happens if a private mail carrier were to go belly up? Would it be like Amtrak? There's probably more to this than meets the eye.
I have the choice of three nearby post offices where I live, and depending on the other errands I might be multi-tasking that day, I go to one or the other of them. The service in each one is truly excellent. Usually there are no lines, or else the lines are very short. The folks at the front desk are unfailingly helpful. The postmen/women on the route are always on top of things, and they never complain---instead they joke---about having to climb the more than 50 steps from the street to my house to leave packages at my front door. Now that is what I call service!
There is nothing about the Postal Service that wouldn't be greatly alleviated simply by making the catalog and junk mailers pay postage on the first-class scale.
Our household gets 3-5 Orvis catalogs a week and we have to recycle 60-80 pounds of unread catalogs a month!!. The Direct Mail Association is a powerful lobby, and has managed to negotiate sweetheart rates, and the results are:
1. The USPS needs new planes, trucks, distribution centers and employees to carry, sort, and carry again the heavy junk mail, and
2. Our postage goes up to fill the revenue gap.
Raise the price to $0.88 an ounce, and we'll need fewer planes, trucks, distribution centers and employees, and get better service from the employees who remain (and the letter-carriers will have fewer back problems).
Abracadabra - problem solved.
That reminds me of a guy I heard about on TV many years ago. He got on every junk mail list he could. He collected a huge stockpile of junk mail and then in the winter, he rolled it up and burned it in his furnace! He paid nothing for his heating and the fuel was even delivered free!
Of course that doesn't solve the USPS's problems, though.
I'm with Kondratieff on this one. I resent having my mailbox filled with junk mail. Not only do I have to subsidize this everytime I buy a stamp but I am also legally responsible to recycle crap I don't want.
Make the advertisers pay normal mail rates. That would have to double or triple the revenue of the USPS.
Between its own management and political interference, the USPS has some avoidable problems.
But having lived in several locales, I have only once in my 65+ years had a problem other than the cost of mailing a letter or check*. Oh, well, a couple with their internal policies as they impacted one of my sisters who worked there for some years. Not many with UPS, either, but several with FedEx...
Waiting in line to send (or pick up) a package is a hassle, and having alternatives is a boon, but note all three (yes, including the USPS) will pick up a package I want to send out by stopping at my apartment. I have not actually tried this with any of them, but it is available.
* Checks. Until about a month ago, I had not mailed one for several years. Then I had surgery, and bills from several places. Now I wonder why, when the Chinese take-out on the corner has a website and accepts most credit cards, even the doctors who contract out their billing to a service specialising in medical billing (and those servicing outfits) simply must have a check? Even the hospital, which does have a fairly comprehensive website (heck, it allows you to apply as a subject for trials of new cancer treatments)!
You'll love this!
I make spare parts for the military, actually Defense Logistics Agency. My orders often stipulate- "Do not ship USPS".
You see, they actually want them to get there, and on time.
Packages shipped from across the country make it here much faster if shipped USPS than UPS or Fedex (unless it's expedited rate).
UPS and Fedex at the regular rate do not make good connections at transfer points, in addition to always being ground.
The problem of long lines during busy times, with one of 5 'windows' being open while others are on lunch break, in an extremely busy Post Office in an urban county seat in a large metro area, is real. Two windows might be open when I arrived, but one would be closed with 20 people in line during lunch.
I've also had extremely rude service at two smaller Post Offices in the same county. These were stereotypical experiences. No private business would last long with employees that were consistently as put-out looking as these workers were.
Not every USPS employee has been hateful or rude or slow or bored. There was always one very jovial and helpful man at the first P.O I mentioned, who made me feel happy to be alive; this guy should have been working for commission in a sales job; he was just one of those people who was naturally happy, and made you feel the same way, would put you in the right frame of mind to part with your cash. But I remember him because he was such an exception to the other surly folks there.
I'm sure in rural areas, the PO might be a lot more agreeable place to be. But in the big cities, and this seems to be about the same everywhere...the attitudes are poor, the work rules are made for the convenience of the unionized workers and NOT the customers, and I too agree with the article.
Even were the workers pleasant as could be, the USPS would be in trouble; email has about completely replaced snail mail for personal communication, there is competition in the package game and the bulk mailing deals are disadvantageous for the USPS. Add to that the same problems of public service unions, well-brought out with the Wisconsin story, apply here. Pension plans and health care for USPS workers and retirees are untenable.
Even UPS is having unionization cost problems veruss Fed Ex, which has long been non-unionized. I don't know where that stands right now, but UPS has tried to repeatedly screw over FedEx by trying to push legislation that would force FedEx, essentially, to become a union shop.