retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    by Michael Sansolo

    In the strange realm of Covid-19, every week slides gloomily into the next with no sense of how things can or will get better.

    But thanks to a car salesman in Pennsylvania, we have a model of how to achieve new levels of success. The Washington Post recently ran a fascinating profile of Mike McVeigh, a Dodge salesman who incredibly has recently posted some of his best sales months ever despite the limitations posed by the pandemic. 

    In fact, as the story makes clear, the entire dealership where he works is performing at record levels despite losing all the usual tools of selling cars or making customer connections. It’s a very specific lesson in how to change with the times when basically there is no option but to change.

    McVeigh’s story is actually what you would expect. At first, when the pandemic hit, he and the other salespeople at the dealership were furloughed and life was looking grim. He found it hard to be optimistic at all when he we called back to work in an environment that was nothing like the world he knew for 16 years. But then it clicked and that’s where his story should serve as a model for all of us.

    McVeigh and the other salespeople at the dealership quickly came to embrace the limitations of the new world. The showroom was closed, test drives were completely different and all deals had to be done on line. 

    As McVeigh told the Post, “If I can’t connect with you, if I can’t do my showmanship, if I can’t see you, I thought I was done.” Instead he learned a new way.

    As the owner of the dealership said of the (let’s face it, annoying) way cars were sold in the past,  “It’s not that world anymore and we’re not going back.”

    McVeigh started working deals using Zoom and FaceTime to connect with customers and even to virtually accompany them on test-drives. Now once the deal is done, he brings the new car to the customer, not the other way around.  In other words he took his long-honed skills to new places and made it work like never before. McVeigh says everyone at the dealership has rapidly evolved to build success.

    McVeigh’s story is a good example of how individuals need to quickly rethink their skills to stay above water or possibly even grow during these challenging times. It’s a lesson that could be applied anywhere including retail stores that shoppers still visit. In every department, on every team we need to be asking how can we enhance what we’ve always done to meet the new needs and concerns of a worried mass of shoppers.

    (Don’t think this stops at stores. Kevin and I have both been faced with the disappearance of all those conferences where we usually give presentations. It’s the reason we’re working together on finding new and more engaging ways to use technology to create an improved experience.)

    McVeigh’s lesson might be most impactful for team members who are understandably depressed by the way things are today. McVeigh’s story reminds of two important things: first, with creativity we can still succeed, and second, there’s a good chance we aren’t ever going back to the “way things were.” We might even move to something better.

    In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a character at one point complains that he wishes none of the hardships he faced had ever occurred. The wise wizard, Gandalf responds, “so do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

    So true.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com.

    His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

    And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here

    .

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    It almost has become a cliche that the pandemic has accelerated consumer trends and business practices, forcing retailers to move forward and embrace strategies and tactics that may have been percolating or may have been distant goals.  It was a different sort of challenge for different kinds of retailers, and I wanted to know specifically how it affected convenience store chains - in part because the very nature of convenience is being redefined by circumstances, and in part because that retail segment has its own challenges.

    And so I reached out to Derek Gaskins, Chief Marketing Officer at Yesway, to have a Zoom conversation about the subject … and it was so interesting and extensive that I'm breaking it into two parts.  Part one is below, and part two will run tomorrow.

    Enjoy.

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    At Kings Food Markets, if people come in without wearing a mask, they get two things:  a mask, and a card with CEO Judy Spires' phone number, in case they have any questions.  KC is impressed.

    (If you want to know more, click here for the original Today Show story.)

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    Walmart said yesterday that its Q2 sales were up 5.6 percent to $137.7 billion, and that e-commerce sales were up 97 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

    US same-store sales for the quarter were up 9.3 percent.  The company said that same-store sales increases were not as strong during July as in the previous two months because shoppers already had spent their government stimulus checks.

    Net income was $6.48 billion, compared with $3.61 billion a year ago.

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    "It marks the second consecutive quarter of strong growth and evidence that the world’s largest retailer is grabbing market share in some categories as many retailers close stores or declare bankruptcy amid coronavirus struggles."

    From the New York Times coverage:

    "Walmart’s strong results reflect how a few large retailers have been able to capitalize on the surge in demand for food and necessary items by Americans hunkered down at home. Walmart’s success, while many other retailers have struggled or failed in recent months, shows the consolidation in the retail industry has been compounded by the pandemic.

    "The company noted that stimulus money helped boost sales of general merchandise, making it uncertain if Walmart and other large retailers will be able to keep up the sales growth in the coming months if policymakers do not restore the benefits that expired at the end of July."

    From CNBC:

    "Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the company benefited from Americans buying groceries, looking for ways to stay entertained during the pandemic and spending money on their homes. Some of those dollars came from government stimulus.

    "Yet the company did not provide a financial outlook for the rest of the year. In an interview with CNBC, Walmart Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs pointed to government stimulus as a factor that’s creating uncertainty during the public health crisis."

    From Bloomberg:

    "Long after the spring spike of pandemic-related pantry loading and panic buying, Walmart Inc. is still benefiting from all the ways Covid-19 has reshaped consumer needs and spending patterns. And yet, even as the mega-retailer unveiled another strong quarterly performance, the underpinnings of its results should serve as a wake-up call to Washington: More government stimulus is urgently needed because it was crucial to keeping consumers off the sidelines this summer."

    In other Walmart news yesterday…

    •  CEO Doug McMillon said that the company still plans to launch its Walmart+ program in the near future, but did not provide a launch date.  McMillon said the program will be designed to ramp up the service element available to subscribers and give the company valuable shopper data.

    It is believed that a Walmart+ membership will carry a $98 annual fee, and will offer perks such as same-day delivery of groceries and fuel discounts.

    Walmart+ is being broadly positioned as making the retailer more competitive with Amazon Prime.

    •  Forbes  reports that "Walmart chief executive officer Doug McMillon said Tuesday the retail giant remains committed to its rollout of Walmart Health brand centers to expand low cost healthcare services to tens of thousands of its U.S. customers.

    "Comments by McMillon and the head of Walmart’s U.S. operation came after the surprising departure earlier this month of Sean Slovenski who had been Walmart’s senior vice president of health and wellness for the last two years overseeing the launch of what he called 'super centers' for healthcare services."

    KC's View:

    To me, the e-commerce numbers from Walmart (and Target, reported below) point to a shift in consumer behavior that never will return to previous levels - these are vivid examples of how the sector has accelerated by three or four years.

    That doesn't mean there won't be a little backsliding as/if we come out of the pandemic.  Of course there will be.  But consumers are getting used to the idea of ordering online and opting for either pick-up or delivery … especially when it comes to non-differentiated product categories where going to the store simply doesn't add to the experience.

    As for Walmart+ … it will be interesting to see if some of its customers - those who can't or won't spend the extra $98 a year to be part of the club - feel slighted by the program's existence, or think that they are being bifurcated out of Walmart's preferred customer list.

    In some ways, that's exactly what is happening.  It is what Amazon does … but Amazon built it into the business model from relatively early days.  Walmart is challenging a status quo that has existed for a long time.  I give them credit for doing so, but I don't think it is a slam-dunk that it will work.

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Target Corp. posted the strongest quarterly growth in its history, including a near tripling of digital sales, as coronavirus concerns fueled demand for services that let shoppers pick up goods in parking lots or skip trips to the store … Target’s comparable sales, those from stores and through digital channels operating for at least 12 months, rose 24% in the quarter ended Aug. 1, a company record and twice as much as in the May quarter. Target executives cited broad gains across categories such as food, electronics and home goods and a rebound in clothing sales."

    Target's "total revenue reached $22.9 billion in the quarter, compared with $18.4 billion a year earlier. Sales through digital channels accounted for 17% of revenue, around $3.9 billion … Online comparable sales rose 195% from a year ago, driven by same-day pickup and delivery services."

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    CNBC reports that Amazon, looking to improve its Prime value proposition, is pushing third-party vendors selling on its Marketplace but shipping themselves to improve their delivery standards.

    According to the story, "Amazon informed sellers on Tuesday that, starting in February 2021, it will require members of its Seller Fulfilled Prime program to provide nationwide delivery coverage and support Saturday delivery and pick-ups.

    "The SFP program, launched in 2016, enables third-party merchants to make inventory eligible for two-day shipping without paying for Amazon’s fulfillment services, Fulfillment By Amazon.

    "The changes will help Amazon ensure that products with the Prime badge are on par with the company’s customary two-day and, increasingly, one-day delivery times. Prime subscribers pay an annual fee of $119 to get perks like free, fast shipping, streaming services such as Prime Video and Prime Music, and benefits like discounts at Whole Foods."

    KC's View:

    The numbers are clear and well-known.  Amazon Prime members spend more than double on Amazon than non-Prime members.  Therefore, it makes sense for Amazon to do whatever it can to drive up ther breadth of prime's value proposition.  (Though I have to wonder if this also will drive some vendors to switch over to Fulfillment By Amazon, just because it may be easier.)

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, there now have been 5,656,204 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 175,087 deaths and 3,011,577 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 22,325,623 confirmed coronavirus cases, 784,765 fatalities, 15,066,323 reported recoveries.


    •  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "New coronavirus cases in the U.S. climbed higher, but remained below 50,000 for the fourth day in a row, as some universities and schools move classes online to avoid campus outbreaks.

    The U.S. reported more than 44,000 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, up sharply from the previous day’s 35,112, but lower than recent peaks this month and in July, according to data from Johns Hopkins University."


    •  Before the pandemic, food halls were all the rage, but the Wall Street Journal reports that the coronavirus "has upended the business, with restaurant-industry professionals questioning if it can ever return to its once-bustling state. Others see a path forward, but say it could take months, if not years for the industry to fully recover.

    "Food halls closed for indoor dining in mid-March, as mandated by New York state, and many halls or their tenants didn’t embrace takeout or delivery as an alternative during the early stage of the shutdown.

    "In recent weeks, the halls, which typically feature an array of vendors and restaurants serving everything from tacos to sushi, have started to come back to life. Such prominent ones as the Chelsea Market and Gotham West Market in Manhattan and the Time Out Market New York in Brooklyn have opened outdoor dining spaces, as currently allowed by the state. To-go options are also being promoted."

    To a great extent, food halls' customer base are limited because office workers who once patronized them now are working from home, and tourism has been virtually eliminated from the equation.

    But, the Journal writes, "Coming out of the pandemic, halls may be better able to woo tenants versus bricks-and-mortar locations, industry professionals say. That is  because they are a lower-cost option in terms of rent and startup expenses, which will likely resonate with culinary entrepreneurs in what could be a challenging post-pandemic economic environment."

    I think there could be an opportunity here … food retailers can find a way to open their spaces to restaurant and food hall tenants that can bring some culinary innovation and might be looking for partnerships that could reshape both their business models going forward.


    •  Axios this morning writes that "the pandemic is striking directly at the heart of what has historically made America stronger than almost any other global economy - our awesome productivity."

    The problem, the story says, is that many businesses have had to shift priorities: "Working from home has damaged companies that invested in sparking creativity and innovation by bringing employees together in thoughtfully-designed offices."  Business leaders, Axios writes, "are being urged to put significant new resources into social distancing, ventilation, temperature checks, health attestations, contact-tracing databases, ubiquitous hand sanitizer stations, and myriad other COVID-related expenses."  That hits their ability to produce and innovate at previous levels.

    "The recession is bad enough — deeper and faster than anything we've experienced in living memory. The hit to productivity comes on top of that … For some service-industry sectors, the decline in productivity means thousands of businesses have to shut down entirely, since they can no longer make a profit."

    Modern recessions, Axios writes, "even the Great Recession, have tended to have little to no effect on how efficiently America produces goods and services."  But in this case, "the virus continues to act as a deadweight on the economy."


    •  The Boston Globe reports that "Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at nearly 2 ½ times the rate of white people nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, and despite representing roughly 13 percent of the population, they’ve accounted for 22 percent of coronavirus deaths in cases in which race and ethnicity are known. And yet, in a sign of deep-seated and well-earned distrust in the US medical establishment, surveys have shown consistently that Black Americans are less willing than other racial and ethnic groups to accept a coronavirus vaccine."

    The story goes on:  "A nationwide poll released earlier this month from researchers at Harvard, Rutgers, Northeastern, and Northwestern universities found that 52 percent of Black respondents are likely to take a COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 67 percent of white people, 71 percent of Latinos, and 77 percent of Asian Americans.

    "The Pew Research Center, which reported similar findings in June, found Black Americans are generally more wary of medical researchers and doctors, in addition to being more skeptical of experimental treatments. Fifty-three percent of Black adults surveyed by Pew had a mostly positive view of medical research scientists, compared with 68 percent of white and 67 percent of Hispanic respondents. An even smaller proportion of Black adults, 35 percent, expressed a 'great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the best interests of the public'."

    “The African American community has very, very significant and historic reasons, including racism, segregation and experimentation, to be very mistrustful,” Dr. Joseph Betancourt, vice president and chief equity and inclusion officer at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells the Globe.  “This is compounded by the fact that African Americans are significantly underrepresented among doctors and researchers, so these communities don’t have trusted messengers.”


    •  The Wall Street Journal writes that "New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said it was adding Alaska and Delaware to the state’s travel-advisory list, which now includes 34 states and Puerto Rico. Travelers from those states must quarantine for 14 days when visiting New York."


    •  Axios reports that "Harvard, which is going fully remote, says 20% of the students in its incoming freshman class are deferring.

    "That's apparently a trend. As the pandemic pushes more universities to remote learning, 22% of college students across all four years are planning not to enroll this fall … Of those not returning, most — 73% — are working full time. Around 4% are taking classes at a different university, and 2% are doing volunteer work.

    "Freshmen appear to be a big chunk of those planning not to enroll."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "the University of Notre Dame and Michigan State University on Tuesday both announced moves designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus on their campuses.

    "Notre Dame is canceling in-person classes and moving them online for at least two weeks after seeing a surge in coronavirus cases. On Monday, one week after classes began, 80 students tested positive out of 418, or 19% of students tested.

    "The rash of cases has been linked to at least two off-campus parties, and the majority of students testing positive are senior undergraduates, mostly male, said school spokesman Paul Browne."

    The story goes on:  "Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley asked students who were planning to move into school’s dormitories to stay home.

    “'Given the current status of the virus in our country—particularly what we are seeing at other institutions as they re-populate their campus communities—it has become evident to me that, despite our best efforts and strong planning, it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students if our undergraduates return to campus,' President Stanley wrote."


    •  The New York Times writes about how the state of Alabama, in concert with the medical center at the University of Alabama, is engaged in a "sweeping endeavor" that "focuses on testing more than 160,000 students for the virus before they arrive at 59 local colleges and universities. The students must also wear masks and follow social-distancing guidelines, and many will be required to use a daily symptom-checking app developed by U.A.B. On Monday, the university released a second app, which can alert students to possible virus exposures … If the statewide experiment succeeds, it could help answer one of the most pressing questions about reopening colleges — and the country: Can a combination of aggressive testing, virus safety apps, mandatory mask-wearing and reduced classroom occupancy make it safe enough for on-campus learning?"

    "We can’t remove all risk," Dr. Selwyn M. Vickers, dean of the U.A.B. School of Medicine, tells the Times, "but what we do want to do is mitigate risk in a major way."

    The story says that "U.A.B. football players, who began returning to campus in June, were among the first cohort of more than 3,000 students on campus who have used the app. This semester, all students will be required to use it daily. If a student answers yes to any question, it alerts staff at student health services, who may offer virus tests.  U.A.B. has made the Healthcheck app free to educational institutions in Alabama and is marketing it to employers."

    The Times notes that "critics say the U.A.B. model has serious weaknesses. For one thing, they note, apps like Healthcheck can catch only people who have symptoms and are willing to disclose them. And as many as 40 percent of people with virus infections have no symptoms.

    As for Alabama’s two-week window for student testing, they warn that many college students who test negative a week or two before their semester starts may develop the virus a few days later."


    •  The Washington Post reports that "spurred by growing evidence that being overweight increases the risk of serious illness with an infection by the coronavirus, a number of Mexican states are moving to ban the sale of junk food to children. On Monday, legislators in Tabasco voted to prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages and highly processed foods to anyone under 18, just 12 days after Oaxaca took similar action."


    •  Another retail segment that is taking it on the chin from the pandemic:

    "An audience that is both captive and often affluent has made airport commercial square footage some of the most lucrative in the world. But the pandemic has crushed the commercial calculus at airports, and no one is sure what comes next.

    "The leading airport for concession and retail sales in the United States is Los Angeles International, with revenue of $3,036 a square foot, according to a 2018 report from Airport Experience News. Chicago O’Hare clocks in second with $2,718 in sales a square foot. By comparison, the average mall retailer is around $325 per square foot, according to 2017 data from CoStar.

    "But that’s all gone now, said Alan Gluck, a senior aviation consultant at ICF … The very amenities that once made airports a standout for profit are the same things that are proving to be challenging."


    •  A few weeks ago, we reported on the fact that Bermuda was offering special one-year, renewable residency certificates for remote workers, hoping that it can attract folks to come live on the island nation and use it as s refuge from the pandemic - and it the process, boost its economy.

    Now, the New York Times reports, other countries are making the same pitch - countries that range from Barbados to Estonia to Georgia are offering special or expanded visa programs that encourage remote workers to move there at least temporarily.  There are some caveats:  "While all countries require proof of health insurance and negative virus tests (either pre-arrival, upon arrival, or both), some require an application fee and proof of a monthly salary, complete with bank statements."

    It actually is a trend that predates the coronavirus.   "Even before the pandemic, the number of remote workers worldwide was growing: Research from the consulting firm MBO Partners found that the number of independent workers in the United States, which includes consultants, freelancers and temporary workers, was around 41 million in 2019. More than 7.3 million workers in the United States described themselves in 2019 as 'digital nomads': those who chose to embrace a location-independent lifestyle that allowed them to travel and work remotely."

    As I said when we ran the original story about Bermuda, I could totally go for moving MNB world headquarters there.  I did a quick check, though, and am pretty sure that it is way beyond my means.  I've never been to Barbados, but I'd certainly be willing to do a little investigation…


    •  From Bloomberg:

    "Alamo Drafthouse, the quirky cinema chain that serves guests meals at their seats, will reopen about half of its locations this weekend -- part of the theater industry’s attempt to recover from the crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

    "Its theaters will offer a free showing of MGM’s Bill & Ted Face the Music on Aug. 26, two days before it’s widely released in other theaters and on demand. The chain will also show older movies, like Back to the Future and Inception, as it waits for Hollywood studios to start debuting blockbusters again."

    The story says that another chain, AMC, "is offering movie tickets for 15 cents for its first day back, while other chains are offering discounts to loyalty members. And all the chains are touting their strict safety protocols, meant to ease customer concerns about sitting in an enclosed space with other people for hours."

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    •  Reuters reports that Walmart-owned Asda Group in the UK plans to "expand weekly delivery capacity to one million slots next year to meet the demand for online grocery shopping spurred by the COVID-19 crisis."

    According to the story, "The supermarket has increased its online capacity by 65% since March, to 700,000 weekly slots, and plans 740,000 per week by the end of the year.

    "It is also expanding its delivery partnership trial with Uber Eats to 25 more stores over the next eight weeks. The trial covers 10 stores presently."

    Asda remains on the market, with Walmart saying that it is talking with several potential buyers for the chain.

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    •  Amazon Prime Video yesterday announced that it has struck a deal with Seattle's hometown soccer team, Sounders FC, that will make it " the sole digital streaming destination for all non-nationally televised Sounders FC matches throughout the club’s home broadcast territory, marking just the second time Prime Video has reached a streaming agreement with a sports franchise, and the first deal with a professional soccer club. Starting with Sounders FC’s August 26 match at the LA Galaxy, the three-year agreement is set to run through the 2022 Major League Soccer season."

    KC's View:

    It won't be long before Amazon isn't just competing for streaming rights to various teams and sports … but for exclusive media rights.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…but soon, and then for the foreseeable future.

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    •  From USA Today this morning:

    "A salmonella outbreak linked to recalled onions has spread to 47 states, with increased cases and hospitalizations.

    "The Food & Drug Administration said Tuesday that it is analyzing samples collected at Thomson International of Bakersfield, California, which has recalled all red, white, yellow and sweet yellow onions shipped to all 50 states and the District of Columbia from May 1 to Aug. 1.

    "In its update Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of reported cases of salmonella newport illnesses had grown to 869 cases, with 116 hospitalizations in 47 states (only Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Vermont have not had cases). No deaths have been reported."

    Published on: August 19, 2020

    On the subject of the USPS and my suggestion for how retailers could perform an election-related public service for their customers, one MNB reader wrote:

    You are falling victim to the political propaganda of the day when worrying about the US Postal Service and the election.

    In the latest data available on the USPS website for 2010, total annual piece volume was 168 billion pieces annually or 460 million pieces per day.  The maximum number of ballots that could be mailed to the US population would be about 360 million, and  millions of those are not eligible to vote due to age, citizenship or other reasons but use the number anyway,

     Even if mail volume has dropped as much as 20% over the past 10 years to 368 million pieces per day, the USPS probably has the capacity to handle the total volume of mailed ballots for the election in one day,  so over a two week period, the USPS could handle 14 times the number of votes mailed if 100 of the election was done by mail.  The mailed ballots just would not be a significant increase to the daily mail flow given that only some states will try to conduct the election by mail.

    The hysteria just does not seem warranted unless the purpose is to get headlines, clicks, views and tweets, not to be taken seriously.

    First of all, I am not falling victim to anything.

    My suggestion in FaceTime yesterday was keyed to addressing a concern that clearly is felt by a lot of people - that they may not be able to mail in their ballots and have them counted because of changes being made in the USPS.

    Regardless of what you believe about these changes, this worry exists.  And if retailers - staying within the letter of the law, of course - can help facilitate the sending of ballots directly to boards of elections, bypassing the post office, and alleviate a customer concern … well, that's my definition of being relevant.

    I should make a couple of other points here.  If I suggested that there weren't any operational issues at the post office, and that everything is copasetic in how our mail system works, then I'd be a fool and a hypocrite.  There's no question that the system could be made better … but choosing this particular moment to make changes isn't the best marketing decision I've ever seen.  And the questions remain, why are the changes being made, and why now?

    I do know this.  A package for which I paid the fee for two-day delivery at the post office took 10 days to get from Connecticut to Chicago.  I've had to reschedule the issuing of checks to make sure that they get where they're going on time and I don't get dinged with late fees.  I know that when I get my daily USPS Informed Delivery email every morning, there often are pieces of mail displayed that are supposed to be in my mailbox that day, and that somehow don't show up for several days.  And we've all heard the stories of people not getting their prescription medicine on time because of what appears to be a slowing down of operations at the post office.

    I'm not being hysterical here, nor am I falling victim to propaganda.  These are just facts … I leave it to others to divine why these things are happening.

    MNB reader Joe Axford had a different reaction to my suggestion:

    I for one think it's a great idea. You're always thinking outside the box!  I'll bet the bulk of the replies to this will be why it CAN'T be done, instead of trying to get it done!

    From MNB reader David Fowle:

    Hey Kevin – maybe you’ve already floated this idea, but in terms of the insolvency of the post office, I’m wondering if this country might be ready for what to me seems like an obvious piece of the solution. Go to every other day delivery. –but do it by splitting every community physically in half and delivering to half of the town Mon-Wed-Fri and the other half Tues-Thurs-Sat. Maybe this would not make sense in the cities – I don’t know – but this would cut nearly in half the number of miles traveled and person-hours spent delivering each week. Speaking personally, if I have to wait one extra day for the delivery of any particular item, it won’t kill me (and it seems that’s going to happen anyway!)

    I don't know.  We've gotten used to the USPS making Sunday deliveries and, often, coming two or three times a day to make various e-commerce deliveries.  Success emanates from better service, not reduced service.

    From another reader:

    Just to chime in on the postal service and it’s redundancy I recently moved and changed my address.  During the process I was set up for delivery notification service.  Do you know what that is? They send me an email with a photo of the actual mail I am going to receive that day.  Yesterday I didn’t even get the stuff they emailed me.  In fact, I got nothing…

    The USPS delivery notification system - which I referred to above as USPS Informed Delivery - is a terrific service.  I'm sure some in the USPS think it is a pain, since it automatically tells me what I'm going to get before I get it … which then allows me to ask questions if I don't actually get it.  (Which I have.)  

    I heartily recommend you get it.  The cost is zero.  And you can sign up here.