The Slow Demise of Postal Services

The United States Post Office is preparing to stop mail delivery on Saturday's as revenues keep shrinking. Classic case of prices up and service down.

As the postal service is getting smaller....

“Did you get the mail”, my wife called from the porch when I walked into the house. Actually this is kind of a standing joke between us, because I never check the mail and she lives by it. I am completely technology based and think sending paper through a daily delivery service should be outlawed. And apparently I am not the only one as the United States Postal Service has been discovering for more than a decade now. The overwhelming popularity of electronic mail has certainly put a damper on things for them.

In a report titled “Delivering The Future: A Balanced Approached” the USPS reported that the volume of mail delivered has plummeted rapidly, from 213 billion pieces in 2007 to 177 billion pieces in 2009. Volume is expected to continue to fall to 150 billion pieces by the end of the decade. Personally I think that this projection is far too optimistic if the drop in 2 years time already was 36 billion pieces. As new generations kick into communication mode, most message exchanging ten years from now will be done over mobile connectivity. I don’t know any kids today that use the Postal Service while another consideration is the rapid decline of advertising pieces which in 2009 still accounted for $17.4 billion in revenues for the USPS and mailing of periodicals which accounted for 2 billion in revenues, together being almost 30% of the Post Office’s total revenue of $68 billion.

Now as a result and in preparation for a declining future, the USPS has proposed the elimination of regular Saturday mail delivery to street addresses as part of a comprehensive plan to ensure that it can continue to deliver affordable service to American people and businesses, while also reducing its significant carbon footprint.
As far as the mail delivery on Saturday is concerned, I came from the Netherlands 30 years ago and they had already stopped Saturday deliveries long before then. I vividly remember being happy not to have my weekends destroyed by a stack of bills delivered on Saturday.

As far as USPS reasoning on a diminishing carbon footprint, it ‘s more or less the small picture versus the big picture mistake. It may be nice that  the company is not the culprit of a heavy carbon footprint on Saturdays anymore, but in the big picture, the people that worked the trucks on Saturday are now engaged in other forms of carbon emissions, so claiming reduction as a result of Saturday street delivery saving anywhere from 315,000 to 503,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, is a little blindsighted in the bigger picture, something the state government in Utah found out last year when they brought the 5 day workweek back to 4 days.

In any case the Saturday measure is not anticipated before the middle of 2011 in preparation whereof the Postal Service will continue to work closely with customers to prepare for five-day delivery.

2 Comments

  1. Caroline_B

    Oh yes, the U.S. postal service….

    I used to be a strong supporter of our postal service with lots of bulk mail (up to 20,000 pieces per month). At the time and I am sure this is still true; there were regulation and rule changes on a frequent basis. Clerks that worked directly with the public and supervisors over supervisors most of the time had no idea what was going on.

    This makes the service extremely unattractive for businesses. I still believe that a mail campaign if used properly has a great impact used in combination with phone and internet marketing. However, today I received several catalogs that were glued shut on all sides with very unattractive tabs. Don’t think this is something an advertiser likes, not to mention the designers of the pieces. These tabs (2 to 4 depending on the size of the piece) are part of the regulation of the postal service, which in turn means extra expense for the advertiser because the pieces need to be run through an additional process, the tabbing machine.

    So let’s see as an advertiser I have design/layout costs, printing cost, bulk rate postage, the cost of the addresses, and all the headaches the postal service gives me. The postal service regulates whether the pieces are mailed in a tray or a bag. If the tray is covered and strapped with straps that are approved by the postal service, etc. Of course there are processing services that take care of all the sorting and deliver the mail to the postal service at, well, an additional expense to the advertiser.

    It means nothing to the post office when an advertiser prints “deliver on a certain day” on the piece. If you are lucky it will be delivered at that date. Remember, they are paying a bulk mail rate which does not assure any delivery. I had been told by clerks that if they had no time to sort the bulk rate pieces they simply were not delivered.

    As an advertiser I know that a onetime mailing is not effective at all. Statistics show that the mailing should be mailed a minimum of 3 preferably 5 times to have some measurable impact.

    Traditionally the post office was not and still is not very supportive of its bulk mailers. It focuses on the First Class mailings. First Class mailers are switching pretty quickly to on-line services. Bulk mailing potentially brings in a lot of revenue. Who does not like to receive these colorful postcards, brochures, catalogs etc. But, do you blame the advertisers to explore less complicated and less expensive avenues to get their message out. I surely don’t even though I love to go through my colorful catalogs, brochures and advertisings that I find in my mailbox.

  2. Caroline_B

    Oh yes, the U.S. postal service….

    I used to be a strong supporter of our postal service with lots of bulk mail (up to 20,000 pieces per month). At the time and I am sure this is still true; there were regulation and rule changes on a frequent basis. Clerks that worked directly with the public and supervisors over supervisors most of the time had no idea what was going on.

    This makes the service extremely unattractive for businesses. I still believe that a mail campaign if used properly has a great impact used in combination with phone and internet marketing. However, today I received several catalogs that were glued shut on all sides with very unattractive tabs. Don’t think this is something an advertiser likes, not to mention the designers of the pieces. These tabs (2 to 4 depending on the size of the piece) are part of the regulation of the postal service, which in turn means extra expense for the advertiser because the pieces need to be run through an additional process, the tabbing machine.

    So let’s see as an advertiser I have design/layout costs, printing cost, bulk rate postage, the cost of the addresses, and all the headaches the postal service gives me. The postal service regulates whether the pieces are mailed in a tray or a bag. If the tray is covered and strapped with straps that are approved by the postal service, etc. Of course there are processing services that take care of all the sorting and deliver the mail to the postal service at, well, an additional expense to the advertiser.

    It means nothing to the post office when an advertiser prints “deliver on a certain day” on the piece. If you are lucky it will be delivered at that date. Remember, they are paying a bulk mail rate which does not assure any delivery. I had been told by clerks that if they had no time to sort the bulk rate pieces they simply were not delivered.

    As an advertiser I know that a onetime mailing is not effective at all. Statistics show that the mailing should be mailed a minimum of 3 preferably 5 times to have some measurable impact.

    Traditionally the post office was not and still is not very supportive of its bulk mailers. It focuses on the First Class mailings. First Class mailers are switching pretty quickly to on-line services. Bulk mailing potentially brings in a lot of revenue. Who does not like to receive these colorful postcards, brochures, catalogs etc. But, do you blame the advertisers to explore less complicated and less expensive avenues to get their message out. I surely don’t even though I love to go through my colorful catalogs, brochures and advertisings that I find in my mailbox.

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