The US Postal Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I’ve always marveled at the fact that everyday a US Postal worker comes to my house just to deliver mail. That’s a fact. A given. Most days the mail is just an advertising postcard from the local internet provider and a circular from the supermarket. But that truck still pulls up every day but Sunday and the mailman and I wave to each other. It’s so routine, my dog doesn’t even bark at him.

The US Postal system runs on a vast infrastructure of vehicles, warehouses, retail locations and staff who support this daily delivery of mail. It all seems a bit wasteful, when in fact, the folks who care most about delivery frequency and postage rates are the big corporations, who send you all of that lovely direct mail a.k.a. “junk mail.”

The post office has been bleeding money for years due to the absurd volume of direct mail, federal requirements to pre-pay employee benefits, rising operating costs and competition from FedEx and UPS. There have been many different ideas on how to streamline mail delivery and keep costs down, but this article by Adam Richardson in Good magazine, “Re-imaging the Postal Service,” takes a different approach. First Richardson summarizes the USPS’s identity crisis:

The USPS has got itself into the position that the telecom companies are worried about getting into: They became a “bit-pipe.” That is, they have an expensive infrastructure that isn’t seen as valuable by customers, who only care about the content that the infrastructure passes along. That’s a fancy way of saying that the Postal Service is undervalued. Furthermore, much of what the USPS now delivers, such as unsolicited catalogs, sales brochures, and credit-card offers, would be classified as spam if it were email. They have become overly dependent for revenue on their least-liked customers (junk-mail companies), which is a dangerous position to be in if you want to command loyalty and profits.

Some of Richardson’s ideas are great, but I think the biggest challenge to the USPS making any positive changes is its current bureaucratic, slow-moving culture. It took the USPS years to implement a barcoding system that many mailers are still struggling to understand and implement today. The USPS is stuck in a rut of increasing pricing and cutting back services to stay afloat. I don’t think they have the thought leadership, technology or flexible personnel necessary to consider changing the way they do business. It would take a postal revolution…

One Response to “The US Postal Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *