Days of Change

Day 1036 – Post No Bills

September 6, 2011
1 Comment

The US Postal Service is an institution that precedes the founding of the United States itself. It was defined in the Constitution and founding father Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General. It was the first to deliver mail and often drove the naming and addressing of houses and streets to allow for deliveries. It is the second largest employer with the largest independent vehicle fleet.

These days, the need to deliver 1 ounce letters in 3 days or less has waned. Package delivery is frequently handled by parcel services that can deliver overnight. Bills and even junk mail can now be transmitted electronically. The USPS cannot react to these changes, since the government dictates their fee schedule, employment levels and availability.

The Postmaster needs Congress to allow changes to make a balloon payment of over $5 billion into their employee pension fund this month. This will include closing more offices, laying off employees and possibly 5 day a week mail delivery. They also want the ability to ship wine and liquor. Raising the price of a stamp may be next.

I tend to think the Post Office as an entity would have been better able to roll with the punches had they only been subject to government regulations instead of government oversight. Had they offered e-mail or online bill pay earlier, they may have been able to transition to a more involved online presence. It reminds me of how Western Union refused interest in the telephone because they saw it interfere with their good telegraph business. The company is still around, but they essentially wire money, a service that competes with the US mail.

I can see a point in the next decade where the blue mail boxes will be gone and post offices will be the domain of those who still don’t trust the internet. If you do need to send a letter in that future, it will probably cost $10.

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