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Ask Slashdot: Is the United States Postal Service Obsolete?

Cliff posted more than 14 years ago | from the internet-and-social-changes dept.

News 291

Xerron asks: "Now that e-mail is a big deal, friends and family rarely need to write snail mail leters anymore. And when you need a package delivered you use UPS or Federal Express, not the USPS. Is the USPS in trouble? Since e-mail handles the bulk of short letters and quick notes and UPS and FedEx handles packages, that leaves the USPS with nothing but junk mail and Publishers Clearing House mailers. Could USPD dwindle in the future?" Considering that less than 50% of Americans are on the Internet, I highly doubt that the US Postal Service will be obsoleted in the near future. But I could be wrong. What do you all think?

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USPS Obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790905)

Don't forget all the credit card apps,
6cent/minute long distance offers, catalogs, local

independent or small chain mailings etc...

Also those receiving government funds that are NOT

using direct deposit. Plus statements from bank,
bills from local utilities

Bills? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790906)

I use it all the time to send in checks for bills. I don't have enough money in my account to do electronic bill pay without paying a fee... :(

When money is ALL electronic maybe, but we always need to send Stuff to places far away. In any case, a physical letter or postcard is much more personal then e-mail, no matter how many HTML tags you use... ;)

Re:$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790907)

Perhaps I just have extraordinarily bad luck, but I've used USPS priority mail three times, and all three times the packages never arrived at their destinations. Lost to the ether. I've never had a single package lost using any of the commercial shipping companies. This alone has convinced me to not give them the fourth chance, price be damned.

Re:yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790908)

Actually my grandparents have an email account. Practically everyone with a computer nowadays has net access and as for people traveling there are laptops. (Personally I think a photo taken from a digital camera is a lot more personal and interesting than a postcard. Next vacation I'm taking a digital camera along and maybe one of those spiffy new iBook's)

Down with the USPS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790909)

I don't like the USPS. I don't want to use them. But since they have a govt sanctioned monopoly I'm forced to. Put a stake though this fuckers heart already! Let a freemarket alternative take over! Better and more varied, unsubsidized service. And no more big brother bullshit [gnu.org] like this.

Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790910)

You dumbass. Some people don't have computers. Do you think everyone in the damn world is sitting around on their linux box reading slashdot all damn day?

Re:They'll always be there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790911)

Yep, the USPS will always be around in some form. They already have terminals in some Post Office's that you can send email for a certain amount of cents.

The Gov't is already thinking about taxing email usage. i.e. every 100 emails sent you pay $1.00. or something. The tax will help fund internet access in less devel. countries as well as add some padding to Uncle sam's pocket. I think it is a good idea to tax email but it has to be done right. This will stop some spamming and scam's.

Sh*t if you think how much emails are sent each year the tax could add up to billions of dollars earned.

Re:Down with the USPS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790912)

What crawled up -your- behind? The USPS is
about the only gov't entity that works well. Don't mess with a good thing. They've had 220 years worth of debugging.

Re:Duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790913)

I know all the little boys and girls in etheopia who can't get enough to eat to cover their
bones withs kin, are sitting around playing quake3, emailing each other silly, and surfing for the white man's porn all day on their quad xeon linux boxes, all sitting on dual T3s..

Re:Its another Monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790914)

Which Postal Service are YOU talking about?!?!
Price cuts? That $0.33 breaking you? Priority Mail kicks UPS & FedEx's rates & chances are it'll be in 1 piece when it gets there, too!

Did you save some crack for me?

Re:Paying Bills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790915)

Yep. I like real, paper, admissible in court, the final word, documents of what I owed and what I paid nor do I yet trust anyone to direct debit my checking account (no protection on this like there is with credit cards, and no, visa/MC debit cards do not give CC-level protections either). How do I prove I paid something if it's done electronically? I'll stick with my cancelled checks, thank you.

And electronic christmas cards just aren't the same and can't be all taped up around the big mirror in the living room!

Re:Linux Journal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790916)

I would have to agree. The only problem is that the current issue arrived yesterday nearly destroyed. It's missing 4 pages entirely and the cover was almost ripped off. I'm going to have to go down to Borders and buy a replacement for it. I think a sorting machine was a little hungry...

USPS doesn't play fair! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790917)

How many of you realize that FedEx and UPS are required *by law* to charge more than the USPS? USPS Prioity Mail commercials make me sick, of course their the cheapest because laws mandate that competing services must charge more than them. This is one perveted form of "competition."

Call your congressman and tell them to repeal laws that give the USPS special treatment.

what about.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790918)

all the poor people in the US who are on welfare? How are they supposed to get their checks at the end of the month so they can afford booze and cheap drugs?

eBay claims 5% of USPS package traffic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790919)

About a month ago, I went to see a presentation given by one of eBay's VPs. He claimed that 5% of USPS's package traffic was generated by transactions over eBay.

The USPS Priority Mail package delivery is cheap and quick. No package tracking though.

Postal isn't anywhere near in trouble. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790920)

Myself, I use email for everything. But we are the exception, not the rule. The only market that internet email is killing for Postal services, is the pen-pal style chit-chat messages. Most buisness letters / bills / you name it, will still use the Postal system.

When was the last time you got your Electric bill by email.

Besides, Postal services are good for mailing small packages as well. It's usually cheaper than UPS/Purolator/fedx/etc. It only costs $3 for me to mail a CD to someone. :)

I can see future services offering Electric bills (and others) via email (probably in the near future too), but I think the majority of the 'I'm-so-scared-of-computers' population will probably stick with their current method.

Re:letters are closer to the heart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790921)

I save my old love emails. They're easy to save. I don't save paper letters, because they would take up too much space, and be too much trouble to carry when I move.

Re:Postal isn't anywhere near in trouble. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790922)

Most business letters by USPS!? The vast majority of business letters come through the fax machine, FedEx or are hand delivered by couriers. In business, the letter has to arrive on time not maybe 2-3 days from now.

USPS + Airborne Express = good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790923)

I read somewhere that Airborne Express was outsourcing final destination delivery to the USPS. This could make a potent combination - Airborne Express is the method most businesses (like business businesses, mayyybe some auctionsites) use to send things. Airborne has a good business network, USPS has a good home network, business -> home = Airborne -> USPS. The same unremembered source said that the only venture to ever deliver to every home every day and make anything approaching a profit is the USPS. ... $0.02

I work for the USPS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790924)

I work for the USPS! No way. It's gonna stick around. Get your heads out of your asses. Most of the country doesn't use email, and a lot of the country hasn't even heard of it. Snail mail is gonna be around for a long time.

Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Birthdays... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790925)

and every other card-sending event will keep USPS around if nothing else will. C'mon, almost everybody has a non-shopping relative who sticks some money in a card for a gift....and my mom would be offended if I just emailed her a "Happy Mother's Day". Hell, for that matter, she has a hell of a time setting her VCR, let alone figuring out email. I don't think the Post Office is going anywhere.

Not obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790926)

My company sells apparel via 800-number and mailorder catalog, and ships all goods except overnight deliveries via USPS Priority Mail. We are a testbed company for all the USPS new programs, and they have bent over backwards for us (give us free return envelopes pre-addressed for our customers to return stuff to us, etc). We have never had any problems with their service, and in some cases their Express Mail will get stuff to people out in the boonies faster than FedEx or the Evil Brown Trucks can. And it's *way* cheaper too!

And don't forget, their mail-sorting and other apps run on Linux boxes! :)

UPS Sucks Arse. FedEx, $$ (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1790979)

USPS is a godsend for packages. The other two
couldn't find their bunghole (or my house, apparently) with two hands & a GPS.
And they've never broken anything, which is MUCH more than I can say for UPS, which I think stands for U Poor Sod.

And until I can pay ALL my bills electronically - without a convenience fee, I'll be licking, er, sticking stamps. This aspect of the USPS I could do without. But then, there's no fooling the Net...it's hard to get away with 'check's in the mail'

USPS here to stay (1)

mosch (204) | more than 14 years ago | (#1790987)

In the past 6 months I've probably sent and received a total of 100 USPS packages with the only loss occuring on a package to canada. (probably got stuck in customs...)

As for e-mail versus snail mail, e-mail your love with a fine sentiment, nice reaction right? now buy some stationary and write them a letter. Even if your handwriting is horrid, I'm sure you'll like the reaction better. There's nothing like an unexpected letter/card/package.

Not a chance (1)

Micah (278) | more than 14 years ago | (#1790988)

Their business will go down, but the USPS is still good for some things.

I just sent a package to Puerto Rico, and UPS would have charged $18. The USPS charged under $5! (UPS=2 days, USPS=3 days)

And who else is going to carry all the crappy glossy PCMall catalogs we all get???

Re:screw that! (1)

Micah (278) | more than 14 years ago | (#1790989)

No way!

#1. Reading the handwriting of some people is really hard. I like computer screens

#2. Snail Mail: 33 cents. E-mail: Free

#3. Snail Mail: 2-4 days. E-mail: Instantaneous

#4. To reply to snail mail, you have to run around the house searching for pens, paper, envelopes, stamps, and your address book. Then you have to use a PEN and WRITE! That takes WAY longer than typing.

Get real (1)

Jay Bratcher (565) | more than 14 years ago | (#1790991)

The US postal service will not be replaced by e-mail. First, I still cannot e-mail signed documents (or packages). That may change eventually, but right now, electronic signatures can easily be forged (so can real signatures, but they can be detected. But I still cannot e-mail packages).

Second, although UPS or Fed-Ex may (or may not) be more reliable / convenient / whatever than the post office, they still do not deliver packages to my house unless I am there to receive them.

Finally, the post office is more convenient than UPS of Fed-Ex. I live about a mile from the post office, and about 30 miles from my Fed-Ex office. Given that I don't run a business out of my house (and therefore they will not pick up from my house), I just can't see going to Fed-Ex to ship every package I send out. USPS is much more convenient.

Re:USPS is here to stay (2)

Eric Green (627) | more than 14 years ago | (#1790992)

I agree about the legal reasons why the U.S. Postal Service is not going away. For example, federal law often requires that you communicate via U.S. Mail in your dealings with the government (such as, e.g., your income tax -- last year was the first year that they allowed you to send your income tax return via FedEx or UPS, though it had to be at the IRS on tax day, a postmark wouldn't work). Similarly, federal credit card laws require you to communicate disputes via paper mail in order to preserve your rights, and 33 cents for a 1st class letter is a lot cheaper than $5 or so for UPS or FedEx.

On the other hand, if you don't get bulk advertising via U.S. Mail, you must be a hermit who never orders anything via mail order! For example, my mailbox was stuffed this afternoon when I checked it -- and after I discarded all the bulk advertising, there was one (1) single letter left in the mailbox -- a bill.

And since I'm paranoid about paying my bills via electronic transfer, that's another reason to keep the U.S. Postal Service around!


USPS Hac one REALLY cool benefit! (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 14 years ago | (#1790993)

Posted by Lord Kano-The Gangst:

Postal Investigators who can persue mail fraug allegations. UPS and FED-EX can't compete with that. I can send the most fraudulent scams every through UPS or FED-EX and at most it's only a state level felony. If I'm in another state it's really hard to find me. To do so using the USPS it's a federal crime and you have to worry about Postal Inspectors and the FBI!

Just think about that.


Christmas Cards! (2)

root (1428) | more than 14 years ago | (#1790995)

I don't know about you, but Christmas cards cannot be replaced by e-cards and web-o-grams or what not. Besides, you can't tape ecards up all along the edge of the big mirror in the living room by the Christmas tree. (Well, you could, maybe, if your printer can print shiny ink and make raised cards, cut in the shape of Santa Claus, etc.)

The USPS is a good deal (1)

Leebert (1694) | more than 14 years ago | (#1790999)

The USPS is a great organization. People often complain about them, but where else can you:
  • Get an ounce physically delivered from puerto rico to alaska for $0.33?
  • Mail an overnight package at noon on christmas eve and have it delivered on christmas day? (With all of the tracking abilities available with commercial package distribution organizations?)
  • Have legal proof of delivery of an item?

etc. etc.

Not only that, but people greatly exaggerate the perceived lack of reliability of the USPS. Remember that on average, the USPS delivers over half a BILLION pieces of mail a day. Even a small fraction of a percentage of that mail lost is a large amount. FedEX looses mail too, you know -- See
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/od/story.html ?s=v/nm/19990719/od/fedex_tests_1.html
(Sorry, I would anchor this in but slashdot keeps chewing up the url and spitting it back out null.)

Reminder -- Use your ZIP+4 [usps.gov] code to help keep mailing costs down!

Re:Its another Monopoly (2)

Millennium (2451) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791007)

Actually, it is open to competition. Look at UPS, FedxEx, Airborne, DHL, and dozens of other courier services. And while the competitors offer better services in some areas, their costs are orders of magnitude higher and they still don't offer some services which you get with the mail (most notably free daily pick-up and drop-off).

USPS will continue for a very long time, I think. It's still the cheapest way to send packages in the US unless you count throwing them really far (and I might add that it's one of the cheapest postal services in the world; consider the UK's Royal Mail for example).

The main problem with the service is that it is technologically backward, compared to the competing courier services. In particular its computer system is abysmal, though there is an intranet project in the works (last I heard they were even going with WebObjects as the base); this will allow for package tracking and such.

Yes, other courier services are faster. But given the choice, I think most of us would still prefer to use the USPS in most cases for sending non-urgent packages. It's sort of the low end of courier services; popular, cheap, and perhaps not as fast as the higher-end stuff but it still gets the job done.

Not all junk (1)

suprax (2463) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791008)

Not everything that is delivered via the United States Postal Service is junk mail and spam. I personally get 2 different magazine subscriptions, one of which is the Linux Journal(Which speaking of, I should finish reading it any minute now). What about resumes sent to companies, letters sent telling someone they were excepted to a college, or report cards for the school kids. All of these things maninly aren't online yet, and all of them are important to the people they deal with. These are just some reasons why the USPS won't become obsolete, at least not in the next 25+ years.

And speaking of shipping, I believe @ CheapBytes [cheapbytes.com] , there is only one way to ship, and that is via USPS, costing you 5 bucks in most cases. Pretty cheap to me.

Scott Miga

Umm... you left out a few things (1)

psychophil.com (2573) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791009)

Like Priority Mail... the de-facto standard for auctioneers using eBay, Yahoo, Auction Universe, etc...

How about Certified and/or Registered mail?

How about the fact that less than 35% of households in the U.S. actually have a computer much less internet access. (thats close to the current stat isn't it?)

Remember years ago when people claimed that computers would virtually eliminate paper in the workplace? In fact, paper use increased 10 fold. Same thing is happening to the Post Office. The actual packages they are transporting may be different, but they are just as busy as ever.

Besides, its kinda hard to stick an electronic greeting card on the fireplace mantle.

Not exactly. (1)

psychophil.com (2573) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791010)

The USPS has had a priority and express mail tracking system installed and working for 5-6 months now. They also have auto-insurance up to $50, more available at a much cheaper price than the other major shippers.

Linux Journal (1)

jps3 (2870) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791015)

Hey! It can't be obsoleted yet, I need my monthly issue of Linux Journal.

House comes with Net Connection (1)

loren (2875) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791016)

Could you imagine that? Just like every house comes with a mailbox, every house would come with some sort of network appliance, and a net connection... That's when you know the USPS is obsolete.

I'm afraid that by the time a net connection is considered part of the house a T4 to your house would be considered a "slow connection". (Now that would be cool... at leaset a T4 to every house... and could you immagine the bandwidth of the backbones?) Oh, and by then that network appliance might include a "replicator", so that you could recieve packages too... Maybe I'll live to see that. (Maybe not.)

Re:Paying Bills (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791026)

I bet long distance phone service will suffer more than mail.

Exactly. In fact, for the last 4-5 months I've been paying AT&T $3 a month. I don't think I can even get rid of LD service. Though I'd like to save that $3 and just use my SprintPCS cell.. Maybe it's time to ditch the landline altogether.. ;)

Re:Get real (1)

Chutzpah (6677) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791031)

Well, that is not exactly true, PGP signatures are probably harder to reproduce than real ones, i cannot say impossible but highly improbable, unless someone steals your private key, but its not THAT hard to prevent that...

USPS is here to stay (1)

gregor (6723) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791032)

I find it unlikely that the Postal Service will ever be made "obsolete", even with the growing proliferation of email. It'll always be necessary for sending physical packages (co-existing with UPS, FedEX, and others), and it will continue to be the only *official* way to send legal documents from point A to point B.

Current law states that each citizen of the United States must be reachable by a mailbox. Until laws require ownership of an email account, then it'll continue to be a necessary way to send official documents.

And bulk advertising is kept to a minimum by it's astronomical costs through the medium... :-)

Re:Umm... you left out a few things (1)

Bilbo (7015) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791034)

> Besides, its kinda hard to stick an electronic greeting card on the fireplace mantle.

Then again, with scanners and "digital processing" of photographic film on one end, and quality color printers becoming more common on the other end, it's not that hard to receive a picture attached to an email, print it out and stick that on the mantle...

Having said that, I still agree with you that the USPS isn't going away any time soon. The point is that, people are finding new and creative ways to do the things they used to do with letters. With the advent of high bandwidth connections, you just might want to send a mpg video clip of the kids to Grandma next Christmas... ;-)

Re:screw that! (1)

Krux (8331) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791035)

This is true. Mailing something has to be one of my least liked things to do. I will put off sending something until the last minute. I have a package for a friend of mine from last christmas which I still have not mailed... He'll be here eventually, screw it.. he can pick it up himself.

However, when it comes to getting a worth while response from someone or some company, you cannot help but beat a actual physical letter. e-mail means nothing and can easily be blown off. However for someone to take the time and write a letter and mail it, they have to take notice.

eBay is... (1)

astyanax (8365) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791036)

singlehandedly keeping the Post Office in business. Everything I buy from eBay is paid for via USPS money order, and a good 80% of the things I buy are shipped to me via it. Online auctions are most definitely helping increase the Post Offices' business, even if their actual letter delivering is going down.

Obsolete? (1)

RadJ (8990) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791040)

Could be. My Mom has bought a computer and is online since that seems to be her only hope of getting her offspring to write in a timely fashion. It usually works too--techno-junkies the lot of us!

Re:yeah right (1)

Peale (9155) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791041)

I must disagree: my granparents have 'net access, and use it to email all us little grandkids. It's one of the best ways to (almost) instantly keep in touch!

Email is really prevailant now. You can get a Hotmail acct, and check your mail that way (as long as you can find a computer somewhere with 'net access. But again, it's really good for small notes, but the USPS is here, 'cause I don't see Bell Atlantic emailing me my phone bill anytime soon (although my ISP does ;)
Northeast USA Computer Show Schedule

Nah!!!! (1)

LWolenczak (10527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791049)

Personaly, i still use the USPS from time to time, Fedex is ok, but UPS has been on my bad side lately, they have distroyed like 20 of my dad's packages in the last year alone, and we never had problems with them before that strike that they had.

Re:$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (1)

alhaz (11039) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791053)

Yeah, unless you actually need it to get there.

If the usps screws up your priority mail delivery, you're pretty much SOL.

In my personal experience, it takes the USPS one to two days to recover a priority mail package that bears the wrong zip code. This has happened to me twice.

When they lose a package, it's just plain gone. Don't expect anybody to have any clue where it was last seen. They have no tracking system for Priority packages.

Express mail is quite a bit more expensive, and USPS claims a tracking system is "in the works".

The extra cost of UPS or FedEx buys you a lot of assurances that the USPS is unable or unwilling to give you.

Right now, I'm wondering where the heck the book i mailed a girl for her birthday went. The USPS is not on my list of friends today.

It's more like "Two to three days, or maybe not at all"

Re:$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (1)

alhaz (11039) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791054)

I can't believe i didn't see that when I reread what I'd written.

That's one to two WEEKS to recover from a bad zip code.

Possible but not probable (1)

Cadre (11051) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791056)

While I email a whole lot more than I snail mail, its very unlikely that snail mail will ever become truely obsolete. There will always be someone you need to converse with who won't have an access.

My girlfriend works at a summer camp, about 50 miles from civilization, there probably will never be a computer at the camp. Thus leaving me with only pen and paper to contact her.

Re:Its another Monopoly (2)

binarybits (11068) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791058)

The same can be said of Microsoft. The vast majority of users are perfectly happy with Windoze and can't imagine any alternative. So the simple fact that you like them doesn't mean that they couldn't be better.

The difference is that at least Microsoft does have some competition to keep them at least somewhat honest. Imagine if Microsoft were granted a legal monopoly on the OS business how much Windows would suck.

I think we get used to whatever we use on a regular basis. If the Post Office monopoly were broken up, I think you'd see dramatice price cuts and vastly increased relieablity. There's a reason why UPS and FedEx are preferred by most businesses: they have to earn their customers. The Post Office has the first class mail market guarunteed, so they can afford to do a half-ass job in the parcel market. If they lose market share, what do they care? It's next to impossible to fire a government employee anyway, so why should they care?

Look... (2)

binarybits (11068) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791059)

Seriously! All we need is some "new" mail company with 1 year of experience to start delivering mail to some 300 million Americans. Yeah, that'll work.

OK, look. If you want to send your mail with the USPS, fine. Don't force me to. If I want to pay Fedex or UPS or the kid down the street to deliver a letter, what business do you or the government have telling me I can't? It's really that simple. No matter how good the Post office is, there's no reason I should be forced to use it.

Re:Its another Monopoly (2)

binarybits (11068) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791060)

Actually, it is open to competition. Look at UPS, FedxEx, Airborne, DHL, and dozens of other courier services. And while the competitors offer better services in some areas, their costs are orders of magnitude higher and they still don't offer some services which you get with the mail (most notably free daily pick-up and drop-off)

Um, private corporations are legally prohibited from doing first-class mail. That would explain why there's no competition in that area. And that would also explain why they're the only ones who do daily delivery and pickup: most of the mail is first-class, and its illegal for other companies to handle it.

Yes, other courier services are faster. But given the choice, I think most of us would still prefer to use the USPS in most cases for sending non-urgent packages. It's sort of the low end of courier services; popular, cheap, and perhaps not as fast as the higher-end stuff but it still gets the job done.

If it's so great, why should the government have to give it a legal monopoly? If I want to have someone else deliver my mail, by what right does the government tell me I can't? All the good things the USPS does could be done just as well as the private sector. In addition we'd see the benefits that result from an open, competitive market. I'd be willing to be money that you'd see prices drop and reliablility improve. The USPS is really not reliable at all. Mail regularly comes mangled or doesn't come at all, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Agreed. (1)

sp- (11321) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791066)

I work for a company that supplies the sorters and sort control computers to companies like USPS, UPS, FedEx, RPS, DHL, and the like and I'd have to agree with you.
Even if the very improbably happens and letters become obselete, there is still a huge amount of larger parcels being pushed through USPS...

Reveal your Source, Unleash the Power. (tm)

Re:They'll always be there (1)

Mycroft-X (11435) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791067)

It isn't the Government...unless you count the UN as such.

That's right, it's a UN plan that the US Government has largely laughed at.

Tom Byrum

Seeing the signs in Canada... (1)

Shabbs (11692) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791068)

Up here Canada Post has been pumping commercials promoting the use of letters and touting slogans like "There's nothing that says it like a letter". I think they are feeling a bit of the drain and are just trying to catch it early. I can't remember the last time I sent a letter via the surface. It's all e-mail now. Sign 'o the Times.


$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (1)

jimduchek (13246) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791077)

The subject says it all. USPS Priority mail is one of the greatest things ever. It's far cheaper than USPS or Fedex and gets there within 2 to 3 days. For more than the weight limit (2 pounds?) It's not all that expensive either. Sure, if you need it there overnight, it's not the way to go, but if you just need it there, USPS is really great. The fact is, computers are great but sometimes you need your penguin mints and you can't FTP them!


Re:Internet: More snail mail (2)

The Optimizer (14168) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791079)

Not too long ago, I heard it said (dang, don't remember where I heard that) that 5% of all packages (not letters) now shipped by the USPS are eBay transactions. My wife discovered eBay and now I'd say that number is a bit low :-) Seriously, the free, self-adhesive, priority mail boxes you can get at the post office has got to be one of the best marketing coups the USPS has had in a long time. They make life soooo easy. Also, be aware that there are a couple box sizes (6-9" squarish type boxes) that are not available at your post office - you have to order them by phone and they'll send them to you free.

Re:$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (1)

jpgrimes (15330) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791083)

I've never had them lose anything but 2-3 days is a joke. I have also had several packages sent to me bounce back to the sender while I never received notification that the packages had arrived. My girlfriend, who lives at a different address, has had several problems especially with her prescriptions. Her parents are on some Wall-mart plan and they send the prescriptions fairly last minute. She's gone without meds for several days just trying to get the postal service to deliver the package (and as an epileptic this is so very bad). I love UPS and Fedex.

Internet: More snail mail (3)

crow (16139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791084)

Thanks to sites like eBay, people are sending more mail than ever. Think of all those checks that people are mailing. Sure, eventually, this can all be done electronically, but not for a few years, at least. Also, while big businesses may get better deals for packages from UPS and the likes, most consumers are better off with US Mail. Again, eBay and Amazon Auctions result in many more small packages from the USPS.

Re:Umm... you left out a few things (2)

Fizgig (16368) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791085)

About two months ago there was a study saying that now over 50% of households have computers. I submitted it to /. but it didn't get posted. And to think--you would have known! Oh well!

Re:$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (2)

Fizgig (16368) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791086)

Other benefits would be

1. Cheap shipping to AK and HI (though the rest of us subsidize it)

2 automatic pickup (just leave it in the box! You have to drop stuff off or call ahead for UPS or FedEx to get it)

3. Government workers can't strike. I'm not sure that postal workers count as goverment workers (it's a special case of a semi-public entity, like AmTrak). We all remember that little kink with UPS.

Re:Possible but not probable (1)

synthetic (16531) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791087)

For this to happen, cheap, almost free internet access will have to become available. You have to not only consider the less than 50 percent of people in the US that have email access, but other countries in the world too. USPS is part of the global air mail, and when you consider the amount of people in the WORLD..not just the US without internet access, it's pretty clear that this will happen a LONG LONG way into the future, or never at all

No chance in hell (1)

ashpool7 (18172) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791094)

Magazines, tax returns, job offers, bank statements, education-related paraphanalia, bills, official documents, eBay money orders and packages, etc etc

And of course, Credit card offers, columbia house garbage, local circulars, publishers clearinghouse, etc.

E-mail is too insecure, informal, unreliable, non-authoritative, or just not suited for delivering any of the items in the first list. As for the second, since none of us give a rats ass about them, they are stedily enroaching upon our digital domain . . . ;)

Re:Its another Monopoly (1)

kvajk (18372) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791097)

Maybe, but I don't really have any complaints with the USPS.

Firstly, the USPS pays for itself. That is, it is fully funded by the stamps we buy, not by taxes.

Secondly, I don't think it's all that expensive for what you're getting. I don't feel it's unreasonable to ask $0.33 to carry something to the other side of the country.

Compared to the horrible service, sleasy marketing, and ludicrous prices of my phone company, the USPS looks pretty good. It could be a lot worse. :)

Re:Its another Monopoly (2)

kvajk (18372) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791098)

> Why should it cost to mail a letter across town as it does to mail to Alaska or Hawaii or even just to the other coast?

Not that I don't really know what I'm talking about here; I'm just making wild-ass guesses. :)

Anyhow, my guess is that most of the cost is with the local delivery to the individual mailboxes and the overhead of all those POs. Shipping the letters from central office to central office (the extra cost incurred for long-distance mail) is probably much smaller than this, so a long-distance mail shouldn't cost a lot more. So if the costs are similar, why not just make them the same, and save on complexity and processing?

> What airline would sell flat-rate tickets to anywhere?

Ugh. Airlines. A whole other can of worms. What's with airline rates, anyway? Their prices *really* don't reflect how far you're going. From California, you can usually get to Bangkok cheaper than you can get to New York.

Re:$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (1)

Darth Maul (19860) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791102)

I've mailed nearly 600 packages through
USPS Priority Mail over the past few years
and all of them arrived at thier locations.

The US Postal Service rules. I'd use them for
a package over UPS or FedEX any day. Oh,
and by the way, the USPS *does* have a
tracking system now...

Re:Its another Monopoly (1)

Darth Maul (19860) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791103)

Well, fact is that the USPS is now a private
company, and has been for a while. It's
no longer directly controlled by the Gov't.

You really think that if there were
"competition" I could still get a letter
from D.C. to California in 3 days for
only 33 cents? Riiiiight.

Re:Down with the USPS! (1)

Darth Maul (19860) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791104)

Seriously! All we need is some "new" mail
company with 1 year of experience to start
delivering mail to some 300 million
Americans. Yeah, that'll work.

I'll take my 220 year old USPS any day.

Some monopolies are actually good, as bad as
that sounds...

USPS volume is growing, not shrinking (2)

sohp (22984) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791107)

I found this nifty 1998 Annual Report [usps.gov] at the USPS web site. They delivered 198 billion pieces of mail in 1998, 3.7% more than 1997. Most of the mail was First Class.

Of course (1)

dmax69 (23888) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791109)

It depends on the time perspective one chooses to take when it comes to speculation. Of course the USPS will be completely outdated within 100 years. Most certainly by then we'll have evolved well beyond the need to pass bits of paper around the globe. In the short term, there are quite a few worldwide who will either not be able to afford internet access or will be too dumb to allow themselves to use the medium, making a continued need for paper passing almost certain.

Re:$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (1)

lightPhoenix (28084) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791120)

Agreed. USPS is pimptastic for getting stuff where you need it. They are the only thing on Ohio State University Campus for sending stuff (There's *supposed* to be one coming soon. To paraphrase Dr. Evil, "riiiiiight"). I've always been treated pretty well by the them. Nothing new here, just another vote of confidence.

Paying Bills (1)

Shabazz (29233) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791122)

I think email has replaces short phone calls or calls to people who are hard to get in touch with.
Mostly I only used the post office for sending (and receiving) bills. Also magazines. That may change over time, but it might not.

I bet long distance phone service will suffer more than mail.

Re:Possible but not probable (1)

vkire (30321) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791124)

> "...time to write the message by hand and then
> paid someone to carry it to my house? I'm so
> touched!"

You mean people actually send hand-written snail
mail? Scaaaary. :) Even when I mail a letter to
someone (once a year), there is no way I could
hand write it. It would take me 5 times longer
than just typing it in. Not to mention that I
can run a spell checker on it.


Smart Money's betting on USPS (1)

rjreb (30733) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791127)

According to the June edition of Smart Money they're betting on CNF Transportation which delivers the packages for USPS.

"...These virtual companies are finding they need computers, trucks, and logistics... Meanwhile, e-shoppers are making Priority Mail one of the most popular delivery vehicles for Internet goods. Why pay $11 to a have a $10 book or CD delivered by FedEx? Priority Mail delivery charges average just $3.20."

letters are closer to the heart (2)

ClipDude (31730) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791130)

When someone takes the time to handwrite a letter, its a unique artifact with sentimental value. Email cannot match that. In the future, I don't see people saving their old love emails. While email is a great way to keep in touch with people--it's fast, cheap, and easy--nothing beats a nice, handwritten letter once in a while.

I love USPS (1)

barryblack (31922) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791131)

I use the USPS all the time. Priority mail costs 3.25 and is somethng like 2-3 days. You can't beat that. UPS ground is way too expensive. You can't track your package but I never send things that are that important.

Re:Its another Monopoly (1)

AaronW (33736) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791133)

I have had more problems with UPS and Fed-Ex. Sure, maybe they will insure the package (if USPS doesn't), but it's a lot less convienient.

UPS stinks. They're slow. They're expensive.
FedEx is also expensive.

The USPS is available to everyone. They have more offices than UPS or FedEx. The USPS is also highly effecient at what they do (heck, they run Linux). My letters usually get to their destination within two days for $0.33. That's anywhere in the country. I'm impressed if a company can send a letter from Hawaii to Maine for $0.33 and still be profitable.

When purchasing on-line, I usually choose the USPS. They are faster and cheaper than UPS. For expensive items I'll use Fed-Ex or UPS, but for most stuff the USPS is great.

Best Overnight Service in US? USPS! (2)

amper (33785) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791139)

Of all the "overnight" services I have ever used (and list includes just about all of them), the *only* organization which has a 100% record delivering my packages on-time, without damage or loss, is the United States Postal Service.

Need I also mention that the USPS will deliver Express Mail on Saturdays and holidays at *no extra charge*? They even deliver on Sundays for Express Mail!

When it absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt, life-or-death, MUST BE THERE, my first choice will always be the US Postal Service.

yeah right (1)

Agent Orange (34692) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791140)

so what are grandma and grandpa going to do? What about all the people who don't have net access? What about people on holiday?

somehow I don't think you can get rid of them that easily.

Re:Bills? (1)

hwstar (35834) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791144)

I agree,

They'll really be in trouble when and if Electonic Bill Presentment really takes off. Consider this:

Your billers have to pay about 24 cents to send you each bill. The average Joe gets maybe 10
bills/month, so the businesses billing Joe spend
about $2.40/month on postage.

Joe then has to send back a check for each of these 10 bills at the full first class postage
rate at 33 cents (small guys never get a break!) so this costs him $3.30/ month.

So a total of 20 letters/month/household or $5.70/ month could be replaced.

I don't know about others, but my houshold dosent and probably never will write 20 personal letters
per month.

Therefore, E-mail will not cuase the post office
to become a dinosuar, but Electronic Bill presentment might.

Re:$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (1)

Betelgeuse (35904) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791145)

Perhaps I just have extraordinarily bad luck

God. No kidding. . . I have never ever ever had the USPS lose any of my mail that I have sent. . . not that I send a huge amount, but I have sent probably an average amount. . .

yeah post office! (1)

RoLlEr_CoAsTeR (39353) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791148)

Current law states that each citizen of the United States must be reachable by a mailbox.

And don't we love it when these government assigned addresses save lives (in the case of my father's heart attack when the paramedic team came to the rescue).

plus, I do enjoy my share of real mail, and everything I've ordered from the net thus far has been sent by USPS.

But I seriously doubt that snail mail and the USPS are going to become obselete any time soon. It's just not going to happen. (then again, if it did, I'd feel pretty dumb.)

Internet adds Post office revenue (1)

NekoMouser (41791) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791151)

The USPS was the only government agency (federal) to turn a profit last year. Some people from within the USPS say that the internet has only helped their sales and the internet doomsayers are only trying to be elitest. eBay, Egghead, YahooAuctions and others have flooded the post office with Priority Mail Packages, more than doubling the volume they were doing before and this is only expected to continue growing as more and more people begin buying online.

As for me personally, I've never had anything lost in Priority Mail and I've bought and sold hundreds of things online. They do have a primitive tracking system which works. When time isn't the main concern, but you need a reliable, cheap way to get it there, the USPS is the only way to go.


USPS, digital certificates, and message confidence (2)

dlc (41988) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791152)

For most forms of printed information (letters, information, brochures, etc), email (or electronic messaging in general) is more than sufficient. Once digital signatures become standard (and more common), this method will suffice for transmissions that require confidence. I would opine that most Americans are not comfortable enough with email to trust it to the exclusion of the USPS; the USPS has been around for a long time, while email has only been around for about 30 years (but ask a kid nowadays--they all think email started in the 80's). There are confidence issues, reliability issues (real and imagined), and technological issues.

A more interesting--although not completely related--question is this: When are digital signatures going to become standard?

There were rumors that the US government wanted to "issue" email addresses to babies at birth, along with social security numbers. While issuing email addresses is technologically problematic (now there's a server I don't want to maintain), issuing a digital certificate at birth is not, since prime pieces of information (e.g., name and SSN) are present shortly after birth. Perhaps this is the "number of the beast" of which Revelations warns us...

Re:screw that! (1)

Josh Picker (44294) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791154)

on the contrary, i have a wide variety of pens, pencils, charcoals, paints, papers, etc. at my disposal in my room, where i do most of my writing.

time is not an issue when i'm writing to someone i care about. obviously, i enjoy receiving hand-written letters more than email, but i'm not at all knocking it. i send and recieve dozens of emails a day. email is actually great for conversations with some people. a friend at work, at school, etc.

but when my friend Brooke writes me from art school, it's nice to see her hand-made, beautifully-painted letters before i even get to read her words. and as far as being ABLE to read the words, more often than not, reading the words is not a problem at all. anyone who takes the time to write me, takes the time to make it ledgible.

humorously enough, my best friend Ashley, due to a disorder in his brain, is almost completely illedgible via the computer, but his hardwriting in just fine.

screw that! (2)

Josh Picker (44294) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791155)

who doesn't perfer a handwritten letter on an interesting piece of stationary and a decorative envelope to a bunch of 1's and 0's from anyone who takes two minutes to write? snail mail from friends and loved ones is so much more heartfelt that email. email is boring.

the USPS is hear to stay.

They'll always be there (1)

The Original Bobski (52567) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791163)

I figure as soon as Teleportation of small objects becomes feasible, USPS will figure some way to get a piece of the action.

Re:Possible but not probable (2)

jovlinger (55075) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791169)

There was a funny cartoon about this a number of sunday globes ago. I forget the name of the strip -- it's the one w/ the 3 or 4 20somethings who drink alot of coffee.

Anyway, one of them gets a letter, and is completely confused by it. "what is this?". After having the concept of snail mail reintroduced to him, his comment is "wow! you mean someone took the time to write the message by hand and then paid someone to carry it to my house? I'm so touched!"

Its another Monopoly (1)

Nerd_Boy (62598) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791175)

It's just another government monopoly. If the government opened it up to competition we'd see better service and lower costs. But until then the postal industry will just continue to loose customers.

You can make the mail go away... (1)

pkj (64294) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791177)

This is very much a personal choice. Some people will always want a dead tree for their records. However, it is possible to live entirely without the USPS. I went travelling for nine months and was able to take care of all my bills and what-not with nothing more than a telephone. When I returned to the 'States I had barely a shoebox full of "important" mail after I threw away all the junk -- and all of it I could have lived without.

I'm pretty sure that if you look at overall postal traffic over the years I am quite certain that the overall volume is still growing, and will continue to grow for some time to come. To put it another way, I don't think I'd worry about my job if I worked for the postal service...

Two more reasons the USPS is not going away. (1)

dustin@infoinsights. (65629) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791181)

Reason 1.) The online stamps program. Right now you can download and print your own stamps with a credit card charge for the the stamps. Granted if you simply email everything you have no need of stamps, but I am forever finding I need to send some physical thing that UPS or FedEX charges way to much for. The post office is showing signs of being adaptable and I think that will help them have a future.

Reason 2.) I read someplace the the USPS plans on getting into the emial business in order to provide email services to the 50% of americans who are not online. However since I can find anything about this on the web site [usps.gov] , maybe they have changed those plans.

They have a pretty spiffy web site. While that does not mean they will last, at least it is a nerd point in thier favor.

Re:screw that! (2)

bugg (65930) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791182)

i'm sorry, but everyone always referrs to all digital information as: just 0s and 1s.
The binary system is used to portay a number. It isn't JUST 0s and 1s. They are ons and offs that together represent something.
People would look at you funny if you said "who cares about handwritten papers? They are just areas of ink and areas without"
no different

2-3 days and other fantasies (1)

Farce Pest (67765) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791183)

The USPS Priority Mail commericials on TV really piss me off, because they are very deceptive. They compare FedEx 2-day vs. UPS 2-day vs Priority Mail 2-3 days. FedEx and UPS guarantee 2-day delivery. USPS doesn't even guarantee 3-day delivery. I'm not sure delivery is guaranteed at all.

I will use Priority Mail occasionally, but not if I want it to get there in two days. If it's under two pounds and I'm not picky about when it gets there, I'll use Priority Mail. Otherwise I'll stick with FedEx for something small and fast and UPS for something big. Last thing I ordered that got shipped Priority Mail took four weekdays. I've had other things take a full week. The local disgruntled postal employee left a delivery notice today for a package that should be delivered somewhere down the road (right suite, wrong building, duh). I've had the wrong mail delivered to my mail box fairly often, and I don't want to think how much of my mail has been delivered to the wrong house.

Legally, FedEx and UPS and other carriers are excluded from being in the letter delivery business. There have been occasions where the USPS has fined companies for using those carriers for delivering non-urgent mail, to the tune of what they think they would have paid using USPS.

I say, privatize USPS: Sell stock to the public over a period 10 years or so. At the very least, they have a lot of assets: Post offices, delivery vehicles, sorters, mail readers, etc. Repeal any laws that give USPS special powers so that other companies are free to compete.

Re:Its another Monopoly (1)

Farce Pest (67765) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791184)

Well, fact is that the USPS is now a private company, and has been for a while. It's no longer directly controlled by the Gov't.

What ARE you talking about? You realize their web site is at www.usps.gov, right? It says:

As the governing body of the U.S. Postal Service, the Board of Governors is
comparable to a board of directors of a private corporation. The Board includes nine Governors who are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.
As in, not a private corporation, and in directly controlled by the government (presidential appointees).

You really think that if there were "competition" I could still get a letter from D.C. to California in 3 days for only 33 cents? Riiiiight.

I sure hope not. Why should it cost to mail a letter across town as it does to mail to Alaska or Hawaii or even just to the other coast? What airline would sell flat-rate tickets to anywhere?

Re:$3.20, anywhere in the US, 2-3 days... (1)

Syslevel (69599) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791191)

You probably do the same thing when you screw up zip codes.

Imagine this email. . . (3)

L'Oiseau de Feu (70636) | more than 14 years ago | (#1791192)

To: Jane Doe
From: Col. William Smith
Subject: John Doe
It is with a heavy heart and deepest regrets that I must inform you of the death of your son, Pvt. John Doe. John died valiently and honorably during the final push of our three day assault on Baghdad sacrificing his own life so that the rest of his platoon would not perish. He was a couragous soldier and served his country well.
My prayers are with you and your family during this most grevious time.

Col. Bill Smith
United States Army

------------------------------------------------ ------------------------------

Yah, this is a little extreme, and one certainly doesn't see these too often, but my point is that some things are best expressed through a written letter. Email is convenient and quick, but it lacks the personality of a hand written letter, and I think most people in the U.S. would agree. As long as there are special things to write to someone, there will be the USPS.
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