Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Oxymoron at the Root of USPS's Woes

Is the U.S. Postal Service a business or a public service? Congress can't decide on the answer, and that indecision creates a fundamental problem for USPS, says noted postal commentator Leo Raymond.

In the Postal Points newsletter for the Association of Marketing Service Providers, Raymond recently wrote about "an ongoing oxymoron that Congress, in its meddling ineptitude, continues to perpetuate: the Postal Service cannot be cast as a public service, with a 'universal service obligation,' while concurrently being told to be businesslike in its operations."

The universal service obligation means USPS has to provide roughly the same level of service to everyone at the same price, regardless of the agency's costs to serve a particular customer. That's contrary to sensible, business-like behavior: What enterprise in its right mind would charge 49 cents to send an un-presorted letter from Hawaii to a Maine island accessible only by boat?

"Fortunately for Congress, it only has to give orders, not figure out how to implement them," Raymond noted.

Raymond was commenting on my recent article Nine Ways the Postal Service Is Not Like a Real Business, which he said "gets to the heart" of the oxymoron.

Getting praise like that from someone who's a rock star among postal geeks -- and an almost simultaneous Twitter follow from the equally prestigious "Mr. Magazine" (Dr. Samir Husni) -- almost lends an air of respectability to this blog.

Hmm, I'll have to do something about that.

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11 comments:

@dryMAILman said...

Ford calculated how many deaths would result from the exploding Pinto. Senator Dianne Feinstein? I doubt she's thought about the fatal accidents that have been caused by USPS efforts to provide post offices for her husband to sell. Why are now sorting mail in our vehicles. It is dangerous. It is distracted driving.

Thatsspirit said...

I thought "Postal Management" was the oxymoron. ~Carol

ET-10 Simmons said...

http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/39/I/1/101

BoSacks said...

Hey.... I heard that BoSacks readers your blog too. He should get honorable mention too.
A friend....

D. Eadward Tree said...

Yeah, but BoSacks has been known to hang around in some dis-respectable circles. Being a magazine production guy is not exactly the height of respectability. In publishing, as in plumbing, s&$t flows downhill. In plumbing, such fecal matters ends up in a sewage treatment plant. In publishing, it ends up in the production department.

@nonprofitpostal said...

...said someone who never spent much time in the circulation department. Excuse me, audience development department.

All Your TSP Belong To Us ! said...

"Moron at the root of USPS woes"

There, I corrected it for you.

Frank said...

If you want the postal service to act like a real business, the first thing that will happen is large mailers will be charged what it actually costs to deliver their product. Junk mail has been subsidized by 1st class mail for years. With the huge decrease in 1st class mail, big mailers are going to have to pay their own way. Careful what you ask for, it's coming!

Anonymous said...

Direct mail has built in efficiencies for the USPS that standard 1st Class does not. Most of it is delivered directly to the post office in carrier route order. They charge less because it costs less.

All Your TSP Belong To Us ! said...

Um, no, you're wrong Anonymous. That is the way it *used* to be delivered.

Now, it's run through lsm, and put in dps order, because there's so little first class.

In other words, it's treated like 1c mail, but it's not being charged/paying for it.

MailManMatt said...

The real hallmark of First Class Mail is that it it time sensitive and cannot be delayed at any processing point, whereas Standard mail can be delayed. That is the reason First Class is more expensive than Standard. There is absolutely no difference in the cost to sort or deliver.

As for the post that said mail is now run through LSM (letter sorting machines), there hasn't been an LSM in a SCF (sectional center facilty) in probably 20 yrs. They went out with the advent of OCRs and MLOCRs (optical character readers).