Do We Still Need The USPS and The Local Mailman?
On Tuesdays, I get a ton of mail, in fact, the box out at the street is usually stuffed to where the flapdoor won't close. It's all this week's information about eggs and meat specials at the grocery store, the church's weekly bulletin, and a dozen or so other offers to buy products or hire out services. I pry the wad open to see if there's any personal mail in the center of the mass, then heave the whole two pounds of paper right into the garbage can. Junk Mail. Most of the rest of the week, the mail jeep just zooms on past my box.
The butter and egg specials, the church info and tons of other ads I've already seen or will soon see on the internet. And if I want to purchase anything from tennis shoes to eggs and butter, I do it via the computer and voila, it comes to my house.
Growing up, my mom wrote letters to her family and friends every other day, and each day letters arrived from family and friends. Much of this was in postcard form, which cost a penny to mail. And we were kept up to date with far-flung family members who'd lost a tooth, graduated college, got married or divorced and all the other daily minutiae of human life which today is plastered all over social media with photos and often, way too much detail.
That was then. Today the USPS is a money-losing operation. A free and open society must have a method to communicate privately between its citizens. Communist countries typically didn't have something comparable to our post office back in the old USSR and their satellite states. The oppressive state didn't want the free exchange of ideas and opinions between the people.
In one of his many money-losing films after his cuteness was gone and his acting ability had to stand on its own two legs, Kevin Costner's 1997 film The Postman literally depicted how important the private communications of citizens actually is.
Who writes letters anymore? We have texts and even a new language. WYD? U c me? I c u 2. Too bad mama didn't know all these text abbreviations or those postcards could have told a much bigger story of our lives on that particular day.
USPS Lost $4 Billion in 2018
Incredibly, while losing more money every year than one man can imagine, the post office is as busy as ever delivering packages and one of their biggest customers is the giant online shopping store named after a rainforest in Peru. And the big online store pays pennies to get even the largest packages delivered.
Even when the post office raises rates they still get stung by rising pay and benefits and higher transport costs. The post office must rely on vehicles to deliver mail house to house, not like the old days of the mailman walking a route with a satchel full of letters, there are boxes and boxes to be delivered in the 21st century, no one could possibly walk a route.
Who Sets Postal Rates?
Postal rates are set by an independent committee the Postal Regulatory Commission, a government agency with commissioners from both political parties. They regularly raise package delivery prices by tiny increments and it has never equaled much less covered the cost of the package traffic from the worlds biggest online sellers.
The post office is between a rock and a hard place. There is virtually no personal posts anymore with the emergence of email and social media. There are a few advertisers who still cling to the junk mail marketing system as tightly as they cling to the outdated notion that tons of people are watching the local 6 pm news on television. That demographic is aging out. Change is constant.
A New Kind of USPS
I'm as guilty as anyone, I haven't been in a mall, clothing store, shoe store or most other kinds of stores in years. I shop via mouse for just about everything, which is shipped 'free' to me, no matter how much I purchase for about $90 a year, and the giant online retailer lets me watch their movies, download books (if I owned a Kindle) and other benefits, but the simple truth is if the post office we have today is to survive, those delivery rates for packages would have to skyrocket, which would greatly dampen the appeal, at least for me of shopping by mouse.
It may be time for the USPS to evolve into something else completely. If the package business is their top income producer then they must get fit enough to compete with the other package delivery companies, and perhaps end private postal mail altogether, or even raise the stamped mail rate to dollars instead of pennies. Special exceptions could be made, and special stamps issued for Christmas cards, those stamps only good in the months of November and December, or something.
No private business could lose $4 billion a year and continue. See Sears and Roebuck, KMart, even Macey's and others if you don't know what I mean.
No, we don't need the USPS as we once did, but it should never go away completely. After all, we're always just a bad sunspot or ten-minute cyber war away from being a completely powerless society at risk of being thrown from the 21st century back to the 18th and oil lamps for light in the blink of an eye.
That's when once again, we'll need those souls for whom neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stay them from the swift completion of their rounds.
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