Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why We Need a Postal Service

These are dark times for the US Postal Service. It's billions of dollars in the red. Post offices are closing left and right, and not just rural ones; several in Manhattan are closing, as well. First-class postage will now take a minimum of two days, not one (even just across town?). The elimination of Saturday delivery is a real possibility. Postage rates are going up.

And, let's face it, "going postal" should apply more to the customer than the postal worker. Every time you walk into a post office you find long lines with only one or two folks at the counter, while 14 other postal workers stroll through the back, look at the crowds, make a few jokes, maybe shift a package, then saunter back to the break room.

No matter how much grousing and grumbling those of us in line do for the 45 minutes we're standing there, it's darn certain that at least one of those two folks behind the counter will be scheduled for lunch/bathroom/grocery shopping, put up a "Window Closed" sign, and leave the counter. Not one of the 14 saunterers will come to take his/her place, either. And the line of customers just gets longer. So it's a wonder the folks in line aren't the ones going postal. It's outrageous.

And yet, I'm here to defend this noble, wounded institution. Why? Because:
  1. In this age of email and instant messaging, there is nothing better than going to the mailbox and finding a hand-addressed card, note, or letter from a friend, acquaintance, or family member. The card or stationery, the stamp, the signature and note all took thought and care, even if the handwriting is barely readable. It's special in a way that email and texting can never be.
  2. Wedding invitations, thank you notes, birth announcements, party invitations (I always do real ones + e-vite ones to cover all bases), and Christmas and birthday cards should always come via snail-mail. They are special. They are personal. They demand a little extra effort because they are keepsakes. Electronic versions of all of these get deleted and disappear into air, but real, actual cards are things to enjoy for years. I keep all of my birthday and Christmas cards. I love going through them each year. Can't/won't do that with email, even the lovely Jacquie Lawson e-cards.
  3. Have you sent anything via UPS or FedEx recently? If so, you've got a lot more disposable income than I have. You may as well hand-deliver those wedding invitations and Christmas cards. Airfare to 96 locations is cheaper than sending them individually by FedEx/UPS. Go to their websites and try to get a quick rate quote. Good luck. And yet, for well under $1, you can send a card or letter through the US Postal Service, and it pretty much always gets to where it's going within a couple of days. (By the way, if the check really was in the mail, you'd have it by now.)
  4. Stamps. I love stamps. I love commemorative stamps. No need to stand in the "going postal" line to get them. I order mine online directly from USPS, and they get to me within two days. Plus, you can design your own stamps now. Very cool. UPS and FedEx = no wonderful stamps, just boring informational stuff. Shoot, I say, raise the rate of a first class stamp to $1 (which should include delivery insurance). Still way, way cheaper than a delivery service.
  5. No need to arrange special pick-ups or get out of your jammies to go to a special store to get your missed delivery or mail a fist-full of cards. Mail comes right to your home and office! How convenient is that? Plus, you can dump all those cards in conveniently-located blue mail boxes. They're all over the place.
  6. Flat-rate boxes. Love 'em. If you can fit whatever you're shipping into a USPS small, medium, or large box, it goes out for one flat advertised price. If that 40-lb brick fits into a small flat-rate box? $4.95 (a little cheaper if you pay and print out your label online). It's a real money-saver for our little Elegant Scribbles business, where we often have to ship back and forth. Plus, they usually arrive at the destination within three days.
Yes, the post office needs to clean up its business. My suggestion is to start with the surly, incompetent folks who work in post offices (take fewer breaks; if there are more than three people in line, add more counter help; pay attention to the customer). Go ahead and up the postage rate to $1. And, yes, if need be, do away with Saturday service.

But keep the stamps coming. Stick with those flat-rate mailers. Keep using that cute little guy in your commercials. Keep putting wonderful cards and notes in my own little mailbox. Make Benjamin Franklin proud!


Anonymous said...

Do I smell Snickerdoodles?

MaryB said...

Um, maybe.