USPS tells entrepreneurs that American citizens aren’t their customers; Update: USPS denies

posted at 9:21 am on April 29, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

It sounded like a great idea, but perhaps it was too good — at least from one perspective. Evan Baehr and Will Davis left their staff jobs on Capitol Hill and enrolled at Harvard Business School, hoping to find private-sector solutions to chronic inefficiencies in the public sector. They decided to rethink the US Postal Service model and came up with an innovative idea. Why not set up a scanning service to digitize mail and deliver it electronically, rather than continue to get mail hand delivered in an unsecured location?

Thus was born Outbox. They set up as commercial forwarders in a couple of local post offices (not a unique arrangement), advertised their service, and was amazed by the response. Customers loved being able to have their mail delivered electronically, and also found other services from Outbox invaluable, such as opt-out for junk mail. When Baehr and Davis got called to a meeting with the Postmaster General in Washington DC, they thought the USPS would jump at the chance to offer this to their hundreds of millions of customers.

As Derek Khanna informs us at Inside Sources, Outbox had miscounted what USPS considers its “customers,” and the two entrepreneurs ended up shocked — and out of business:

But once Outbox started to get successful and was covered on CNBC, Evan and Will got a call requesting them to come back to Washington to meet with the Postmaster General. Evan and Will thought about discussing how they could work with USPS nationally, perhaps even to provide some of their technology through a license for USPS to offer it directly to all their consumers.

They believed that their technology could actually save the Post Office money. If consumers started to opt-in to Outbox, or other services like Outbox, then the Post Office could receive the full benefits of the stamped envelope but never have to deliver those packages, which is one of the biggest costs for the Post Office. In fact, if properly implemented, when a customer sends a letter from Austin, TX to Alaska, if the Post Office knew that they weren’t going to receive the letter anyway, then the Post Office could forward the letter from Austin directly to Outbox, and never have to ship the letter across the continent. …

When Evan and Will got called in to meet with the Postmaster General they were joined by the USPS’s General Counsel and Chief of Digital Strategy. But instead, Evan recounts that US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe “looked at us” and said “we have a misunderstanding. ‘You disrupt my service and we will never work with you.’” Further, “‘You mentioned making the service better for our customers; but the American citizens aren’t our customers—about 400 junk mailers are our customers.  Your service hurts our ability to serve those customers.”’

According to Evan, the Chief of Digital Strategy’s comments were even more stark, “[Your market model] will never work anyway. Digital is a fad. It will only work in Europe.”

Digital is a fad. That reminds me of a panel discussion a few years ago in which I took part, ostensibly to discuss the power and reach of social media on politics. One panel member scolded all of us (and me in particular on an unrelated topic) for wasting our time on e-mail. That was a fad, and politicians ignore e-mails, this person told us; faxes were what drove politics. He, of course, ran a fax-broadcasting service.

Faxes. When was the last time anyone in the private sector sent a mission-critical message by fax? Probably just before they sent one by first-class mail.

Now, let’s be clear that Outbox may well have not worked out to be the savior of the USPS, too. The cost savings may well have been outstripped by the revenue losses from junk mailers, a possibility that Khanna overlooks a little in his piece. However, his main point is solid, and perhaps understated. The reason the USPS doesn’t work well for end users is because the USPS doesn’t consider us its primary customers. It’s oriented to delivery service for junk mail, and works for those firms ahead of us. Maybe those companies should be footing the bill for the chronic deficits run by the USPS, instead of the American citizens the Postmaster deprioritized in dealing with Outbox.

Update (AP, May 1st): The Postal Service finally e-mailed with a reply:

Contrary to recent assertions made by Outbox representatives that they were summoned to the Postal Service for a meeting with the Postmaster General, the fact is that the meeting was held at the request of Outbox.

It is because the Postal Service values innovation and new ideas that Outbox was given an opportunity to meet with postal executives. The principals of Outbox were allowed to present their ideas to postal management.

In the end, postal management was concerned that Outbox’s approach might compromise both the security and value of the mail. Ultimately, management concluded that Outbox’s business model was flawed – a conclusion that the market appears to have affirmed.

Outbox’s representations regarding the substance of the meeting, particularly the quotes attributed to the Postmaster General, are simply untrue.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2

Western CPAC
USPS
Chrysler
AMC

The list just keeps on growing.

Steve Eggleston on April 29, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Time to end the USPS.

NotCoach on April 29, 2014 at 9:25 AM

Western CPAC
USPS
Chrysler
AMC

The list just keeps on growing.

Steve Eggleston on April 29, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Kodak.

Digital pictures are a fad.

BacaDog on April 29, 2014 at 9:28 AM

95% of the USPS mail I get – I toss – total crap

jake-the-goose on April 29, 2014 at 9:28 AM

Time to amend the USPS out of the Constitution.

ConstantineXI on April 29, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Crony Capitalism on display. At least the tool at the USPS was up front about it.

vnvet on April 29, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Affirmative Action ruined the USPS.

docflash on April 29, 2014 at 9:32 AM

You keep confusing the USPS with a service-providing government agency. It’s not. It is a Democrat voter jobs program. And nobody ever confused one of those with anything but a payoff program meant lose net taxpayers money.

M240H on April 29, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Faxes. When was the last time anyone in the private sector sent a mission-critical message by fax?

Oh! probably about the time that thermal paper went out of style.

When you’ve got a Luddite as Postmaster General who calls digital a fad, well you get some real insight why the USPS is an archaic organization that has long outlived its purpose. Shut it down. In an era where I can order stuff online on a Tuesday and have it delivered by Thursday morning, why do we need a junk mail delivery system?

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:33 AM

The Postmaster Liddite General has spoken.

Bitter Clinger on April 29, 2014 at 9:34 AM

*Luddite

Bitter Clinger on April 29, 2014 at 9:34 AM

Affirmative Action ruined the USPS.

docflash on April 29, 2014 at 9:32 AM

I’m pretty sure it was the unions that destroyed the USPS. And I still don’t understand why so many people whine and cry at the idea of ending Saturday service. I could easily get by with having junk mail shoved through my mail slot three days a week instead of six.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:35 AM

There’s no difference between this attitude toward the citizenry and the attitude of the rest of the federal government.

We aren’t its ‘customers.’ Any large government serves people and interest groups with power and influence, not the citizenry in general.

fadetogray on April 29, 2014 at 9:36 AM

Reminds me of that 18th century British nobleman who said that the age of invention was over since everything that could be invented already existed.

Oh boy, digital is a fad? This fool would have resisted using mail trucks instead of the horse not too long ago.

Bishop on April 29, 2014 at 9:37 AM

“…about 400 junk mailers are our customers. Your service hurts our ability to serve those customers.”

The new economy: the govt subsidizes businesses to keep prices down for their customers. We can’t afford not to do it!

I just mailed a letter this morning. Probably the third time this year I’ve put something in a mailbox.

Akzed on April 29, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Average pay, $25/hour. Full benifits and then some.

wolly4321 on April 29, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Kodak.

Digital pictures are a fad.

BacaDog on April 29, 2014 at 9:28 AM

Sony- VHS is a fad that won’t ever be able to compete with Beta.

IBM- Who cares about MS DOS- nobody will want a computer in their home.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Patrick Donahoe should be fired. Today.

We may not be your customers, pal. But you can bet we are your fuc**ng boss…!!!

JohnGalt23 on April 29, 2014 at 9:40 AM

why hasn’t a combination incinerator/mailbox been invented by now?

hurricain on April 29, 2014 at 9:41 AM

You keep confusing the USPS with a service-providing government agency. It’s not. It is a Democrat voter jobs program. And nobody ever confused one of those with anything but a payoff program meant lose net taxpayers money.

M240H on April 29, 2014 at 9:33 AM

More to the point, USPS employs a lot of blacks. I’ll cite this HuffPo piece to say that blacks make up 20% of the postal employees, heavily concentrated in urban areas.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/20/us-post-office-job-cuts-black-middle-class_n_2514917.html

Anything that trims the USPS trims has a disparate impact on black employment. The DOJ will have to investigate.

BuckeyeSam on April 29, 2014 at 9:41 AM

I wish the USPS nothing but ill.

neyney on April 29, 2014 at 9:42 AM

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” -Western Union internal memo, 1876

Akzed on April 29, 2014 at 9:42 AM

I just mailed a letter this morning. Probably the third time this year I’ve put something in a mailbox.

Akzed on April 29, 2014 at 9:38 AM

That’s not true. You’ve put lots of stuff in a mailbox. Every e-mail you’ve sent this year. You just haven’t utilized a USPS mailbox. Which is why the USPS is more concerned about the guys paying the bills with their junk mail.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:42 AM

http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email

The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS) lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years. When you register with this service, your name will be put on a “delete” file and made available to direct-mail marketers and organizations. This will reduce most of your unsolicited mail. However, your registration will not stop mailings from organizations that do not use the DMA’s Mail Preference Service. To register with DMA’s Mail Preference Service, go to http://www.dmachoice.org, or mail your request with a $1 processing fee to:

DMAchoice
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512

Skipity on April 29, 2014 at 9:43 AM

I once worked for a record store and told the boss that, at the very outset of the introduction of compact discs, we really needed to start stocking more CDs. His reaction? “I don’t think they’re going to go, we need to keep selling vinyl.” Big Apple Tapes & Records, R.I.P.

toddorado on April 29, 2014 at 9:43 AM

why hasn’t a combination incinerator/mailbox been invented by now?

hurricain on April 29, 2014 at 9:41 AM

Or a combination computer printer/shredder for documents so classified they get destroyed before reading!

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:44 AM

I don’t even bother to empty the mailbox more than once every couple weeks. All my financial stuff is online. The ratio is usually about zero or one piece of mail to 2 lbs of junk.

Fenris on April 29, 2014 at 9:45 AM

This is why we can trust the government to be on the cutting edge of solutions.

Because they’re getting paid for flyers that go straight to landfills.

Axeman on April 29, 2014 at 9:45 AM

It is a Democrat voter jobs program. And nobody ever confused one of those with anything but a payoff program meant lose net taxpayers money.

M240H on April 29, 2014 at 9:33 AM

This.

It’s a vote buying machine, plain and simple, and anything that’s going to reduce the number of votes it makes, is going to be fought tooth and nail.

Rebar on April 29, 2014 at 9:46 AM

The union is their real customer. Remember how much they screamed when eliminating Saturday delivery was discussed? Imagine the uproar if they intend to eliminate 90% of the carriers.

TheMarauder on April 29, 2014 at 9:47 AM

“the American citizens aren’t our customers”

That just about sums up the whole attitude of the government.

HiJack on April 29, 2014 at 9:47 AM

There’s a saying that the customer is the person who pays. Network television customers are the folks who advertise during the commercial breaks. Google’s customers are advertisers, too. Hot Air’s customers are not you or I, but the people running the annoying ads that run automatically and drive some of us crazy and lead some of us toward ad-blockers. That much is clear. So is it a surprise that the USPS takes this same attitude? They’re struggling, so how surprising is it that they’ve come to the economic definition of who their customers really are? They have to.

calbear on April 29, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Why not set up a scanning service to digitize mail and deliver it electronically, rather than continue to get mail hand delivered in an unsecured location?

So how is this different than email or faxing? Moreover, the contents of my letter would be scanned, er.. “digitized” by this third party company and then sent to its recipient – so the expectation of privacy is nil?

Not every service can be handled by current technology, this is one of them. So yeah I’d rather have the USPS handle my mail then some left-leaning entrepreneurs who digitally copy all of my missives to exploit in the future.

Scottie on April 29, 2014 at 9:48 AM

Mail must be cut back to a reasonable 4 days a week.

Whitey Ford on April 29, 2014 at 9:48 AM

…The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS)

Skipity on April 29, 2014 at 9:43 AM

If I were a marketer I’d look at that as a way to confirm your address for my targeted marketing.

Fenris on April 29, 2014 at 9:48 AM

This is why we can trust the government to be on the cutting edge of solutions.

Because they’re getting paid for flyers that go straight to landfills.

Axeman on April 29, 2014 at 9:45 AM

You’d think that the same people that are against the Keystone pipeline, worry about turtle mating season, and hug trees would be upset at the amount of waste generated by junk mail.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:49 AM

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.” -Yale University professor’s response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith founded Federal Express Corp.

Akzed on April 29, 2014 at 9:49 AM

Faxes. When was the last time anyone in the private sector sent a mission-critical message by fax?

I do, and on a weekly basis. There is much more secrecy and security in sending a 3 page correspondence via fax and a landline than there is in sending anything through cyberspace.

Somethings need to remain out of prying eyes.

CTSherman on April 29, 2014 at 9:49 AM

Class Newman scene from Seinfeld. Skip to 2:50 for hilarity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDmA2xoIoFU

BuckeyeSam on April 29, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Mail must be cut back to a reasonable 4 days a week.

Whitey Ford on April 29, 2014 at 9:48 AM

Why not three days a week?

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:50 AM

In other European countries you can opt out of junk mail. That should be law in the U.S.

Junk mail is a scourge that needs to be eliminated. It is a waste of paper and resources. It travels from my box to the garbage. And I am not a card carrying Sierra Club member.

If that is all keeping the U.S.P.S. alive- good riddance.

Marcus Traianus on April 29, 2014 at 9:53 AM

I do, and on a weekly basis. There is much more secrecy and security in sending a 3 page correspondence via fax and a landline than there is in sending anything through cyberspace.

Somethings need to remain out of prying eyes.

CTSherman on April 29, 2014 at 9:49 AM

That’s fine if you’re sending to somebody with a fax machine. My office hasn’t had one of those things in years. Digital scanning and encryption is the way of the future. And as for prying eyes, how do you have any control over who actually sees the fax on the other end.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:53 AM

“the American citizens aren’t our customers”

That just about sums up the whole attitude of the government.

HiJack on April 29, 2014 at 9:47 AM

And the future of healthcare under Obamacare.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:54 AM

That’s not true. You’ve put lots of stuff in a mailbox. Every e-mail you’ve sent this year. You just haven’t utilized a USPS mailbox. Which is why the USPS is more concerned about the guys paying the bills with their junk mail. Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:42 AM

You know what I mean.

When I moved out of state my brother and I used to fax one another newspaper articles with our comments in the margins. We’d also mail things back and forth every week or so, with running dialogs and comments.

It’s exactly what we do now, only electronically.

It once took a letter from St. Augustine to St. Anselm nine years to get delivered – from N. Africa to Italy. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Akzed on April 29, 2014 at 9:55 AM

“… politicians ignore e-mails …”

This is funny on multiple levels.

Since the Anthrax scare of 2001, all Congressional mail is screened for biological and explosive agents. This also means that it is impossible to communicate with a member of Congress in a timely manner through the normal mails (unless, as is now the practice on Capitol Hill, you send the letter to the private home address of a Congressional aide).

E-mail is now the norm, but it has the problem of capacity. It doesn’t cost anything, so there are simply too many to handle.

J_Crater on April 29, 2014 at 9:55 AM

Speaking of fads, When does the American public get the pin and chip credit cards that Europe has?

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:55 AM

M240H on April 29, 2014 at 9:33 AM

You keep confusing the USPS with a service-providing government agency. It’s not.

That’s something I’m unfamiliar with. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one. Service providing government agency? What an unusual concept.

It is a Democrat voter jobs program. And nobody ever confused one of those with anything but a payoff program meant lose net taxpayers money.

That I’ve heard of. SOP for the FED.

Oldnuke on April 29, 2014 at 9:56 AM

…The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS)

Skipity on April 29, 2014 at 9:43 AM
If I were a marketer I’d look at that as a way to confirm your address for my targeted marketing.

Fenris on April 29, 2014 at 9:48 AM

They already confirmed who you are and where you live.

If you were a marketer, you’d know you’re better off not marketing to people who explicitly opt out.

Anyway if you’re getting 2 pounds of junk mail per week – what have you got to lose?

They probably work with those 400 direct mailers and they are listed on the ftc.gov website.

Skipity on April 29, 2014 at 9:57 AM

You’d think that the same people that are against the Keystone pipeline, worry about turtle mating season, and hug trees would be upset at the amount of waste generated by junk mail.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:49 AM

You’d think that if it was really about the environment and not socialism. Not that there aren’t sheep for whom it is about the environment, but sheep need to be told what to do.

Ya ya, this was all implied by your post in the first place. Nevermind.

Fenris on April 29, 2014 at 9:58 AM

Skipity on April 29, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Not every week, not more often than every couple weeks. Anyway, while I agree, I don’t think that’s how marketeers think. e.g. Seeing targeted ads on the internet just makes me make a mental note not to buy from that company. But they do it anyway.

Fenris on April 29, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Affirmative Action ruined the USPS.

docflash on April 29, 2014 at 9:32 AM

I’m pretty sure it was the unions that destroyed the USPS. And I still don’t understand why so many people whine and cry at the idea of ending Saturday service. I could easily get by with having junk mail shoved through my mail slot three days a week instead of six.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Actually, you’re both correct. A few years ago I retired after working as a Rural Carrier for 22 years, so I was able to watch this disaster from the inside.

1.) A friend of mine was one of the people who was involved in the establishment of the Postal Service. Although he was an attorney who had successfully battled unions in court for years, he gave ground on allowing unions in the USPS. He’s regretted that decision ever since.

2.) When “Peanuts n’ Love” Carter was president, he decided that it would be a great idea if Preferential Treatment were extended to minorities not just in hiring, but also in promotions. From that point forward, the only criteria that mattered in promotions was the persons minority status. Nothing else mattered. So the incompetent, the ignorant, the stupid, all were pushed up the management ladder and placed in positions of authority. And of course, any attempt to remove them is simply evidence of racism. And while skin color was not the sole criteria – nor in and of itself the problem – it was the easiest to highlight. I was blessed to work with a few smart, capable “people of color”, but they were – sadly – usually tarred with the same brush.

3.)The “bulk” mail you receive every day subsidizes your first class mail and the employment of parasites. And no, I doubt that Saturday service will ever end.

oldleprechaun on April 29, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Unbelievably
Stupid
Postmaster and his
Strategies

Shy Guy on April 29, 2014 at 10:06 AM

“the American citizens aren’t our customers”

That just about sums up the whole attitude of the government.

HiJack on April 29, 2014 at 9:47 AM

We aren’t the customer. We’re the boss. A point also lost.

tdarrington on April 29, 2014 at 10:06 AM

You’d think that if it was really about the environment and not socialism. Not that there aren’t sheep for whom it is about the environment, but sheep need to be told what to do.

Fenris on April 29, 2014 at 9:58 AM

I routinely get junk mail from a perpetual Green Party candidate that wants to get on county council. Her big thing is getting a bag tax instituted to stop the waste. I don’t think she sees the irony in how she attempts to get her message out.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 10:08 AM

How easily we forget, the USPS isn’t about mail or sending information, it’s a union based jobs program. Anything that would hurt that mission is considered a non-starter.

Tater Salad on April 29, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Mail delivery in my neighborhood is pathetic. The USPS cannot even sort and deliver mail properly. I am constantly getting neighbors mail, and even find mail in my box from several streets over. I have to wonder how much mail I never got because it was misdelivered by USPS. Then there is the hybrid service where UPS or Fedex gets your package, and transfers it to the USPS for final delivery. Even though there are tracking numbers assigned to the package, on numerous occasions, when a package was overdue, the USPS could not even tell me where the package was, in their delivery chain.
Personally, I would prefer being able to opt out of junk mail delivery. Maybe its time to close down the USPS.

kjatexas on April 29, 2014 at 10:10 AM

oldleprechaun on April 29, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Thank you for the insight.

So the incompetent, the ignorant, the stupid, all were pushed up the management ladder and placed in positions of authority.

That explains a lot. I have been in a couple of jobs where I had to deal with “employer relations.” One of the worst, invariably, were mid-grade USPS managers. And the real sticking point, it seemed, was that they never had any managerial or leadership ability. So, they simply yelled at the people working for them and assumed that would do the trick.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Mail must be cut back to a reasonable 4 days a week.

Whitey Ford on April 29, 2014 at 9:48 AM

Why not three days a week?

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:50 AM

3 days a week for delivery works for me….just as long as the carriers are only paid to work three days a week and not the typical eight, according to government math.

hawkeye54 on April 29, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Faxes. When was the last time anyone in the private sector sent a mission-critical message by fax?

maybe more often than thought when dealing with lawyers and court stuff.
but overall its not anywhere near as prolific as email.
kind of an odd statement from the postmaster general. what an idiot.

dmacleo on April 29, 2014 at 10:15 AM

I don’t think she sees the irony in how she attempts to get her message out.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 10:08 AM

If she doesn’t then she’ll never advance very far in politics. To truly manipulate the system you can’t be a true believer.

Fenris on April 29, 2014 at 10:16 AM

it’s a union based jobs program. Anything that would hurt that mission is considered a non-starter.

That has become quite typical of many government bureaucracies, local up to federal. Half of government workers at all levels could be let go and we probably would see little or no difference in service provided.

hawkeye54 on April 29, 2014 at 10:17 AM

I call shenanigans. I work in the postal industry (not for USPS) and I’ve met Donahoe any number of times. It doesn’t sound like something he’d say, as he’s been an advocate for innovating and expanding digital tech in the mailing industry for years.

There’s so much wrong with this article I don’t know where to begin.

PetecminMd on April 29, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Faxes. When was the last time anyone in the private sector sent a mission-critical message by fax?

Actually it’s still heavily used in the doctor provider space in healthcare.

dominigan on April 29, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Why do these guys need the USPS in their business model, other than for last mile delivery? Under Sarbones-Oaxley, they would already be required to keep records of everything they transmitted, everything they mailed. I’m not impressed with anyone who tries to get a monopoly through a monopolist.

unclesmrgol on April 29, 2014 at 10:19 AM

I have had that conversation myself. Years ago when a fiber optic line went past the small town I lived in I was told by the head of the local phone company they would never tap the line because of the high cost. Six months later he was gone and the phone co. had tapped the line.

CW20 on April 29, 2014 at 10:22 AM

As much as I think the USPS needs to go the way of the Dodo, the Postmaster is right. Those who receive mail are not the customers of the USPS, only those who send mail are.

I worked at the UPS customer counter during college. One of our services was to hold packages for pickup. People would call UPS wanting their missed package held for them and then would show up at the counter before the truck got back to the hub. They often would get irate and wanted guarantees that it would be there the next day. I would often ask them what kind of guarantee they would like, money back? They hadn’t paid anything.

Time to amend the USPS out of the Constitution.

ConstantineXI on April 29, 2014 at 9:31 AM

There’s nothing to amend. The constitution allows Congress to set up a post office but does not require it.

Occams Stubble on April 29, 2014 at 10:22 AM

that’s fine if you’re sending to somebody with a fax machine. My office hasn’t had one of those things in years. Digital scanning and encryption is the way of the future. And as for prying eyes, how do you have any control over who actually sees the fax on the other end.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:53 AM

I understand where you are coming from. I use digital scanning everyday for certain things but that also leaves an electronic paper trail. My fax machine is in my office at my business. The faxes get sent back and forth to my partner’s fax machine in his office.

Having been involved in a major $$ lawsuit where prior email correspondence was used to help determine the outcome, we have made a point of keeping some parts of our business private.

CTSherman on April 29, 2014 at 10:23 AM

I love pieces like this one because it’s a misleading headline taken from a indirect quote because we’re starting from the “privatize the Post Office” position instantly.

“Not their customers” means personal mail is not a customer-based service. Postmen are not bellhops. Mail delivery is an obligation of the government.

What’s not an obligation is to pay the post office to deliver mail that is not directly addressed or requested. That’s customer-client based.

So these two ding-bats came up with a model that guarantees delivery of nothing, but only tracks transmissions, and then removes the revenue offset for package delivery. Brilliant.

Scanned personal mail? Great, as long as it doesn’t experience an outage, a crash, a cyber attack, or get hacked. I mean, it’s only personal correspondences, who would have any interest in those?

Then we’re somehow going to pay postmen to deliver packages only. Yet, it’s the packages that are the real cost-eater for delivery. The beating USPS takes on certain delivery types is incredible, and it’s not due to lack of efficiency. It’s due to the high volume at the cost and service provided.

Priority mail only works at its current cost because USPS is a federal institution. Fed-Ex and UPS rates for the same service are astronomical. It’s 36.00 for 2-day delivery through Fed-Ex for the same same service as 6.00 Priority.

If you want to know what reality looks like when you get rid of USPS, just look at how well deregulating energy went in the few states that adopted Clinton’s laws in the 90′s. Those “competitive markets” states are a boondoggle compared to the ones who didn’t adopt because it created layers or middle-men to obfuscate the pricing.

Same thing will happen to the mail and then the death spiral starts for any small business that relies on quick package delivery. It’s a surefire way of handing e-commerce over to the Amazon and other giants, which will eventually turn into bloated mess with little difference to USPS today.

I have no connection to USPS, I simply decided to due my diligence.

First thing that needs to happen is stop the pre-paid pension nonsense.

budfox on April 29, 2014 at 10:24 AM

From 1982 t0 1985 the USPS had an E-COM service. The sender sent the mail electronically to the closest participating Post Office where it was printed and then delivered to the addressee. It failed.

meci on April 29, 2014 at 10:26 AM

That was a fad, and politicians ignore e-mails, this person told us; faxes were what drove politics. He, of course, ran a fax-broadcasting service.

This part is hilarious. When I worked on Capitol Hill, faxes were the lowest priority constituent correspondence to receive a response. Almost every single incoming fax was a blast fax that the senders had no idea they sent. Responding was a worthless waste of time. Sometimes constituents would call the office wondering why they got a letter from the congressman. They didn’t realize he was responding to them because they didn’t know they’d sent him a fax.

Texas Zombie on April 29, 2014 at 10:26 AM

Is it just me or does anyone else see a BIG issue with the USPS opening my mail and scanning it? Also, I bet the NSA is going to have the USPS reverse course on this very soon. It’s too big of a data gathering tool to go to waste.

Deets on April 29, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Postal mail still serves an important purpose. It is still needed. Even though these loons in charge of it are incredibly out of touch — digital is just a fad? — that doesn’t mean that there’s no place for physical mail delivery.

However, it’s time to stop pretending that the USPS is some sort of independent business, and that it’s goal is to turn a profit. In fact, it’s goal is to provide a service that would specifically be unprofitable for a private business to provide. All of the profitable areas in that market — overnight letter delivery, package delivery, etc. — have been dominated by FedEx and UPS and the like. What the USPS is mostly left with is the stuff that won’t turn a profit, like delivering a letter for a tiny amount of money to any address anywhere in the United States.

Some suggest privatizing the postal service. That won’t work, because guaranteed mail delivery to any address in the United States for little cost is not a business model that can be supported by the private sector.

The postal service is actually an enumerated power of the federal government provided for by the Constitution. It’s one of the few things that the government is actually SUPPOSED to be doing, and yet we’re trying to pretend it’s not a government agency. It’s time to bring the postal service back to being a regular government agency, admit that their job is not to make a profit, and move on. Let’s cut all the unconstitutional programs the federal government has and, trust me, there won’t be any problem paying for the postal service.

Shump on April 29, 2014 at 10:29 AM

3 days a week for delivery works for me….just as long as the carriers are only paid to work three days a week and not the typical eight, according to government math.

hawkeye54 on April 29, 2014 at 10:14 AM

My idea is that the same postal station covers the routes they have now but half M-W-F the other half T-T-S. In theory, they’d only need half the number of carriers they have now.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 10:32 AM

1.) A friend of mine was one of the people who was involved in the establishment of the Postal Service.

oldleprechaun on April 29, 2014 at 10:05 AM

You do realize the postal service is as old as this nation? Even in its “modern” form it dates back to the late 19th century…

Scottie on April 29, 2014 at 10:33 AM

I don’t even bother to empty the mailbox more than once every couple weeks. All my financial stuff is online. The ratio is usually about zero or one piece of mail to 2 lbs of junk.

Fenris on April 29, 2014 at 9:45 AM

I bring the mail in daily, dump it in a pile, and go through it once a week or so in order to chop up stuff with my name/address/info on it. There’s almost NOTHING of value in postal mail any more. I do all of my billing online (except for one stubborn utility in my area that is technologically backward), read my few magazine/newspaper subs digitally, and rarely does anyone send handwritten cards/notes any more (which is sad. Technology has killed the handwritten letter. Instead of reading ‘letters from the front’ like we do for the Civil War, etc., we’ll be reading ‘Tweets and Facebook posts from the front’ in future history classes. Quite a loss, really).

RIP USPS. They’ll live on as a zombie, not even knowing they’re already fiscally dead.

xNavigator on April 29, 2014 at 10:36 AM

On the one hand, I think I’d find scaling delivery back to only 3 days a week frustrating since a lot of things I order, the people sending them out use USPS instead of a private courier…

On the other hand, if physical package delivery (not just “paper mail”, but object delivery) was taken completely out of the purview of the USPS and left entirely to private couriers (despite knowing how FedEx Ground employees tend to treat packages, having had worked for them for 10 years), it probably wouldn’t bother me.

HikaruKitsune on April 29, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Texas Zombie on April 29, 2014 at 10:26 AM

Of course, staffers on the Hill love anthrax. Now some know-nothing 20-something simply pushes a button that thanks the e-mailer for their views and assures them that it will help in forming and opinion. It is all a complete crock.

Now I know that constituents with specific issues might get better response but having some trite letter is worse than offensive. I know good and well, my opinions go nowhere and certainly are never seen by the Congresscritters. They live in rarified air where they only have to talk to their donors.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Skipity on April 29, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Opting-out of junk mail….

I’m sure that works just as well as the government’s DO NOT CALL Registry.

Another Drew on April 29, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Hmmmm, junk mail sent by a junk outfit…..

All the “junk” we receive goes direct into the recycle bin.

Somedays – that is all we get. If 400 junk mailers are the customers of the USPS,
then it is time to abolish the USPS.

redguy on April 29, 2014 at 10:41 AM

My idea is that the same postal station covers the routes they have now but half M-W-F the other half T-T-S. In theory, they’d only need half the number of carriers they have now.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 10:32 AM

Excellent concept. Too bad its practical. Federal government as we’ve come to know it is impervious to practical solutions.

hawkeye54 on April 29, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Somedays – that is all we get. If 400 junk mailers are the customers of the USPS,
then it is time to abolish the USPS.

redguy on April 29, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Overdue, and the same goes for many other federal entities.

hawkeye54 on April 29, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Y’all are forgetting the most important component of junk mail – RNC donation requests. Filling them with my daughter’s paper clippings and sending them back in a prepaid envelope is an endless source of my family’s entertainment.

Rix on April 29, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Now I know that constituents with specific issues might get better response but having some trite letter is worse than offensive. I know good and well, my opinions go nowhere and certainly are never seen by the Congresscritters. They live in rarified air where they only have to talk to their donors.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Well in fairness legislators get thousands of snail mail/emails/faxes/phone calls every normal week. The numbers jump significantly whenever there is a major controversial bill on the floor. Each member handles correspondence a little differently, but in general there is a substantial effort to respond to every letter/email/fax/call.

The vast majority of correspondence is blast emails, faxes, and robo calls that are not actually initiated by an individual except to the extent they signed up for a mailing list or pushed an “email your congressman” or “fax your congressman” button. So the mass mailers that are all exactly the same except for the name of the signatory at the bottom get responded to with the same form letter. Think of it as a form letter reply to a form letter received.

Letters that are actually written by an individual generally do get a more personalized response. Sometimes that means a form letter that is tweaked to more directly address issues raised by the individual. Sometimes it’s a totally unique individual response.

Some members of congress review all the outgoing mail before it’s sent. Some just get a weekly mail report listing the top issues of concern to constituents.

Getting a “canned” response can feel impersonal but in practical terms no one, member of congress or not, is going to personally write thousands of letters each week. Regardless of whether your representative actually sees and personally responds to your letter, it does make a difference in numerous ways.

No matter how bad things are in DC right now, I assure you that if voters decided en masse to just throw up their hands and quit contacting their legislators because they won’t get a personal response, DC would change drastically for the worse.

Keep writing and calling your legislators and keep showing up at their town hall meetings. It moves the needle more than you think.

Texas Zombie on April 29, 2014 at 10:51 AM

oldleprechaun on April 29, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Your friend helped establish the post office? Benjamin Franklin?

I hadn’t thought about it but the unions must be the reason they dropped the idea of dropping Saturday service.

The guy is right. Businesses sending junk mail are almost their only business.

When Kim Komando was going around peddling her idea for a computer based radio program she said CBS told her the internet was a fad.

I still pay my 2 bills by mail. It’s the only way I know they’ve been paid. Otherwise I need to wait until I get the statement from the bank.

Snail mail might be the only safe way to communicate. That doesn’t mean I think we should keep on doing it. If businesses were as backward as the government they would go out of business.

crankyoldlady on April 29, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Kodak.

Digital pictures are a fad.

BacaDog on April 29, 2014 at 9:28 AM

Sony- VHS is a fad that won’t ever be able to compete with Beta.

IBM- Who cares about MS DOS- nobody will want a computer in their home.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Lots of misinformation here but what the heck, why should that stop the posting of stuff that makes good “sound” bites”

Kodak – Came out with one of the first consumer digital cameras. Their problem was not that they thought digital was a fad but that they couldn’t compete with the fast product development cycle of the other major players and that the typical consumer didn’t think of Kodak as a gadget company.

Sony – Never thought VHS was a fad. They knew tapes would be big. They just overestimated the American consumer who preferred lower quality, longer length recording over shorter length higher quality.

IBM – Actually contracted with Microsoft to develop and provide MS-Dos. Their big mistake was not locking up an exclusive and allowing Gates and company to sell the OS to anyone thus ushering in the low cost clones.

JohnnyL on April 29, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Keep writing and calling your legislators and keep showing up at their town hall meetings. It moves the needle more than you think.

Texas Zombie on April 29, 2014 at 10:51 AM

They may not read every single word but someone in the office goes through and sorts according to importance and what the subject is. They want to know whether you are for or against what they are doing. It’s really a lot quicker than opening envelopes.

crankyoldlady on April 29, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Shump on April 29, 2014 at 10:29 AM

There certainly was more accountability when individual postmasters owed their jobs to political patronage.
You had a problem with mail delivery?
When you called the postmaster about it, he knew that if he didn’t get it straightened out, there was a call from the local Congressman in his future and those rarely were pleasant.
Bring back the United States Post Office, because they suck at service.

Another Drew on April 29, 2014 at 10:59 AM

“the Chief of Digital Strategy for THE POST OFFICE: Digital is a fad”

Just complete that title and you complete the picture.

OCULUS on April 29, 2014 at 11:00 AM

My idea is that the same postal station covers the routes they have now but half M-W-F the other half T-T-S. In theory, they’d only need half the number of carriers they have now.

This is how home-delivery dairies responded to decreased demand/increased costs several decades ago.
They went from 3 deliveries/week to 2/wk – each driver went from covering 2 routes to 3.
When that eventually proved to be unprofitable, it all went away.
Where have all the DIVCO’s gone?

Another Drew on April 29, 2014 at 11:04 AM

This is the big news that gets promoted to the left column?!? How is this bigger than Craig Ferguson quitting late night? Priorities people, priorities.

Fenris on April 29, 2014 at 11:04 AM

You want to know why we can’t make the necessary changes to the USPS? I’ll give you six reasons to start with.

American Postal Worker’s Union
National Rural Letter Carriers Association
National Association of Letter Carriers
National Postal Mailer Handlers Union
National Association of Postmasters of the United States
National League of Postmasters

Texas Zombie on April 29, 2014 at 11:05 AM

3 days a week for delivery works for me….just as long as the carriers are only paid to work three days a week and not the typical eight, according to government math.

hawkeye54 on April 29, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Maybe half as many could remain employed. They could deliver to certain neighborhoods/areas on Mon/Wed/Fri and others on Tue/Thu/Sat.

freedomfirst on April 29, 2014 at 11:06 AM

A friend of mine was one of the people who was involved in the establishment of the Postal Service.

oldleprechaun on April 29, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Your friend helped establish the post office? Benjamin Franklin?

crankyoldlady on April 29, 2014 at 10:52 AM

The United States Postal Service, as distinguished from the previously existing Post Office Department, started in 1971.

J.S.K. on April 29, 2014 at 11:06 AM

The new economy: the govt subsidizes businesses to keep prices down for their customers. We can’t afford not to do it!

I just mailed a letter this morning. Probably the third time this year I’ve put something in a mailbox.

Akzed on April 29, 2014 at 9:38 AM

This drives me nuts. we’ve been so accustomed to saying that, but the govt doesn’t subsidize anything.

THE PEOPLE WHO PRODUCE ARE THE ONES WHO SUBSIDIZE!

rightside on April 29, 2014 at 11:07 AM

oldleprechaun on April 29, 2014 at 10:05 AM

For those who jumped all over this commenter for saying his friend was involved in setting up the USPS, re-read that:
He said the United States Postal SERVICE, not Post Office.
It was established in 1971.

Another Drew on April 29, 2014 at 11:09 AM

Lots of misinformation here but what the heck, why should that stop the posting of stuff that makes good “sound” bites”

JohnnyL on April 29, 2014 at 10:54 AM

You out of the full schoolmarm mode now?

The point behind those “sound bites” is the same and remains true…. Companies that have a lack of vision about their own products, competitive advantage, or future trends.

Happy Nomad on April 29, 2014 at 11:19 AM

…I had no idea this had occurred!…another feather in the cap for the USPS!……….you learn something new here everyday!

KOOLAID2 on April 29, 2014 at 11:24 AM

It’s funny, in my occasional business contacts with USPS the employees (mid-level management) have generally been either very good or very bad, very little in-between.

Seems to me USPS is caught between a bunch of competing pressures.

They are just one of the several government-branches-with-a-private-sounding-name set up during that burst of ’60s-’70s regulatory/industrial policy manipulation that gave us, among other things, DOE and EPA – Conrail, Amtrak, PBGC, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc.

USPS is spam-supported in the same way that so many websites and apps are ad-supported. Physical spam is no easier to keep out of one’s mailbox than the digital kind, and it’s marginally more wasteful of resources, but it’s probably easier to dispose of paper than it is to sit down and clean one’s email inbox.

I’m not sure about the physical-to-eleotronic mail thing, Deutsche Post did something like that and there may be others, I haven’t looked. It really seems to me to be a stopgap, something with a limited or transitional lifespan.

One artifact of the USPS government-control model is that it’s just about impossible to get rid of something once it’s got a political constituency (see Obamacare, see CAFE, see EPA, and the reason we must fight to the last ditch to avoid carbon taxation) and if you introduce a new product you may be stuck with it for a long time, long after it’s no longer technically or economically viable.

JEM on April 29, 2014 at 11:25 AM

Digital is a fad.

“The internet? Is that thing still around?” – Homer Simpson

RadClown on April 29, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Comment pages: 1 2