Archive for September 21st, 2012


postal service blues

Earlier today I was listening to a speech in which the disastrous impact of email on the US Postal Service was discussed. The only solution the post office has been able to come up with is to keep raising the price of stamps, which keeps driving more and more business away from “snail mail” and into electronic alternatives.

The USPS recently ended the third quarter with a $5.2 billion loss, and last month the USPS defaulted on a $5.5 billion mandated retiree benefit payment.  In the USPS’ third quarter, which ran from April 1 to June 30, the postal service lost $2.1 billion more than the same period last year. USPS leaders are awaiting congressional approval so that they can change their business model.

Something creative needs to be done if the post office is to remain viable—but this is probably asking too much of government. The best they’ve been able to figure is to increase the amount of junk mail they deliver. Yet this has little to do with meeting our needs.

Anyway, postal customers will always figure out more-creative ways to game the system or avoid it altogether.

Years ago when I was in my “Forrest Gump” road trip phase, I found myself in a rural post office somewhere in Ohio, where there was a tattered news clipping displayed beneath the thick glass of the counter. It was the story of a man in the Pacific Northwest who needed to ship a pallet of bricks to Alaska. After he’d done his research, he figured out the cheapest way to get the job done was to individually wrap the bricks in paper and mail each one via parcel post.

I’ve always loved that story. But here’s one that’s even crazier.

After parcel post was first introduced around the turn of the last century, at least two children were sent through the mail. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city mail carriers to their destinations. After hearing of these instances, the Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children through the mail.

Go figure.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Lee Cass & the cast of The Most Happy Fella performing “Oh, There’s the Postman”