Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Apparently the USPS is in some financial trouble. (So what else is new?)

What's interesting to me is how two different news reports on it went.

First: a CBS national report (but funneled through the local TV affiliate's news): "Could the USPS be nearly at a shutdown? Would the U.S. be paralyzed by a mail stoppage?"

Second, this morning, on the (ABC, I think) affiliate radio station I listen to: "U.S. Postmaster General to meet with Congress in order to plan cuts."

Notice the first report's distinct ZOMG!!! tone. And the second one's more measured comment.

I admit, I tend to be a small-government sort of person, but I think it would be a problem if the USPS went away. No, I don't think a private option would work, at least not immediately - if you live in downtown New York, fine, probably it would be easy to get mail via the Private Post. But if you live in Valentine, Nebraska - or out in the middle of Nevada - or on a remote ranch - good luck at finding a company willing to bring you your mail for any kind of reasonable price. Even someone like me, in a smallish city that's not THAT far from a larger city (100 or so miles)....when FedEx delivers stuff, they tack on a "$5 Rural Surcharge." My town is right off a major interstate, it is, as I said, 100 miles from a very large city, and it's the county seat....

And I don't know that we could quite fare yet without a postal service, and frankly, at this point, I'm unwilling to try. Some of the utilities I use STILL charge a premium if you want to pay bills online (so I don't). And magazines - I love magazines, have to have them, would hate having to go down to a newsagent's every month to buy them - or drive to some "mail distribution center" that would probably be at least a half-hour away, just to pick them up. And I doubt that UPS or any of those companies would be willing to pick up that kind of delivery. (Well, maybe if all the magazines to which a person subscribed were put together into a monthly "packet" to be delivered all on one day - but that takes a lot of the fun out of getting magazines).

And I still like to send actual, paper, greeting cards for holidays and birthdays. And once in a while people write to me and I write to them....and with a privatized post office, I can see that being more difficult (either because some areas would not have service, or because there would be several companies, and the letter would have to 'transfer' between them, like doing a bus transfer).

And also, I have to admit: as a person who lives alone, being able to stop at the end of the day and look for mail - even if it's just a magazine or a catalog - there's something about that that I would miss if it stopped.

I admit I'm not wild about the idea of stopping Saturday delivery (My parents still remember twice-a-day delivery in some towns). But if it comes to that, fine.

And I'm not wild about cutting staff - well, maybe in some areas, there are superfluous staff, but one of the reasons I HATE to go to my local P.O. is usually there's one person at the front desk dealing with people, and a line of customers, sometimes out the door.

And I'm not wild about closing post offices - but then again, my town being the county seat, it would probably be the one town in the county to KEEP the P.O.

And with post offices, there might be some other option - combining the services with a business - like in Britain, where many of the postal offices (at least used to be) part of a small grocery shop or a newsagent's or something. (Already, you can buy stamps at most big pharmacies and grocery stores...)

I realize things are going to have to change to deal with the brokenness of our economy. But unless I see a good, workable replacement for the stuff that the post office delivers, I'm unwilling to say, "Stop the (government) mail now." Not that I think that will happen...though according to that CBS report, that was how they were trying to make it sound.


Kate P said...

That's a good point about the possibility of folding them into (or having them be a small section in) other businesses. Not too long ago, a library was opened in a supermarket around where I live. That might be the future.

I still need to be able to send things to my elderly loved ones who don't and/or can't use computers, and mail is it.

Dave E. said...

I do not want to see the USPS go away either. I think there are many options for adapting to the new circumstances if Congress and various constituencies are willing to be creative in finding solutions.

It could be co-locating offices in some areas as you and Kate note, reduced delivery schedules, lots of things. I would even be okay with one stop delivery boxes every couple of blocks in my neighborhood instead of delivering to the mailbox at each house. Maybe that last one isn't ultimately practical, but those are the kinds of ideas that the USPS needs to explore, and needs to be freed to explore, to get past the current problems.