Why the United States should get out of the business of delivering the mail.

The United States should not be in the business of operating a business.  That is an arena strictly for those experienced in private enterprise.  The United States Postal Service is a case in point.

After losing billions of dollars, in an attempt to stem the tide of red ink, it was decided that hundreds of rural post offices would be closed.  This was a logical decision.  If private industry operates at a loss, cuts are made to reduce those losses.

It was appalling to learn that last week the Postal Service had reversed their decision, and they will now be keeping those post offices open.  They proudly announced that they listened to their customers.  They obviously didn’t ask me my opinion!

If UPS or FedEx were operating the postal service, they would listen to their customers as well, but they would do so in conjunction with watching their bottom line.  Private industry only has one option – stay profitable, or close the door.

The Postal Service continues to reveal their lack of understanding of what it takes to stay profitable.  They indicated that while keeping these nonproductive offices open, they would cut back the hours of the employees working there.  Cutting back hours will never compensate for the costs of maintaining the real estate, paying the electric bills, the rent, and all of the additional costs that go along with keeping the doors of a public facility open.

An expression that is frequently bantered around our shop is take care of the goose.  If you don’t take care of the goose that lays the egg, there won’t be any more eggs.  The customer always comes first, unless the customer is jeopardizing the health of the goose.

We annually assess the success, or lack thereof, of each product in our line.  If a product does not generate adequate sales and profits it is discontinued.  We recognize that in discontinuing some products we may upset some of our customers.  We regret that.  But if we only listened to what our customers wanted, and didn’t mind our p’s and q’s, we could conceivably jeopardize all of the services we offer.

It takes courage to draw that line in the sand and make difficult decisions that we know will potentially alienate some of our customers.  Obviously, our government lacks the courage to make similar difficult decisions.

A couple of years ago, we looked closely at a service we offered, that of making customized products for customers.  It was a service that we had offered for years.  We recognized, however, that while it was making a number of our customers happy, it was a detriment to the overall health of the company.  We closed the department.

If I were managing the United States Postal Service, I would look closely at which storefronts are profitable and which ones are not.  I would close the ones that would be bleeding us dry.

I would stop all rural deliveries on Saturday, and look into closing all post offices on Saturday as well.  On-line banking and e-mails have changed the game plan.

I would look into self-service, which would include adding thousands of dispensing machines for stamps in established retail outlets.  Additionally I would install automated mailing systems similar to options that one has for self checkout at grocery stores.

I would look into competing with UPS and FedEx and see what percentage of that business I could get back.

Bottom line, there is no accountability for profit with a government run business model. There appears to be no incentive to stem losses or to generate profits.

Their inability to hold to the difficult decisions that they had made previously to close offices, their spineless response to the customers that complained, and their inability to modernize the services they offer makes it painfully clear that they should get out of the business of providing this service for their citizens, step aside, and let the private sector take over.

Their keeping the offices open may have pleased the vocal minority that complained, but it has merely added to the tax burden of all as we continue to subsidize the losses they accrue daily.





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5 Responses to Why the United States should get out of the business of delivering the mail.

  1. Tim says:

    Good one! I’m with you 100%. I saw Germany make the transition from public to private mail service without a single hitch. Basically DHL took over and things worked very well from then on. And best of all they actually make money!! Check it out here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Post
    We lived in a small town and there was talk of closing our local branch. But the new company kept it open and turned it into a little Kiosk that also sold magazines, and other small things along with mail service. Perfect setup.
    Are we too dumb to do the smart thing?

  2. Jake Reedyk says:

    Well said, Peter! Should we contact our representatives and let them know that we want to save some money, by stopping this king-sized hemmorage?

    • By all means Jake! However, they’re probably as spineless as the Federal government when it comes to making the tough call. They are there to please – not to make hardcore decisions.

  3. Joe Knutson says:

    So much (mis)information is being tossed around on the subject. What Peter says, rings true to me, though I’ve waded through arguments to the contrary. One of which I’ll post here:


    Private enterprise is generally more nimble than government entities. Imagine trying to make sweeping changes, but having to run your plans through a system like congress! So often balanced plans are stripped of the unpleasant consequences of extended services. To get healthy, often one must swallow a bitter pill!

    It looks like this patient has passed on those bitter pills for years. Now the postal service finds itself on life support, and it may be best to simply pull the plug!

  4. Sherri S says:

    No wonder the USPS is broke. They invested 30 million dollars in Lance Armstrong Sponsorship fees! Read it here.

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