retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reported yesterday on a proposal made by US Postmaster General John E. Potter to to adjust delivery schedules, raise prices and control labor costs - including the elimination of Saturday mail delivery in the US - in order to stem the tide of financial losses facing the system.

I commented:

Cutting a day of mail delivery is putting a band-aid on the problem, and not addressing the real issue, which is that digital mail and information delivery is replacing the physical version. I have no idea what the fundamental business proposition ought to be...but I’m pretty sure that cutting out Saturdays ain’t it.

You could cut deliveries to three days, and people under 30 would be unlikely to care. Or notice.

MNB user Jeff Folloder wrote:

I think you and I are on the same page.  That said, my approach may be even more dramatic.  The Post Office is the poster child for what is wrong with government and most political interaction: subsidizing a process that has no direct benefit to the public at large.  There is no need for mail delivery on 6 out of 7 days of the week.  Since most "business" communication has migrated to electronic formats and the couriers have a good grip on "critical" delivery, the Post Office has resolved into an enterprise used mostly by advertisers and promoters.  And that system is a government jobs program employing more people than it needs (or can afford) at rates controlled by union contracts that do not benefit the public.  Did I mention that this "system" is not cost effective?  The couriers make money without government support; perhaps that is a good model.

Knock the delivery days to just two (I vote for Monday and Thursday).  Slash the jobs and render the fat or just turn it over to private enterprise.  Raise the rates to reflect the true cost to serve.  Eliminate the subsidized rates offered to select groups.  About the only downside is that bills would need a bit more latitude.  I get very few of those, as it is, though.  Between paperless billing, electronic banking and auto-pay, I rarely write checks anymore.

Another MNB user wrote:

While you're correct that the move to eliminate Saturday deliveries will not come close to solving all the issues with what is supposed to be a net zero government operation, it needed to be made in anticipation of the lower volume at least 10 years ago.  Think about 100 million deliveries, 6 days per week in a business model that's going the same direction as Blockbuster.  They probably should cut it to 3.  While many my age (48) and older would freak out at the thought, what do I really see when I check the mailbox?  Some bills (which I could get online) and a lot of stuff for the land fill that never even makes it to my kitchen.

As with many government operations, this is now a jobs program more than a service.  Don't believe this will get traction any more than closing some of the 38,000 locations.

MNB user Tim Heyman wrote:

Great minds think alike, cutting mail to either Monday – Wednesday – Friday or Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday would have little or any affect on most peoples/companies’ lives.  The Democratic congress and the employees union, who have little concern for what “the bottom line” means will be totally opposed to this idea.

I love how easy it is sometimes for folks to move from addressing a problem and developing a solution to making political talking points. I would argue that there is a lack of political courage on this issue on both sides of the aisle.

Another MNB user wrote:

I think you are dead right about people under 30 not caring or noticing if mail delivery was reduced to 3 days.  I'm under 30 and one of the most annoying parts of my day is going to the mail box and sorting through all the worthless crap that comes through there.  EVERY WEEK its the same adds that I NEVER care to look at.  If it comes from pretty much any retail store, guess what, they have the same add right there to grab as you enter the store - no need to send it please.

And then there's the credit card offers, my gosh.  I've had to open and shred offer after offer after offer, I literally get the exact same thing twice a week and it always goes straight through the shredder and into recycling.  I am beginning to resent those companies so much if I did decide I needed a new card I would probably not get one of those just due to the sheer annoyance I've had to deal with.  I always prefer anything that comes through the mail to come electronically if possible.

The labor unions need to realize that these postal jobs are useless anyway.  I get the fact that people need to be working but seriously cut loose the wasted jobs in our economy and replace them with jobs that are actually productive.  I think as a nation we can - (let me re-phrase that) - the free market in this nation, not the government, can come up with better jobs for these people and many others in similar obsolete industries.

Another MNB user wrote:

It’s a shame to know that a limited delivery schedule would mean job losses, but I completely agree.  A Monday, Wednesday, Friday home delivery schedule would work just fine for me and I am well over 30.  I could even envision having alternative delivery options, similar to UPS or Fed Ex for large or certified mail.  The US Postal Service model of business is out-of date for today’s personal and business needs.  If it wasn’t out-of-date you wouldn’t see the need for so many specialized package carriers.

Still another MNB user wrote:

If the Post Office can't figure out how to adjust, they need to shut down. I'll bet the other companies in the delivery business can figure out how to fill the void profitably.

MNB user Blake Steen wrote:

You are DEAD on about the postal service being a dead business model.  It amazes me that people actually think that the government can run health care and can’t even deliver mail efficiently.

MNB user Mark Delaney wrote:

Your point about those under 30 not noticing is fair, but even those under 30 use the USPS for holiday cards and such. More important I think is that while the USPS was made an "independent" organization in the 80's it hardly operates that way. Second only to Walmart in terms of employees the USPS maintains exclusive access to our mailboxes - keeping the likes of Fedex and UPS from infringing on the ability to deliver "non-urgent" mail (whatever that means ). The board that runs the postal service is largely presidential appointees and so if your "long term" view is four years - it's unlikely you'll be able to craft the vision needed for long term viability. Rather you'll do what they've been doing - close locations, curtail hours and continually raise the price of stamps - all "band aids" to your point. Many have argued for privatization but the Supreme Court has ruled they can't be challenged as a monopoly. Surely if Fedex or UPS were allowed a crack at it and long term plans were put in place of short term knee jerk solutions we'd understand whether the entire system is still viable or not. And as for those companies arguing that their business of delivering advertisements on Saturdays would be decimated - in our house that's known as the recycling pile - those catalogs and flyers are about as relevant to me as the pay phone ( and I'm slightly north of 30 :>)

What’s a pay phone?

MNB user Jenni Francis wrote:

If anything, from a service needs standpoint, I offer for consideration that cutting Saturday service is the worst day to choose. It's difficult in many cities to get to the PO M-F around a standard 8-5 workday. Lines over lunch breaks are horrifically long, usually longer than an allotted lunch hour! I live in Portland, OR, where there's no desk service on Saturdays now - you can only pick up undelivered packages. It's a big frustration, and plays a large role in my aversion to using the Post Office for packages.

Why not take Mondays off? Postal workers get a 2 day weekend, and it's easy to remember (i.e. Favorite Japanese restaurant and the PO are closed on Monday). Regardless of the reduction in processed mail volume, we do need a physical mail system. My rent check is not getting to my landlord any other way. Legal agreements needing wet signatures, small packages to friends and family, even the occasional postcard - for me, all are best sent through the postal service. While FedEx and UPS are great companies, they have distant service centers, hours of operation when most are at work, and high prices for individuals sending packages. These factors do not make them a reasonable replacement for the USPS in an average American resident's life, no matter how crummy the service is.

And MNB user Randall Mahon wrote:

Your comment of "You could cut deliveries to three days, and people under 30 would be unlikely to care. Or notice." rings true. I send my 24 and 27 year old daughters birthday and holiday cards, and they may or may not go to the mailbox to get them. They receive all their bills on IPhones and set up auto bill pay for several others. They are already used to 5 day/week deliveries from Amazon from UPS or Fed EX.
KC's View: