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Monday, February 23, 2015

Eliminate the Postal Service

It's gotten very difficult to mail a letter these days. There are no mailboxes along my ten mile commute. Georgia Tech has contracted with an outside company to handle outgoing mail. To send a piece of mail requires filling out a form with an account number and many other universities have similar practices. Mail into or out of the university can tack on several days. I sent a piece of mail from Georgia Tech in Atlanta to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia--two weeks from sender to recipient.

Why do I have to send mail in this world with email, texts and instant messages? Some places require "original receipts". Some government agencies require forms sent by mail or fax, and I've given up trying to find a reliable fax machine with someone who knows how to work it. It's still not always easy to transfer money to another person or company with a physical check. I stopped using the Netflix DVD service because it lost its value when I had to make a special trip to mail the DVD back. It's easier to find a Redbox than a mailbox.

Meanwhile most of the mail I receive is junk, or magazines, which look better on the iPad, or official letters that I have to scan to keep an electronic copy since they didn't email it to me. I do get the occasional birthday card or hand-written thank you note, a nice Southern tradition but we can live without it. USPS also does package delivery but that is often handled better by private provider such as UPS and FedEx.

So what if we just eliminated the US Postal System, say with a three-year warning? There is nothing that can't be replaced by electronic means and a planned closing would force the various government and businesses make that final push. We'll reminisce about mail like we did about the telegram. But why keep an inferior technology alive? It's time to move on.

8 comments:

  1. Actually package delivery of simple things is now something for which USPS is vastly more convenient than UPS or FEDEX. Their 2-day priority mail flat-rate boxes are cheap and easy to understand. UPS and FEDEX rates are much higher than they used to be; we can send official things easily because they already have pick-ups scheduled for our offices, but for sending stuff from home, they are pretty inconvenient.

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  2. USPS receives zero money from taxpayers. It is funded by people willingly paying for the services it offers. Why do you want to eliminate a service that some people clearly want and are willing to pay for? Its existence doesn't bother you, and getting rid of it will only strictly reduce the number of options available to you.

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  3. And for all non-correspondence (e.g., actual goods)?

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  4. Its always the last 1% that take 99% of the time. You'd have to think up a replacement for registered mail, how to submit passport applications in person to a fedgov representative (historically this has been your local postmaster). I suppose you need a replacement for money orders. There would be contracting issues WRT various .gov departments currently being able to default to USPS for shipping but you'd have allegations of favoritism, kickbacks, all that fun stuff WRT UPS vs Fedex. Fedgov elected politician "franking privileges" would have to be replaced by some bottomless fedex/ups expense account.

    Possible but it'll be a lot of work. Weirdly enough the USPS is profitable, but axes to grind make it a failure on paper.

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  5. Nobody else delivers a letter anywhere in the country for the same rate. By the same logic, why not eliminate buses? After all, folks like "use" no longer have much use for them.

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  6. 15% of the US doesn't have internet access (http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users-by-country/)

    of those that do, many only have access via their phones (and not just iPhones and Galaxies... think about the popularity of low-end apps like WhatsApp).

    So, people would need to have a data plan to receive an official document that they could store on their phone (or on some freemium cloud storage service... which is probably not the best place for average ppl to store sensitive documents)

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  7. I use the USPS media mail at least 20 times a year (when I sell used books). It is an excellent service. There are 3 post offices near my 7 mile commute and several more mail boxes. I am very happy with my service from post office. I will be greatly affected if USPS is killed.

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  8. Perhaps Atlanta/Fedex/GeorgiaTech has conspired to eliminates all convenient USPS options, but many of us still have easy access to mailing a letter. Many are not fortunate enough to have a Kindle (or iPad); those that do, know that amazon ships most of their products via USPS.

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