Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mail, man

Did you hear that the United States Postal Service is really, finally going to suspend delivery of regular mail on Saturdays?  But they're waiting until August?  And the Post Offices that are currently open on Saturdays will continue that practice, and packages where the sender has paid the extra fees for Saturday delivery will also be delivered.

Let's think about the Postal Service for a moment.  They're the only federal government agency or program that's required to fund in advance and in full its retiree healthcare program for 75 years.  The agency lost over $11 billion just in the first three quarters of 2012.

Heard somewhere that UPS contracts with the USPS to deliver a large percentage of its packages.  Why?  Because the Postal Service is already delivering mail to remote areas.  UPS (and FedEx and the other package services) figured out long ago that they couldn't do what the Postal Service does and try to make a profit, which, of course, is the intent of a private enterprise.  But the Postal Service will still take a letter or greeting card from you, providing it has the correct stamp on it (which now costs a princely 46 cents), and deliver it from your home in Miami to the recipient in Seattle.  Pretty amazing, if you think about it.

I've heard it expressed that, in days gone by, the highlight of the day in rural areas used to be the arrival of the daily mail.  That represented most of the contact one would have with the outside world.  For a long time daily newspapers from a city fifty miles away would have been delivered the following day by mail.

Think of the phrases that would no longer apply:  "I bought this mail order."  "The check is in the mail."  "He really airmailed that throw and threw it over the catcher's head."  And so on.

My wife and I began banking electronically in 2008, which, coincidentally, also meant that we bought a lot fewer postage stamps and mailed a great many fewer items (except for Christmas cards, which I've written of in this space previously).  In fact, we do this so seldom that I almost have to think about the process, and where to place the stamp, and so forth.

And what we receive in the mail consists almost entirely of bills and junk mail, and nothing else.  Which means that those who WANT to communicate with me are doing so via other means.  Which, in turn, is why the Postal Service will never be able to continue operating as it does now.  Consider this:  if one of the large package delivery services bought the Postal Service, they'd do away with daily mail delivery, and suddenly we'd pay around $2.00 to mail a letter.  As I said, that's OK with me, since I don't send much mail.  But I expect that our creditors would begin to require us to sign up for e-mail-based billing and invoicing, as THEY wouldn't want to pay that rate per item.  And it would be the end of junk mail, which would not be such a bad thing at all.

So think of your letter carrier, if you're lucky enough to see the same man or woman regularly.  Won't be many like them in the future.

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