Friday, September 16, 2011

Is it Time to Wave Farewell to the Mailman?

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...Image via WikipediaThe US Postal Service announced last week, that without enactment of legislation, the Postal Service will be unable to fund their benefits plans, stirring up yet another debate in Washington.

Of course we all take the postal service for granted. It’s been there to deliver mail – rain or shine – since 1775. It’s an icon. But is it time to consider casting the USPS aside?

I, for one, must admit that I look forward to my daily trip to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. As a writer working at home, the sound of the mailman driving by around 2:30 pm signals time to take a break, and I look forward to it. Every day I walk to the mailbox with anticipation.

But the anticipation dwindles as I find flip through junk mail, catalogs, and – if I’m really lucky – a piece of personal mail. The truth is – despite having been conditioned for years to expect something exciting in the mail, it rarely comes.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I received a handwritten letter in the mail. Most of us prefer e-mail. It’s faster, and we have the benefit of spell check. Even college acceptance letters are most frequently delivered online today. Of course there is the occasional invitation – weddings, anniversaries, and other big events; many of us still choose the mail to deliver the official invitation, but more often that not we’ve spread the news about the event on facebook, or via e-mail.

Bank statements and bills? I use automated bill pay at my financial institution. And I’ve gone paperless for nearly all financial statements.

And about those catalogs? Save the trees, please.

I do get a sense of gratification when the mailman delivers a package – usually something I am expecting – and that makes my trip to the end of the driveway seem worthwhile.

But Fedex comes by around 10:30 am and the UPS truck is usually here by 4:30 pm. There is no doubt in my mind that packages would still be able to be delivered if the US Postal Service was dissolved. There’s also no doubt in my mind that private delivery companies could pick up the slack to deliver all else.

So then, is it time to wave goodbye to the mailman for good? What do you think?


Dave E said...

The PO may deliver the mail come rain or shine, just not on Sundays, and probably soon, not on Saturdays either. Counter service is typically terrible with lines a mile long and one counter open, typical of the attitude of a monopoly. Letter and package tracking is a joke at best. Fedex and UPS let you track packages pretty much to the minute (around the world as well), if you are lucky the PO might update a packages status a couple of days after it has been delivered.
As a business the PO is past is usefulness and I am not even sure why the Fed is involved in a logistic business anymore anyway.

That said, I have always thought that the arrival of the postman each day indicated that all was well with the world and it would be a shame to see such an institution go but sometime technology and the world marches on. After all how many blacksmiths do you see today?

Liz Fichera said...

I can't remember the last time I went to a post office. I prefer private shops like Mail & More where the service is friendly and the assistance is more efficient.

It would be nice to hear what the PO is doing to run itself more efficiently. All it ever says is that it's running out of money. I'd like to see it privatized and run like a business. The government does not need to be involved in mail delivery, especially when any number of private organizations have proved that it can do it more efficiently.

My two cents (which doesn't even buy a stamp anymore). :)

Anon_e_mouse said...

The USPS is an odd creature - a government-owned private corporation, just like Amtrak. It has been mandated by Congress to keep far more money in reserve for pensions than any normal private corporation would have to do, and it is also mandated - rightly so, as befits its status as a "service" - to deliver anywhere in the US, no matter how remote that location may be. FedEx and UPS deliver to about 95 and 97 percent, respectively, of all addresses in the US - but that leaves a lot of rural areas uncovered. (Our North Carolina home - only 35 miles from Raleigh - didn't get UPS service until about 2000 and FedEx until 2005.) In my opinion, it should never have been spun off - nor should UPS and FedEx have been allowed to "cherry-pick" the profitable services and leave the USPS with the unprofitable ones.

Colette said...

Anon_e_mouse I had no idea there were places UPS and FedEx won't go -- thanks for sharing that.

Liza said...

This topic breaks my heart...I have such wonderful memories attached to the mail I used to receive. Yep, used to. I don't know what the answer is...but I'll hate it if the post office goes.

Anonymous said...

When I travel I send postcards to my grandchildren, and I can't imagine sending condolences to someone I don't know quite well enough to visit other than through a personal note. Those could happen through a private service of course, but I did want to make the point that there is still a (shrinking) space for handwritten correspondence. Also, curiously, there is a thriving blacksmith shop in the town where I live.

Dave E said...

"Also, curiously, there is a thriving blacksmith shop in the town where I live."

I bet there's only one though!

Steve in POK said...

The alternative to the PO is to for you to personally take your envelope to a UPS take-in point, hand them $2 or so, and then have them deliver it in about the same time as the PO - but you can track it! WHOP! I like visiting with John our mail carrier at the mailbox - like the water cooler at work. I would argue that the USPS is efficient given what is has to do. Factoid: didya' know that every piece of mail is 'sniffed' and screened for hazardous materials.

Colette said...

What great reactions! I think it's fascinating that some towns have blacksmiths -- I imagine we could find candle makers and other "trades" as well if we tried. I think the post office would be replaced by private companies though -- as Steve points out -- for a profit.

KarenG said...

I'd miss the option of media mail for shipping books. It's so much cheaper than UPS or FedEx.

Joanne said...

It's sad to think of, and I hope it doesn't happen. Maybe a modified version of what we know as the Post Office can survive some way?

Anonymous said...

UPS and the like are driven by profit, not providing a universal service. USPS is in trouble because it was forced to give up the profitable business. If/when the USPS is sunset it will be another significant step along the road to the USA becoming a third world country. Use it or loose it ;o) Peter

Dave E said...

I have to say that when we first came to the US 16 years ago now, going into the post office to buy stamps to send letters back home really brought home to me that we had actually 'moved' to the US (from the UK. Citizens now too!).

I think the thing is, the post office just isn't run like a business. Have you tried to buy stamps on the web site. I gave up. Want to send a parcel/letter/package. far too many options. And I am sad to sad, for the most part (not all) counter staff that work like they were on their break and you, the customer are an inconvenience.
Any business that does not streamline and adapt is bound to fail in today's world.

Anonymous said...

This may be of interest

Anonymous said...

I like to have postal carriers, and meter reders - humans - come to the house. For one thing, that represents jobs not taken over by computerization.

Too - there is that sense of normalcy - human-ness - almost groundedness, that comes from the tradition. A tangible link to the rest of the world.

That said - I wonder if the carrier isn't, in fact, a bit 'off'. Been here nearly 6 years. It was 5 years before he would return a greeting, or a wave of the hand.

I suspect that some of it is having a house that had had a bad reputation in the past, but it is probably more that we are not native to the area. That hypothesis fails, however, because finally, late this year, the carrier was positively jovial - a couple of times.

Then, the last two weeks, when it has rained, he has left the mailbox door open. Packages left in the rain...

Every year, presents have been left for the carrier - during the summer, cold drinks.

Of course other local attitudes play into this, and they don't get any better. If you didn't live here. At this point, I'd rather not have mail delivery than deal with this character, and that's not a good attitude.

direct mail advertising said...

It's just sad to see what has happened to the postal service over the last few years. I am also hoping that the service does survive in one form or another.