Monday, June 29, 2009

Take Those Stamps and Stick 'Em!

by Pa Rock
Social Critic

I went to the post office today to send a birthday gift to my grandson. I asked for one of those flat rate boxes that the U.S. Postal Service is shamefully promoting on television. That is the box system where you can ship anything that will fit for “one low rate.” Lying bastards! Oh, it’s one rate all right, whether the box is filled with feathers or lead bars, but that “low” rate is figured on the lead bars premise, not the feathers. The smallest flat rate box was a pricey ten dollars and thirty-five cents!

I walked out – and my gift is now on its way to Oregon via an alternative carrier.

The postal service used to be an important component of America’s social infrastructure, but its significance and necessity have diminished substantially over the past decade or so. Today the primary purpose of the postal system appears to be the distribution and delivery of junk mail like those ubiquitous Wal-Mart fliers, and serving as a variety store to sell ties and tie pins, ball caps, stationery, stamp art, and all types of assorted trinkets and doodads.

The Internet, of course, has brought the old postal dinosaur to its knees. Email, social networking, and making purchases and paying bills on-line have all slashed their way into what was, just a few short years ago, a monopolistic operation. Even advertisers are abandoning the old approach of covering the world in junk mail for the cheaper and more highly targeted approaches offered by placing their spiels on-line.

The dinosaur is thrashing about in its death throes, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the time is right to put it out of its misery. Here is what I am doing to avoid the necessity of using the United States Postal Service:

1. I shop on-line whenever I can. It saves on gas, and I don’t have to fight my way through malls or those awful big box stores. And, if an item can be ordered by mail, it can be ordered and received quicker via the Internet.

2. When shopping on-line, I look for merchants who pay shipping. Amazon sells virtually everything, and they have a free shipping option on orders of $25 or more.

3. I pay my bills on line, and use auto-pay (bank account or credit card) whenever possible. Paying by auto-pay saves my stamp as well as the merchant's stamp - and hopefully that will eventually help to lower costs.

4. If I have to mail a package, I pack it myself and then use an alternative carrier. Fed Ex and UPS have both become very accessible over the past few years.

5. Email, email, email! It’s lightning quick and essentially free!

If the United States Postal Service seriously wants to survive, and I doubt that it now has the option or maybe even the honest desire to do that - but if it does, it needs to get out of the variety store business and quit putting good money into deceptive television ads. The post office’s energy and resources need to be directed into the quick and efficient transportation of correspondence and packages. That’s why Congress created the agency, and if it can’t meet that basic objective, it’s time to bury the beast and move on.


Mike Box said...

Seems we had this talk when the Pony Express gave way to the Western Union Telegraph and then again when that gave out to the Bell Telephone Company. Here we go again.

Meanwhile Kodak announces it will be ending production of the color film Kodachrome. There's only one place in the world that still develops the photos. It is in Parsons, Kansas. At least they know the end is coming, and quick.

Maybe national healthcare can do to the health insurance industry what the folks at Fed Ex, UPS, and the cyber world did to the post office. Competition and progress can sometimes be a good thing.

Then again, maybe every citizen should get franking privileges and let the Representatives and Senators buy and lick their own stamps.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

I couldn't agree more, Mike. The Post Office needs to be put out of its misery, and the health insurance industry needs to be put out of our misery! And the idea of free postage for members of Congress (franking) is so last century. Let the bastards campaign on their own dime - or use email like the rest of the world!