The Final Four – Options to help the USPS Save Saturday Service
Could this eagle soon be extinct?
The NCAA tournament isn’t the only madness in March this year. The United States Postal Service’s proposal to drop Saturday delivery has incited anger across the nation. Despite the fact that no one really sends letters anymore, the idea of ceasing Saturday service is meeting a lot of opposition and criticism. Apparently, two days without bills or junk mail is just too much of a burden for Americans to bear. After all, Google can deliver e-mail all day, every day, so why can’t the government of the United States deliver six out of seven? If we put a man on the moon, can’t they put envelopes in mailboxes? And because we put a man on the moon more than 40 years ago, can’t someone think up a new cliche already? At this point, both questions are unanswered.
But the threat of extinction for Saturday service is very real – the USPS reported losses of $3.8 billion for the 2009 fiscal year, and predicted that the next decade of service will result in losses of $238 billion. Clearly, something needs to be done, and quick. But is ending Saturday delivery really the best solution? Most people don’t think so. In order to keep real madness from erupting, here are what could be the Postal Service’s Final Four alternate solutions to save money and still deliver on Saturday.
OPTION ONE: Using More Machines
This is probably the least popular and least likely option, as the last thing anyone wants to do in this economy is cutjobs. But the USPS already has Automated Postal Center machines in most locations, and they are an efficient and easy way to avoid lines and ship packages and letters. Simply put, if you can use an ATM, you can use an Automated Postal Center. The machines were evidently designed by someone with no relation to the USPS, because they provide a series of easy-to-follow screens for a frustration-free experience. And while installing the machines may be expensive, APCs don’t demand hourly wages or lunch breaks. However, the machines still manage to have as much, if not more, personality than most postal employees. If only all government employees had manners as good as an APC.
Option Two: Cutting Down Paper Waste
If you’ve been to the post office recently, you probably left with a receipt longer than a strand of Rapunzel’s hair, no matter how little you sent. The USPS seems intent to single-handedly keep Americans reading by supplying extensive blocks of text on each receipt. The USPS kicks things off with five lines identifying the location of your post office, followed by a couple lines identifying the Constitution-length document as a sales receipt and pointing out that the far right column indicates final price. Each item includes the destination, method of shipping, weight and estimated date of delivery. There’s also five lines dedicated to a disclaimer which more or less excuses the USPS for not being timely. Delivery Confirmation, Insurance and other services also earn an obscene amount of space, as does the method of payment. But that’s just where things get started – six lines of text explain that stamps can be ordered online or by phone, and an eight-line ad for getting a Post Office Box follows. Next, you’ll get a bill number, clerk ID, “All sales are final” disclaimer (three lines) and a 13-line request for customers to go online and share their postal experiences. After plenty of wasted white space, the bottom informs you that this receipt is a customer copy, in case you weren’t sure what side of the transaction you were just on.
Receipts aren’t the only issue, though – large packages get neat little USPS logo stickers on every available side, and post offices offer a limitless number of brochures explaining their various services in excruciating detail. If all of this is necessary for consumers to understand that the USPS sends stuff to whatever address you put on the envelope, I weep for America.
Option Three: Stop Releasing Collectible Stamp Collections
Sure, the USPS has printed some beautiful stamps throughout the years, and if there’s one thing that America needed, it was a collection of stamps honoring national icons such as the Simpsons. But it may be time to face the fact that stamp collecting is about as popular as traveling by horse and buggy or using the phrase, “23 Skidoo.” Though the hobby has merit, there are more people that would benefit from continuing Saturday delivery than would from the release of stamp collections such as “The Art of Disney.” And while stamp collectors might not like the cessation of collectible stamp collections, it would only make their existing stamps more rare and valuable. Even just scaling down collectible stamp sets or some of the USPS’s other unpopular accessories such as stamp-themed watches, necklaces and tote bags would provide a financial benefit for the beleaguered entity. Besides, after Google finishes digitizing every book ever, the search giant may move on to digitizing stamps, so a massive collection will be available to anyone with an internet connection.
Option Four: Selling Advertising On Postal Trucks
It’s not every day that other organizations look to NASCAR as a beacon of brilliance, but covering race cars in advertising guarantees that there is a constant flow of money fueling the sport. The only problem is that for the advertisements to be effective, one has to be: a) bored enough to watch NASCAR, and b) be paying enough attention to distinguish the brand name as the cars whiz by at 200 miles per hour. The USPS, though, already has both of those problems covered. Postal delivery trucks traverse every neighborhood in the nation, so reaching a target audience isn’t a problem. And as anyone who has ever been stuck behind a mail truck knows, the vehicles travel extremely slowly, stopping frequently to deliver mail. As it is, postal trucks have an enormous amount of white space just waiting to be coated with ads. And it’s not as American streets are free of advertisements – it’s becoming common practice to plaster ads on one’s car for compensation, 18-wheelers are basically one long ad, and billboards are everywhere you look. Advertising is a huge business (after all, some people watch the Super Bowl just for the ads), so this could infuse the USPS with some much-needed cash.
Look at all this advertising space!
As absurd as these solutions may seem now, it’s certainly preferable to yet another increase on the price of stamps, which will just discourage people from sending more mail in the future. If the post office wants to survive, it needs to think outside of the box and make some tough decisions that will actually improve customer service, not sacrifice it.