The Postmaster General reported today that the United States Post Office is losing money, and will continue to lose money unless changes are made to the agency’s postage rates and delivery schedules. Apparently, the Post Office has experienced a steady drop in the quantity of mail. I must say I find that hard to believe. Yes, I understand that people no longer send letters, and that lots of people now pay bills online. But people also order way more stuff online than ever before. Between Amazon, eBay, Netflix, and countless other websites, millions of items once purchased in stores must now be sent through the mail. The death of the brick-and-mortar record store, after all, must come with a corresponding increase in parcels being shipped.
I acknowledge that fuel costs have risen dramatically in the last decade, and that must cost the Post Office a fortune. Plus, something nobody mentions is that the United States has millions more addresses than ever before. Every new building built in America represents another stop on a carrier’s route. And, the tendency of cities to expand in a sprawling fashion means that addresses are farther apart, and require more fuel than traditionally urban neighborhoods, where mailmen could deliver on foot.
The Post Office needs to get out of the business of everything that isn’t mail. Stop selling random junk like holiday music CDs and mouse pads. If they need to raise rates, raise rates on junk mail first. I don’t want that stuff anyway. And if first class rates go up, I understand. Even if a stamp was fifty cents, it’d still be a bargain. Think about it: you place an envelope in your mailbox, pull the flag up, and a person comes by six days a week, picks it up, and takes it anywhere in the country in a day or two. I got a letter from someone in California on Monday. They mailed it the previous Friday. That’s incredibly fast for so little money. Transportation time to and from the Netflix distribution center in Daytona is less than twenty-four hours. DVDs that are picked up from my box at four o’clock in the afternoon arrive there by ten o’clock the following morning.
And the Post Office could do one more thing that would help me personally: stop taking passport applications at University Station. There are only two clerks ever working there, and one of them is always doing someone’s passport, leaving one clerk available to help the dozens of people standing in the line that stretches out the door.