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USPS Losing Battle Against the E-mail Age

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the think-of-the-circulars dept.

Communications 734

An anonymous reader writes "An article in the NY Times explains how the United States Postal Service is in dire financial straits, and will need emergency action from Congress to forestall a shutdown later this year. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said simply, 'If Congress doesn't act, we will default.' Labor agreements prohibiting layoffs are preventing one avenue for reducing costs, and laws forbidding postage rates from surpassing inflation rates keep income down. On top of that, the proliferation of e-mail and online bill-paying services have contributed to a 22% reduction in snail-mail volume since 2006. They're currently hoping for legislation that would relax their economic requirements and considering an end to Saturday delivery."

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Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (5, Funny)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | about 3 years ago | (#37314502)

All /. posters should commit to mail their comments for one week to make up the difference.

Soulskill will provide the mailing address shortly. To verify your identity, you will have to mail your username/password, and our army of volunteers will use a special login form to verify your identity.
This system is so brilliant, I may even patent it.

Re:Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (5, Interesting)

xaxa (988988) | about 3 years ago | (#37314586)

I joined Postcrossing [postcrossing.com] last month. I liked the idea of sending random people postcards, and in return receiving cards from other random people.

I send cards to a child in Finland, a girl in Germany, a student in Taiwan, a recent-graduate lawyer in the Netherlands and a woman in Siberia. So far, only the first two have received my cards, and I've not received one in return yet -- but it's only been two or three days. (I live in the UK, so it's no surprise that the cards to Finland and Germany arrived quickly.)

I like travelling and meeting people from other countries, so hopefully I'll like reading the cards I receive too.

Re:Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (2)

Hatta (162192) | about 3 years ago | (#37314740)

Neat idea. Should have called it Post Roulette.

Re:Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314770)

I send cards to [...] Finland, [...] Germany, [...] Taiwan, [...] Netherlands and [...] Siberia. [...] I live in the UK

That is going to help the USPS how?

Re:Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | about 3 years ago | (#37314844)

What he's doing won't, but now the /. readers in the US are aware of the service and can start using it, too.

Re:Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314676)

Our company dropped 250,000 pieces of mail at the regional sorting center the other day. It took 3 days for it to actually go out, and some articles have just "disappeared."

A sudden influx of mail won't save them, they don't have labor where/when they need it and poor planning over the last decade is just causing their system to slowly implode. A bailout will postpone the inevitable, IMHO I think it is time for private industry to start bidding on mail regions.

Re:Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (5, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 3 years ago | (#37314678)

The problem is (and why I am starting to use epay rather than check+snail mail)... The USPS loses too much stuff

In the four years since I've moved into my current residence, they've lost one mortgage check (eff that, from now on I drop the damn thing off in person), and one electric bill.

That may not seem like a lot, but it is enough for me.

Translation: they aren't losing my service because of competition, rather their own inability to reliably provide their offered service.

Re:Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (0)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 years ago | (#37314756)

Sunds more like theft than loss. Most people would go there entire lives without losing anything. Have you made them aware of the losses or are you just complaining for no reason.

Re:Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (1)

Custard Horse (1527495) | about 3 years ago | (#37314904)

The point is that the system is prone to human error and/or interference. It's old tech which has been replaced - get over it.

In 10 years time when another generation is kicking up daisies, there will be very little post. As the following generation moves out of God's waiting room, the postal system will be eradicated completely.

Re:Do your part! Snail-mail your comments! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314908)

Are you trolling? What do you mean by complaining for no reason?

He/She's complaining because mail was lost.

Get off my lawn (1)

F69631 (2421974) | about 3 years ago | (#37314688)

I'm still waiting for /. to start supporting IPoAC [wikipedia.org] ... RFC 1149 [ietf.org] came out 21 years ago and was built on well established technology. It was updated [ietf.org] over 12 years ago and the latest, IPv6-compatible [ietf.org] version came out this spring.

Battle? (5, Insightful)

Mensa Babe (675349) | about 3 years ago | (#37314512)

For at least 15 years I've been hearing that various postal services all over the world are "losing battle against e-mail age" while in fact that scary "e-mail age" (or Internet age, as I would call it) should be the best thing they should hope could possible happen. Never before in human history we were buying so many goods from remote locations all over the world to be delivered by ... postal services! And now they want an end to Saturday delivery? They should start Sunday delivery. They missed the opportunity to start the biggest online payment system in the world so they should at least focus on being the best at delivering good bought on the Internet, not being worse still.

The "proliferation of e-mail and online bill-paying services" should have been started by USPS because they already had the infrastructure to do that and the client base. If back in the nineties everyone paying bills at USPS were told that they could do the same faster, cheaper and more conveniently at USPSpal.com then people would do that. The problem is not that the world is not friendly to postal services but that they don't want to change. They missed the train and now they want our help to survive. This has never worked in the long term before.

Re:Battle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314602)

That's what I was thinking! Not only do they get to do all the normal mail, but all those ebay items sent back a forth! If cheap long distance communication was to make it go down then it should have went down when phones became a house hold item, but you can't send packages over the phone.

If they are loosing money then there is something else at work taking it from them.

Re:Battle? (4, Informative)

halowolf (692775) | about 3 years ago | (#37314896)

Well the USPS should come to Australia and see what Australia Post is doing. They saw the writing on the wall, and took steps to adapt to the internet age and keep themselves relevant by doing all they can to get themselves into the delivery chain for the influx of packages being sent to compensate for the decline in letters et all. Plus they offer so many services (government and private) to get people into their stores.

The only real problem is that this can lead to a little more junk mail as businesses pay Australia Post to deliver their junk instead of private contractors.

Re:Battle? (1)

EdZ (755139) | about 3 years ago | (#37314626)

The problem is, letters are easy and cheap to deliver. Hell, they can even be sorted and router automatically almost end-to-end. Parcels, however, cannot. Every bit of handling, sorting, etc is done pretty much by hand (with the possible exception of tracking). Normally, high volumes of high-margin mail would subsidise parcel rates, but this is no longer the case, hence the current problem.

Re:Battle? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314732)

FedEx and UPS seem to have pretty much fully automated the processing and routing of parcels pretty much end-to-end.

It's true (2, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | about 3 years ago | (#37314682)

The USPS doesn't want to change, or can't. They are an supertanker with 2 steering wheels- the USPS leadership on one and congress on the other. They already do USPS money orders, why not make them electronic? They feed letters into automatic sorting machines at various points along the delivery route, why can't they have a scannable barcode with tracking information on each piece of first class mail?

One point that I would make is that a first class envelope usually carries a lot more weight than an email. Somebody has to open it up, and read it, and then physically put it in the garbage, or write back. E-mails to companies too often disappear into an abyss or are replied to with a generic form letter. Companies lately have been burying their e-mail addresses too behind e-mail forms, support forums, etc. Their postal address is usually wide open. Sometimes e-mail support is offshore to India or who-knows-where, but will they really forward my postal mail to India? I doubt it.

By the time I write a quick letter, put postage on it, print it out, and walk it out to my mailbox, I would have just found the e-mail address in some cases. While the delivery is slow, the time for me to get it out may be the same or faster. And the response will probably be better.

Re:It's true (4, Insightful)

laird (2705) | about 3 years ago | (#37314760)

The big problem for the USPS has is that they are required to do whatever Congress says, and prohibited from doing anything else. And, in particular, Congress has its own agenda, so even when the USPS knows what to do, it takes them years to decades to be allowed to make changes. For example, they were recently authorized to change smaller post offices from being dedicated buildings to being a service provided within an existing business - that took YEARS to pass, because congressmen didn't want to lose a "real post office" for their constituents, so the USPS was required by Congress to lose money on hundreds of tiny post offices. And if they need to raise the rates, or streamline operations, they are routinely blocked by Congress, because the voters don't care if the USPS is losing money, but they do care if the rates go up, or if people are laid off. Ideally the Congress should give the USPS more autonomy, to be able to manage itself without Congress imposing political concerns.

Re:Battle? (5, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | about 3 years ago | (#37314716)

Never before in human history we were buying so many goods from remote locations all over the world to be delivered by ... postal services!

Except that the nationalized postal services face a lot of competition from private courier firms who aren't hamstrung with government requirements to provide a universal service and can cherry-pick the best routes.

That's certainly the situation in the UK: the postal service is obliged to charge a ridiculously low price for the basic first-class letter, and to deliver & collect them from right out in the sticks, but has long since lost ts monopoly on postal deliveries, so faces lots of competition for lucrative business deliveries around major cities. They mainly survive by delivering vast quantities of junk mail.

If you want a universal postal service you have two choices: give 'em a monopoly to make up for the universal service requirement, or just accept that they won't be profitable and that you are going to have to put money in and get a service out. Then tackle the remaining problems with inertia and unions head on, instead of messing about with ideology-based pseudo-free-market kludges in the vain hope that the invisible hand will make it all better.

Re:Battle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314850)

Except that the nationalized postal services face a lot of competition from private courier firms who aren't hamstrung with government requirements to provide a universal service and can cherry-pick the best routes.

This. Many formerly-government-operated postal service are forced to serve everybody. Whereas the new competition can cherry-pick, e.g. in Germany they only deliver high-margin parcels/packages, don't offer pickup services if you weren't at home or only deliver letters in large cities.

That's what you get when you privatise services that shouldn't be private; well that and kickbacks for the corrupt politicians involved of course.

Re:Battle? (1)

andymadigan (792996) | about 3 years ago | (#37314894)

Do you have any data to show what parts of the U.S. are not reached by FedEx or UPS (separately or together)?. As far as I know, aside from P.O. boxes (which are a USPS product for the most part) you can mail to any address on FedEx (or UPS) that you can with USPS, that should lose tons of money because they don't get to make up for it with 5lbs of junk mail per month.

Re:Battle? (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 years ago | (#37314808)

Ups and downs of being a regulated business, if you are then generally you don't get to do everything else because of illegal cross-subsidies. You'd have to get a change of mandate and long before that was over they'd be too late to the party. As for packages, there's competition on those as far as I know (FedEx, UPC being a few) so the most profitable areas are served by the lowest bidder, they can't just roll out everywhere without considering cost..

Personally, yes I do buy quite a few things online and I'm picking up a package today. But I also remember the world before e-mail and various other e-forms and e-services you get now. There were a *lot* of letters going, paperwork here and there. More and more are now offering me electronic bills, I would say 95% of what I get in my physical mailbox today is advertising. Particularly since packages don't fit. It's getting to that level that I'd be happy to not have mail delivery at all, getting any useful letters is so rare I could pick them up at the post office, like the parcels.

Re:Battle? (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#37314860)

There is the US Paradox, which has always plagued the US. High Population Low Population Density. This makes any infrastructure policy in the United States very expensive and difficult to implement.

Other countries have higher density that makes serving a large percentage easy and that gains outweighs those few outlying people.
Countries with Low Density and Low population is still easier just because there isn't so many end points that you need to go to. And a lower population is easier to come to an agreement if they want it or not, and if they are willing to pay extra taxes or not.

The US in terms of geography is the 3rd/4th largest country (Roughly the same size a China), Covering almost every geographical condition. Rain Forests, Desserts, Mountains....

USPS is probably crossing or have crossed the sustainable line of demand needed to keep USPS going.

Yep. Pretty standard. (1)

Bardwick (696376) | about 3 years ago | (#37314522)

Fedex labor cost is 32%, USPS is 80%.

Re:Yep. Pretty standard. (4, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | about 3 years ago | (#37314628)

Fedex doesn't have a legal mandate to provide service to most addresses 6 days of the week. The comparison isn't particularly useful.

Re:Yep. Pretty standard. (2)

laird (2705) | about 3 years ago | (#37314794)

FedEx pays much more per package for labor. But as a percentage FedEx' labor costs are lower because FedEx delivers $18 packages, while the USPS delivers 15-30 cent letters.

USPS is only dying because they SUCK (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 3 years ago | (#37314802)

FedEx and UPS both provide tracking that works reasonably well. USPS doesn't. FedEx and UPS both provide insurance that will pay out in a reasonable time if the item is damaged or lost. USPS doesn't. FedEx and UPS both actually show if a package has been delivered. USPS doesn't (they SAY they do, but what it really means when they say "delivered" is they don't know where the package was delivered, who they delivered it to, or when -- but they probably don't have it any longer.) FedEx and UPS both bring the goods right to my door when the weather is really bad; USPS employees won't even come to my mailbox if there is snow on the curb. FedEx and UPS both will pick up packages I have to go out. USPS won't. USPS sometimes delivers letters sent to me (eastern MT) from the east coast (eastern PA) 2...3 weeks after they have been sent. These letters are dirty, sometimes wet, and often no longer timely. FedEx and UPS have never delivered anything more than a day or two later than expected, and every time it has happened to me, there's been severe weather to account for it.

USPS has stagnated while private companies whipped their asses for them. I find myself without sympathy.

Re:Yep. Pretty standard. (1, Flamebait)

yourmommycalled (2280728) | about 3 years ago | (#37314704)

Yeah that's because a rethuglican Congress required that the USPS fund both the retirement program and the health plan at 100%. The average for the S&P 500 funding is 80%. Other federal employees is 41%; the military is 24%; and the SAME GOVERNENT bureau which requires the USPS to fund at 100% does not fund its retirement and health plans at all. The $75 billion dollars needed to fund both the retirement program and the health plan at the 100% level is equal to a year's income at the USPS. The stated intent of these rules chages were to make the USPS look like it was losing money. Not so strangely the year the rule changes were enacted FEDEX/UPS were complaining that USPS had an unfair advantage because they had to fund their employees healthcare and retirement at the 80% level, but the USPS was only at 41%. Strange that the sponsors of the bill requiring 100% funding received large campaign donations from FEDEX/UPS. Futher you might check the FEDEX labor cost. FEDEX says it's higher and they don't include the costs of all the part timers they hire around christmas. USPS is has far better service than the FEDEX/UPS. At least USPS delivers the package rather then sending you an email that says come pick up your package since it couldn't be deliverd. USPS actually pays for damages to a package rather than telling you to f**k off which I ALWAYS get from UPS when UPS punctures packages

Re:Yep. Pretty standard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314786)

FedEx delivers packages and "express" letters. That's a valuable job, BUT ... USPS has to deliver regular mail that takes just as much sorting as an "express" letter, but that brings in only a tiny fraction of the revenue (one stamp vs. one $10 bill). It's not surprising that USPS runs on slimmer margins.

weekly (2)

Blymie (231220) | about 3 years ago | (#37314524)

Weekly delivery of bills, junk mail, offers etc is enough. Lay off 60% of the delivery workforce, the other 20% will be needed for daily "express" deliveries.

Alternatively, deliver 3 days a week. Does anyone really need mail delivery daily?

Re:weekly (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about 3 years ago | (#37314556)

Here here!

Re:weekly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314564)

Here here!

Are you a postal worker that is volunteering to be laid off? If so, thank you for identifying yourself. You can speed up the process by resigning today.

Re:weekly (4, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | about 3 years ago | (#37314580)

The mail still needs to be moved and processed six (seven?) days a week. Cutting home delivery frequency would save money, but probably a lot less than you think.

Re:weekly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314636)

You're speculating as much as the OP. Unless you have real numbers, you don't know what you are talking about.

Re:weekly (1)

Bardwick (696376) | about 3 years ago | (#37314670)

Your right on, Its the labor costs that is killing them (80%). Cutting delivery to 1 day a week with the same number of people wouldn't help.

Re:weekly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314622)

Except their union contracts prevent them from laying off anyone. Other than the fact that they can't do it, it's a great option.

Re:weekly (1)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | about 3 years ago | (#37314640)

Exactly, so the only way to do this is through attrition. People retiring or finding new work.

The interesting stat is that the USPS employed 900,000 (!) people a decade ago. They've trimmed this down by about 250,000 already.
I wonder if the USPS is the largest US employer.

Re:weekly (1)

Bardwick (696376) | about 3 years ago | (#37314660)

Union shop, not allowed to layoff. Just signed new contract in May. Looking at the contract, USPS actually as no real ability to make any changes in thier business plan unless the Union leadership approves. Going to just have to suck it up and hand them 9 billion dollars (the 5+billion they need immediately is for pension payment), the other 4 billion is for little things like gas in the trucks...

Re:weekly (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 3 years ago | (#37314686)

Alternatively, deliver 3 days a week. Does anyone really need mail delivery daily?

Assume that the USPS has enough mail carriers to cope with 100% of todays deliveries (ie each carrier works a full day, and that the USPS doesn't carry excess workers). Now reduce the delivery days by 50%, but the public does not change its habits. Now each mail carrier is only working 3 days a week, but has double the amount of mail to deliver. So in the interim you have to hire another set of workers to carry the additional load, or get the current workers to work twice as hard.

Cost per visit vs. cost per piece (2)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#37314880)

As long as each house is getting at least one piece of mail per day, the carrier is already going to the effort to visit each house. Is delivering four pieces of mail to a given house that much more effort than delivering two?

Junk mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314526)

I would be happy if they stopped offering "bulk" postage pricing for junk mail. This would increase their revenue, or at least reduce the amount of low cost junk mail that they deliver more of then regular mail. Also, an every-other day delivery schedule would be fine by me and would lower costs (thinking Mon, Wed, Fri only).

Re:Junk mail (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | about 3 years ago | (#37314618)

an every-other day delivery schedule would be fine by me and would lower costs (thinking Mon, Wed, Fri only).

That would be great, I could have a single reminder for both mail and XKCD.

What, no Saturdays? (1)

alphatel (1450715) | about 3 years ago | (#37314532)

This continuing argument about Saturday delivery is first, highly flawed, and second, not going to save any reasonable amount of money. The Postal Regulatory Commission says it will take 3 years to implement and only save about 1.7 billion a year [go.com] starting in the fourth year. And even the GAO states that "it would also reduce service; put mail volumes and revenues at risk; eliminate jobs; and, by itself, be insufficient to solve USPS's financial challenges [gao.gov] ".

So while the PO loses its one attractive monopoly, it also fails to meet its financial obligations. The whole Saturday argument is just a scapegoat for Donahue to push along - then send the next PM over to beg for something else next year.

Re:What, no Saturdays? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 years ago | (#37314718)

Bad news - the other guys deliver on Saturday, too.

The only USPS monopoly services are media mail and cheap, lightweight stuff, neither of which are profitable.

Re:What, no Saturdays? (1)

somersault (912633) | about 3 years ago | (#37314752)

I'd like to live in your world where $1,700,000,000 isn't a "reasonable amount of money"..

It may not be enough by itself, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered among other solutions. A paltry billion here and there - pretty soon you start to see savings!

Eliminating jobs would be a good thing by the sounds of it, unless you'd rather another "bailout" situation.

Here in the UK I don't think we even have Saturday delivery from the Royal Mail..

Re:What, no Saturdays? (1)

Winckle (870180) | about 3 years ago | (#37314818)

We do have Saturday delivery. If the government goes ahead with its ridiculous plans to privatise the Royal Mail, then we probably won't.

Re:What, no Saturdays? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 years ago | (#37314920)

Here in the UK I don't think we even have Saturday delivery from the Royal Mail..

We do. Most post boxes are also emptied on Saturdays, although typically only one collection rather than the two or more that you get midweek. I quite often get rented DVDs arrive on a Saturday after returning one on a Thursday (new one shipped on Friday, arrives Saturday).

I find it astonishing (1)

Timesprout (579035) | about 3 years ago | (#37314538)

That all the postal services have been so slow to get into parcel delivery. We all order on line these days and surely it would have gone some way to offset the impact of reduced post.

Re:I find it astonishing (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 years ago | (#37314864)

The postal service does deliver parcels but letter volume far exceeds parcel delivery. How many parcels does an average person receive a year vs letters, bills, etc.?

Re:I find it astonishing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314870)

What do you mean? USPS has handled parcel delivery since at least the 1800's.

not sure it's the email age specifically (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 3 years ago | (#37314542)

The USPS is losing a long, drown-out battle against the impossibility that it's supposed to be both an unsubsidized "private-sector" corporation that's "run like a business", but also is micromanaged by Congress and not permitted to make sane business decisions. They are required to deliver six days a week; have exact stamp prices down to the penny for many services mandated by Congress; are required to provide certain extra-subsidized services, e.g. cheap shipping at "media mail" rates; are not permitted to levy surcharges for delivery to expensive locations (e.g. remote areas); and they even have their pension plan micromanaged by Congress, which is one of the current cash-flow pressures (Congress changed how the pension accounting has to work).

Basically Congress needs to decide if the USPS is going to be a government-mandated service that delivers flat-rate mail to every corner of the country six days a week, and subsidize it accordingly, or if it's going to be a private-sector business that will neither be subsidized nor micromanaged.

Re:not sure it's the email age specifically (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314690)

In other words, Congress is incapable of performing even the simplest of its enumerated duties in the Constitution.
Just wait 'till Obamacare kicks in. I'm sure everything will work out great.

Because all businesses make sane decisions (0)

hellfire (86129) | about 3 years ago | (#37314812)

1) Cable companies would prefer to not provide cable to all people in a state, only providing cable to those who will buy premium services and in highest concentration areas so it's most profitable, but states general have laws stating "no, cable for everyone or you ain't in business." So the USPS should not provide mail service to absolutely everyone in the US?

2) One stamp for 44 cents seems insane, but it adds up over time. Small businesses have had to mail as well. Only recently with the maturity of free mail services and bulk email programs does this no longer make sense for letters but for larger parcels it still creates economies of scale for shipping businesses.

3) A few minor businesses like, oh I dunno, Amazon, benefit from ubiquitous and cheap shipping provided by the USPS so the subsidation of cheap mail rates and others can be argued stimulates online commerce. It was never a complaint by Sears back in the day.

4) The USPS actually is a government-mandated service that delivers flat-rate mail to every corner of the country six days a week, and there's no reason to create a false dichotomy that it absolutely has to be subsidized. The USPS worked just like this for decades, because the internet did not exist. The internet is a disruptive technology. On one hand, millions of people still need snail mail. On the other, the USPS needs major changes to continue to exist.

The main reason for the massive news upheaval is simply because it's going to be a political third rail. Simply put, drastic changes need to be allowed, but to do so would put every congresscritter, Democrat and Republican, in hot water because it probably means raising rates, cutting jobs and pensions, or both. The political will, like on so many other issues, is nowhere near there yet. It affects too many re-election bids.

Unfortunately, changes need to be made and they are going to hurt someone. But one thing is clear, the mandates by the US government are there for the benefit of the American people by keeping them connected and keeping commerce and goods moving throughout the country for cheap and easy rates. And because there are no subsidies, you don't suffer from "sane business decisions" to cut costs simply for the sake of making more profits and cutting costs. The mandate of the USPS is broader than simply a company that makes money.

Re:not sure it's the email age specifically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314886)

In my country, we have a national postal service with a six-day delivery service that treats everyone equally - so there's no need to drop those. It's even makes significant profits thanks to internet shopping.

Just let USPS become independent, allow them to increase postage costs iteratively, yet dramatically and allow them to fix any employee/manager/pension/union problems that often hurt nationalised services. It might take a decade or two to sort the problem.

Actually, it's being killed on purpose (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314544)

To what purpose, I don't know, but making them fund pensions and expenses in a way never budgeted and that no other Government Sponsored/Sourced/Seeded Corporation has to, it is designed to fail.

Anyone know why, other than to break the unions and piss away the pension money?

Re:Actually, it's being killed on purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314842)

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.", Hanlon's razor

duh (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314546)

And this is a surprise?

Lets see:
Can't raise the price of stamps faster than inflation regardless of actual cost to deliver.
Can't layoff employees
Can't reduce the delivery days
Must deliver to everyone

How many people see a positive outcome for this 'business'.

Re:duh (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 3 years ago | (#37314790)

Must deliver to everyone

Maybe the USPS needs an "Opt Out" plan, for folks who do not wish to receive any unsolicited snail mail at all? Just add your address to the USPS "Do not deliver to" list.

Bills? Send them to me by email, thank you. Packages? I'll choose the deliverer from your list when I order.

Unsolicited stuff and junk mail? Why should the government pay for something to be hauled to my home, which will land in a recycle bin, which the government will pay to pick up at my home.

Someone really wants to send me something physical? Have your pick from FedEx and their pals.

I pity the USPS (2)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | about 3 years ago | (#37314548)

From everything I have seen over the years they are between a rock and a hard place. They either need to be set free to be a private corporation or be yanked back in to be a complete government service. Both political parties over the years have successfully pushed the USPA into a situation where it has the worst traits of a government organization and a private corporation.

A NEW NUMBER HAS BEEN DISCOVERED !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314552)

About time, too !! The precise location has not yet been revealed, but stay tuned to this channel, slashdot !! You deserve to be the first to know !!

The effect of unions.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314554)

Being a psuedo-government entity, when the unions demand more than the business can sustain, the business fails instead of just making the people take it in the shorts like the true government entities. If you want America to recover and prosper again, abolish unions and shrink government and "entitlement" programs.

Re:The effect of unions.... (0, Flamebait)

yourmommycalled (2280728) | about 3 years ago | (#37314780)

More anti-union bullshit. Try looking at what FEDEX puts into health care and retirement (80%) and then ask your self why FEDEX gave large campaign donations to the sponsors of the bill that required USPS to pay 100% of FUTURE EMPLOYEES health and retirement. Yes that is FUTURE employees. We want to make sure we can all possible contingencies you know just in case somebody we MIGHT hire might get sick or retire. Try looking to see if FEDEX/UPS actually ever deliver a package to the address on the label, or maybe they just send an email saying come pick up your undeliverable package. This is nothing more than TeaTerrorist/Libertarian/Rethuglicans attempt to destroy the functioning parts of the governement. The intent of TeaTerrorist/Libertarian/Rethuglicans is to sell the USPS for pennies on the dollar so their sponsors can buy a second gold-plated yacht.

If I remember correctly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314560)

The internet has not only made letter delivery almost obsolete, it has also dramatically increased home shopping. If the US postal service is not seeing its share of that, despite not being allowed to raise prices (i.e. having very competitive prices) or letting go part of their huge workforce (i.e. having spare capacity), they're doing it wrong. Consequently it's not the internet that's doing them in, it's their management. Oh wait, that's congress, isn't it?

FedEx and UPS (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#37314924)

The internet has not only made letter delivery almost obsolete, it has also dramatically increased home shopping. If the US postal service is not seeing its share of that, despite not being allowed to raise prices (i.e. having very competitive prices) or letting go part of their huge workforce (i.e. having spare capacity), they're doing it wrong.

To see what USPS is doing wrong, one must first figure out what FedEx and UPS are doing right. FedEx and UPS are competitive in every part of the postal business where USPS doesn't have a state-sponsored monopoly.

A postal service is simply too important. (5, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 years ago | (#37314562)

A postal service is simply too important not to have, just like the roads. It is necessary for the smooth running of a country to be able to reliably move physical goods from one point to another in a moderately expedient and cheap fashion. It is so important that the very basic service should be run by the government.

Has the US government done anything to actively sabotage the USPS?

I know that in the UK, the Royal Mail has been sabotaged to the point of being unable to opeate profitably. The Royal Mail has been forced to outsource the only profitable part of mail, which is the bit where you take letters and charge people for the privelige. As a result, there are suite a number of companies who rake in vast amounts of money doing the easy bit. The hard bit is the sorting and delivering which the Royal Mail still has to do and is legally not allowed to charge very much for. In a sane world, the latter part would be funded by the former part. But the government has managed to separate the two so that the Royal Mail simply cannot turn a profit so that it can then be sold off. In general, though mail in the UK is still a profitable venture and the Royal Mail would run itself comfortably if the world was half way sane.

Has the US government done something similar?

Re:A postal service is simply too important. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314710)

The US Constitution explicitly authorizes Congress "to establish Post Offices and Post Roads"; so even the Founders knew the importance of the mail!

By the way, another name for large parts of Route 20 in Eastern Massachusetts is "Boston Post Road". One guess as to why.

Re:A postal service is simply too important. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314712)

We have FedEX and UPS. They provide the service as well. Simply turn the USPS free, let them compete on a level playing field and be done with it.

Re:A postal service is simply too important. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314714)

Has the US government done something similar?

As a poster above said:

  • Can't raise the price of stamps faster than inflation regardless of actual cost to deliver.
  • Can't layoff employees
  • Can't reduce the delivery days
  • Must deliver to everyone

Let's have another multi-billion-dollar bailout! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314566)

And watch how the employee's union makes huge contributions to Obama's reelection campaign....

Imagine that.

Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314572)

The post office is one of the VERY FEW enumerated duties of the government, and if this bloated bureaucratic union organization in place cannot deliver fire them and find a group who can do the job.

I don't buy this "excuse". A decrease in volume... compared to when? 1980? 1950? 1880? 1790? Nonsense. The continuous stream of paid "junk mail" we find ourselves with now didn't exist 40 years ago. Neither did cushy retirement plans for mailmen and inefficient post offices. The vast majority of mail is presorted, and even handwritten mail is mostly sorted by OCR systems.

Re:Nonsense (1, Informative)

yourmommycalled (2280728) | about 3 years ago | (#37314800)

It's not the unions idjiot look at the bill the Rethuglicans passed to destroy the USPS so Rethuglicans could sell it of to their masters

Inflation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314596)

This is a place where the bogus Fed inflation measurement tools which help reduce pension and disability payment increases comes around to bite the US government in the tail. Inflation measurement is about as accurate as the unemployment stats with much cherry picking to make the picture look much better than it is.

STEVE JOBS FOUND DEAD IN CALCUTTA OPIUM DEN !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314606)

It was not a pretty sight, either !! Burns about his nose and mouth, and half-eaten White Castle burgers strewn every which way !! How far the mighty fall !!

Remove free mail for non-profits and religion (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | about 3 years ago | (#37314610)

Problem solved

Re:Remove free mail for non-profits and religion (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | about 3 years ago | (#37314762)

And politicians.

I am sick of getting pounds of thinly-veiled campaign ads from incumbents every fall at my own expense.

an engineered crisis (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314614)

Strange that /. is missing the real crux of the problem; a bad 2006 law:

>In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring the Postal Service to wholly pre-fund its retirement health package – that is, cover the health care costs of future retirees, in advance, at 100%.

most organizations are allowed to fund retirement and pension funds in a graduated manner that provides funding at the time of need rather than decades in advance. Its almost like this crisis has been engineered...

Source:
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/18/is-benefits-law-dragging-down-the-postal-service/

Funny that... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314616)

....state-owned monopolies in countries commonly decried as "socialist" by the American right wing got out of this mess decades ago and are raking in the cash now.

Last time I heard, Deutsche Post and TNT were making a nice, sustainable profit. Amusing to see that the motherland of capitalism's own postal service never got out of the 1970s way of thinking.

+1 for the USPS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314638)

Of course I live in exosuburbia so I have never experienced the horror stories that usually come from the city but when you think about it they do a pretty darn good job. I can put a piece of mail in a box at the end of my driveway and have it delivered relatively timely to anyplace in the USA for $.50, that's freaking amazing.

Unions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314672)

You can thank the labor unions for the down fall of another company.

Funny, I get ten times the mail now than I used to (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 3 years ago | (#37314684)

...with literally 3 letters and 2 catalogs a day being shipped to my home address.

Of course, my wife spends money at a reedonkulous rate through catalogs like this, but my neighbors seem to get 'bundles' of mail every day just like we do as well.

In court... (2)

crankyspice (63953) | about 3 years ago | (#37314692)

It's much easier to get evidence of delivery in if it's USPS ("official records" don't need the testimony of a custodian of records in, e.g., California state courts, unlike FedEx/UPS "business records"); that, and statutes requiring USPS (e.g., CCP section 1013), are pretty much the only reason I use the postal service anymore...

Lousy service (4, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 years ago | (#37314694)

They've got a delivery route to every single household in America every single day, and yet they can't seem to track a package through their system or guarantee a delivery day. Even their "Next Day" service is "We'll do our best, but it's not really a guarantee, and even then there are some places where we charge you the "next day" rate but we know it will be two days."

Fedex and UPS do essentially a semi-custom route each day, and they drivers are pretty well taken care of (though they have long hours certain times of the year), and they can track and guarantee your delivery dates, for essentially the same price as USPS. USPS needs to be a value option, or a better/more reliable service. Right now they're neither, and they cannot compete.

Re:Lousy service (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314824)

Fedex and UPS cost more. I get packages in 2 days from NJ and NY regularly, and when I order something, even UPS and FedEx often deliver ONLY to the local post office, and USPS does the last bit -- it's how a lot of online companies save money. The rates can't be beat. I NEVER had trouble tracking a package, and have had trouble with FedEx and UPS ALL THE TIME, who will update as "delivered" days before I get my expensive package.

Go to your PO... (1)

mulvane (692631) | about 3 years ago | (#37314702)

I don't think we need 6 day delivery. I really don't think we need even 4 day delivery. Mon/Wed/Fri should be enough. There used to be a time in American history where people were expected to go to the local post office and check if they had mail. With USPS tracking, people could sign up to get mail waiting emails or voice mails. Then, if the mail was important enough, they could go and pick it up or wait for the next scheduled daily delivery. Would provide a vastly more efficient system in the long run I believe.

Re:Go to your PO... (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | about 3 years ago | (#37314788)

If mail delivery is cut back will the due date of my bills be extended?

Re:Go to your PO... (1)

mulvane (692631) | about 3 years ago | (#37314814)

The bill is due on its dude date even if you never get the bill to begin with. I've fought this battle before when I never received a bill. You are just supposed to remember to pay them. And with most things going paperless for billing anyway, its a moot point.

Re:Go to your PO... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314826)

Totally agree. Cut the number of drivers in half and give them different routes on different days. I don't expect garbage pickup 6 days a week, and I can do the same with mail.

Re:Go to your PO... (1)

mulvane (692631) | about 3 years ago | (#37314854)

To further this, people could sign up for 3 or 6 day delivery with 1 day delivery guaranteed with the option of local PO pickup offered. Then you could possibly quarter your drivers and keep an extra for guaranteed postage delivery in a set amount of days (like 3 day delivery).

Mismanagement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314724)

Only a few short years ago, the USPS was boasting of profits and windfalls. It's present demise is clearly not due to email, but rather it is due to mismanagement.

If email were the problem would private sector package delivery services not be suffering the same fate? Yet, they are growing and expanding; FedEx. UPS, DHL, Sonic Courier and many many more smaller operations are still viable and will remain so long into the future. Despite email, people still need to move physical missives and packages across the globe.

Blaming email is either a pathetic excuse or further evidence that USPS management doesn't have a clue.

Re:Mismanagement (2)

Qzukk (229616) | about 3 years ago | (#37314918)

Only a few short years ago, the USPS was boasting of profits and windfalls. It's present demise is clearly not due to email, but rather it is due to mismanagement.

Yep. Now if only Congress would stop passing laws telling it what to do and how to do it, it might be able to manage itself. Bonus points if Congress repeals the laws they already passed.

Get AOL involved. (1)

Lose (1901896) | about 3 years ago | (#37314726)

So they can ship their free trial discs again. That's easily 20% added mail volume nationally.

No kidding (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 3 years ago | (#37314730)

Look at the bulk of mail you get over the week in the mailbox.

For us, it's about 80% junkmail.
Of the 20% that matters, probably 17-18 points of that are bills, which could easily come as email, but in any case don't (or shouldn't) require first-class handling.
The other 2 points are miscellaneous mail that matters for one reason or another - magazines, notifications, netflix, etc.

Do the postage charges for junk mail really cover the costs? I'd definitely agree that the bulk rates can float above inflation - that's a commercial enterprise.

NONE of our mail is urgent enough that we need daily delivery. We could easily live with 1/week.
In fact, we personally have discussed that we wouldn't be put out if mail delivery stopped entirely - we could stop by the post office on the way home from work 1/week.

Now, I understand that knocking off deliveries 6 days a week will NOT eliminate 6/7ths of the costs....with the fixed costs of buildings, trucks, etc. I'd guess that a 80% reduction in deliveries probably will only net a savings of 50%. But that's 50%.

They are in default (1, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | about 3 years ago | (#37314764)

There is no such thing as: "If Congress doesn't act we will default", this means they are bankrupt, that's all there is to it.

At the risk of being moderated down further [slashdot.org] I must say anyway that this does not surprise me at the least, I've said that on multiple occasions that this is what is coming to the USPS [slashdot.org]

Quote:

When somebody says that government can do things efficiently, and they use the postal office as an example, they should really go back to that premise and realize, that the US post office is out of cash - it's selling 'forever stamps' today, and assuming it doesn't just dissolve over the next few years, it won't be able to make any money at that time and it will be in a worse fiscal shape than it is today, because the stamps sold today are basically protection against the 10% (current level) of monetary inflation that US Fed and Treasury are incurring on US population. Today the postal office cannot function already and they sell the forever stamps, tomorrow, they'll have to raise the prices but people will use those forever stamps and the postal office will either have to default on that stamp or dissolve, or there will be another bail out, and people use that as one of 'better' examples of government 'efficiency'.

Then people say things back to me that [slashdot.org] make no sense [slashdot.org] about how USPS is not or used to not have problems. Well yes, as long as there is a way to print more money the gov't will keep subsidizing these money losing programs, like military and wars, USPS, SS, Medicare, bank bail outs, stimulus programs, anything that is subsidized by government borrowing, printing and spending can go on for a while until the currency is destroyed.

The S&P downgrade was not just downgrading US debt risk, it was downgrading US CURRENCY.

--

Everything goes back to the question of fiscal responsibility [slashdot.org] , and there is no such thing in USA at all anymore.

Do you know what a USD is? Ben Bernanke does not. He believes a dollar is what it buys, though in USA the dollar has precise meaning (certain weight in gold or silver).

USD is a federal reserve note. Do you know what a "note" means? Note means an IOU. It's a promise note to give you gold or silver for your currency. But since 40 years ago when Nixon decided to default on the dollar (they did it a few times in history of USA, defaulted I mean), the IOU stopped being a promise note. It's not a promise by the Federal reserve bank to give you anything for that piece of paper/cotton/computer record.

Since the Federal reserve promises to give you nothing, that IOU is worthless, that is what S&P downgraded. They should have downgraded it to JUNK, because that's what US federal reserve note promises to you - nothing.

Because USD is a note, which now gives you nothing, it's worth 0, and this means that anything that the Fed buys is actually STOLEN by the Federal reserve. That's right, any asset they buy (and gov't "economists" are now suggesting that the Fed just buys out any assets - houses, businesses, etc), this means that Fed is completely openly STEALING those assets.

The US T-bills that are bought by the Fed, what do you think this does? This means that nobody else wants them, so Fed monetizes the debt and thus inflating the value of whatever USD denominated assets you have.

The USPS is suffering because it does not generate any revenue that is real. It's subsidized, and it was selling so called "forever stamps", and people were buying them, thinking that they would be able to USE those forever stamps in the future, thus protecting themselves from inflation, because stamps would go up in price.

Well you know what this latest development means? It means that USPS is defaulting on the promise to provide something for those forever stamps. Those forever stamps are now going to be forever - in your drawer, because you will never be able to use them for anything if USPS shuts down.

Will the Congress approve of more spending for USPS? Maybe. But it doesn't matter, because even if Congress does not approve, Paul Krugman or whoever, will come out and say: FED, give money to USPS, and Fed will do so.

But if paying for assets with counterfeit money is stealing, then paying for labor with counterfeit money is the same thing - it's like slavery. Every new printed dollar puts you into deeper depression, because the money is devalued and real capital LEAVES, and they have been doing this since 1913, but especially since 1971, and you are wondering: why is the economy so bad? Must be all those rich people, not paying their taxes.

Yeah, it's some rich people, but it's not about taxes, it's about theft of your money and any savings in that money is impossible and economy loses capital, jobs and only government grows due to the printed fiat, which increases amount of regulation, subsidies and eventually destroys any incentives to do business in USA.

What does this do for Americans? Well, Americans see the standard of living go down. Now USPS will close - it takes standard of living of Americans down.

-

If you think I am not providing any solutions, here [slashdot.org] , and a Constitutional amendment [slashdot.org] to stop the destruction of economy.

--

USPS could even continue if USA wasn't growing the rest of the spending and government at the pace that it has been for the last 100 years, and especially since 1965. At this point the amount of government intervention that has to be reversed is enormous, it's not about USPS, it's about the entire US economy.

E-Mail? Don't make me laugh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314768)

Early on in public internet access I'm sure it was a minor factor but not today. The big hit they took as far as business lost was in the direct withdrawl/deposit of funds. I used to send out about 6 bills a month. I don't send out any today. I only get paper statements from two companies I deal with. That makes a loss for USPS of 10 mailings from one person. This isn't to mention the annual stuff like taxes and dealings with the DOT. I ordered 200 checks about 3 years ago. I think I've used 5 of them so far and most of those was to set up direct deposit accounts. I'll never need to order checks again in my life.
 
People who use to snail mail actual letters to other people have either gone to cell/Skype/Facebook services.
 
Aside from that, they're going to lose more business to people who are getting their magazines via the web and e-readers. I really think their future is darker than most people think. Either costs are going to increase or people are going to be forced to adapt to a digital way of doing things or be forced to living a life where doing business outside of the essentials is not easy.

Re:E-Mail? Don't make me laugh. (1)

Aladrin (926209) | about 3 years ago | (#37314890)

And instead of paper bills, those companies are using... Yup, Email. You invalidated your own point.

Who is going to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314796)

Deliver all the parcels of stuffordered from Amazon (and other online retailers?
Yeah I know 'content' (music, books, movies) can come electronically, but not the physical goods. Soon I will be buying everything but clothing and food online The sales tax is getting too much.

TYRANY TSHF TEOTWAWKI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314848)

Part of why the volume of crap from me was reduced.

The CBU was robbed.
The my slot in the CBU was too small - for all the ad spam (newspaper, redplum, etc, learnt to unsubscribe, u can do it) Um, I was getting hell of stuff in the box, so the box clearly was too small, for a short time some directive went out to stop delivery of large packages. I mean come on, you drive all the way out, then take it all back? I seen my box slot CLEARED of mail, and then new mail in the slot!

note: missing mail or getting that pink,, or yellow, or blue or whatever slip means I have to travel 8mi by foot, and delay my time sensitive business.

So after visiting the pub, sleeping a good night, having a hearty breakfast, Patty Donahoe is going to creep with his hand out while suggesting yet another govt agency, this time the USPS environment, who's trust is currently driven intermittent at best, now be made to ignore reality. That about sum it up? I don't mean to paint the leader in a bad light, my last JOB was 20 years ago.

Okay enough. The USPS is the life blood communications and paper documentation.
BETTER FUCKING FUND IT. If that means you got to pay the people that have 50+ years working there you fucking better pay them! I ain't talking about little whipper snappers that come in and do 4 years, never learn the job, and quit as a cripple.

Now let's see all the retarded comments.
I can barely wait.

USPS Service Levels (1)

Aladrin (926209) | about 3 years ago | (#37314876)

I almost never need to mail or receive a letter, so that only leaves packages for me. (Actually, I do get quite a few bills and letters, but I want almost none of them. I'd rather have them electronically... It's just not an option for them.)

Package delivery by USPS is the worst out there. They are the only service that refuses to leave packages with the apartments' leasing office. It would save -everyone- time and money if they did so, but they won't... Even if I beg and sign things. It makes them such a huge hassle to deal with that I usually pay more to have another service deliver the stuff instead.

And mailing things? They are the slowest and grumpiest bunch of workers I've ever met. (This doesn't apply to all offices, but this has been my experience at about 4 of the last 5 I've used.) They don't explain things well, they're slow to do what they need to, and they aren't pleasant about anything.

However, I will say that the attitudes are the same when I have to pick up at FedEx and UPS as well. It's just that I don't usually have to, since they'll leave it with the leasing office.

And now Amazon is partnering with 7-11 to ship packages there so you can pick them up without any fuss. I'm wishing more people could do that so I could avoid the USPS office altogether. (Amazon is the one company I know I won't need this service for, sadly.)

Agent Smith says... (1)

CozmoKramer (1838384) | about 3 years ago | (#37314892)

That's the sound of inevitability Mr. Anderson !
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