The U.S. Postal Service is in big trouble. It shouldn’t be a surprise, because this government behemoth hasn’t bothered to stay with the times and is currently being undermined by their ability to adapt. However, suddenly, they realize they are in trouble and it is time to start scrambling. Some of what they plan on doing has been hitting the news, but what options do they have and how will it affect us?
Cutting back to five days a week.
This is the most widespread options that the post office is looking to do. I am not really sure if it will affect that many people. Will the American people look at it as a day of reprieve from a mailbox full of bills and junk mail? What do you think about this option? Will your life be impacted if we can’t get mail on Saturday? This is something the post office has to bring before Congress to get approved. Right now, they are required by law to deliver our mail six days a week. They believe by cutting back to five days a week, they will be able to save approximately $5 billion each year. It doesn’t really clear the $7 billion they are in deficit right now, but it will help – at the expense of people’s jobs. However, they aren’t planning on just canning the employees. It turns out that almost 50% of current postal workers are due for retirement in the next five years. The USPS isn’t planning on re-filling those jobs. It sucks to tell your kids that their dreams of government work will go unrealized, doesn’t it?
Kiosks and Drop-Offs
This is a not-so-unique idea the USPS is looking at by stealing from Federal Express and UPS. The idea is that you will be able to go into a central location, such as a convenient store or a shopping mall and drop off your postage. You won’t be able to pick up items here, but they will have stamps and boxes and other packing supplies for sale. It is in these locations that you can drop off a package or letter to a lower paid, government postal employee and they will deliver it to a delivery person who comes by later in the day. Look for slower delivery times with this method, since each location will not be as intricately part of the current system. What do you think of the USPS drop off kiosk?
They do this with everything else, why not the Postal Service? There is talk about private industry taking over the postal service. Would you feel comfortable with this? What type of company would buy into a losing endeavor? I really don’t think this is a viable option because this is a sinking industry. Supposedly, Federal Express or UPS could take on the challenge, but would they want it?
Investing in Technology
This is the fault of the USPS. In 1989, when AOL was just getting off the ground, the post office should have formed some sort of internet service. The larger the government organization, the slower they are to move. They could have created some sort of fast-fax system that got people to instantly send their mail to others, but they didn’t. They stuck to the “tried-and-true” methods that have worked since the 1700’s in the United States and failed to adapt as technology changed. Half-hearted attempts were made to sell electronic stamps, but this was just a poor rehashing of old ways. For the post office to succeed in the age of the internet, they have to come up with a way to do something better than email. Sadly, there are companies profiting from sending mass emails, services offer free email, and business services are widespread. So what can the post office do to meet with the technology of today? If you have an answer, I am sure that they would be happy to hear from you.
Finally, they can try what has always worked for them. They can increase postage. However, this is a Catch-22 for the post office. The higher they raise postage, the more people embrace the technology that is slowly destroying them. It costs $0.44 to mail a standard letter anywhere in the United States. It’s really insanely cheap when you think that you could be in Key Largo, Florida, put a 44 cent stamp on a letter and have it sent to Juneau, Alaska. However, while it may take a week or more for that letter to arrive, you could have had hundreds of emails sent to the same person for little or no cost. It’s hard to compete with this. Perhaps the post office needs to change the way America thinks about sending email. Perhaps the post office is at the end of its road…