Tag Archives: Usps

This is why we can’t have nice things

Tonight, I noticed a card in my mail box that encouraged me to keep my (nonexistent) pets at bay so they wouldn’t attack carriers, meter readers, newspaper delivery folks and, of course, neighbors’ children.

Most rational people heed these general life tenets without a formal notice from the USPS. Though, I find this notice curious for a variety of reasons:

  1. I live in a condominium. Nobody’s pets are untethered and running around attacking people.
  2. As a former paper delivery boy, I can understand this being a legitimate worry. But it doesn’t apply to my building.
  3. All of our meters are wireless. Nobody goes into units to check these things anymore.
  4. It’s a condo building. Even when I received physical paper delivery, there was a 0.0000001% chance of dog mauling.
  5. The notice says that there are “deaths” caused by animal attacks. While statistically possible, I highly doubt that many meter readers, newspaper delivery people and mail delivery folks face a probable likelihood of death by dog mauling at work. They’re more likely to die driving to and from places.
  6. The card notes that “Each year, more than 4.5 million people — most of them children and the elderly — are bitten by dogs.” That sounds like a scary number, but it’s about 1.44% of the total U.S. population. I doubt many children and seniors are delivering mail and reading meters. I’d also posit that fewer children are delivering papers due to lower print news media demand. Most of these bites are probably from the dogs of their friends.

The U.S. Postal Service is in bad shape. Post Offices rightly need to be closed, and downsizing seems like an inevitability. Few people doubt the need for reform. But, these post cards? Really?

I doubt they were produced at an actuarially insignificant cost. Likewise, I also doubt people will get the cards and change their behavior at a level that will make a statistical impact that will change outcomes. “Oh, you mean leaving my Doberman out in the yard at night has risks? Who knew?”

I was attacked by a few dogs in my day delivering The Sun Press. I bought mace and that solved the problem. Postal delivery folks have had mace since 1995, at least in Cleveland.

My problem is that I have serious concerns as to whether these post cards were a cost effective decision. For starters, they were printed by the U.S. Postal Service. I have no idea the scope of the printing, but given that they were distributed in my building (with an infinitesimally small chance of mauling), I have good reason to believe that they weren’t distributed thoughtfully.

Aside from their direct costs, the labor costs of transporting, sorting, and delivering them to consumers probably made a pretty big dent in productivity. The stamp area says that they are “First Class Mail.” And that the “postage and fees” were paid by the USPS with Permit No. G-10.

I seriously doubt USPS paid themselves for mailing these. If they did, that’s stupid. If they didn’t, while the costs are imaginary, the costs of having postal carriers pointlessly deliver them to condominiums like mine are quite tangible. Given the budget woes of the USPS, don’t they have bigger fish to fry? That’s just me.

Futile Efforts to Curtail Junk Mail

I must confess that these stickers (pictured above) in my mail room are beginning to annoy me. For full disclosure, I actually kind of like junk mail — if only for the entertaining advertisements. This is odd, because I am not a lonely senior in dire need of contact from the outside world.

Why, then, do these stickers bother me? They’re ineffective or encourage undesirable and probably illegal behavior. That’s why.

In a condominium like mine, only two people have access to these mailboxes — tenants and the postman. Unlike houses in suburbia or crowded mailboxes in older cities, people can’t walk up and stuff your box with tripe. To get into your mailbox, at least at Midtown Alexandria, you need to mail something there, buy a condo, or get a job at the USPS.

These stickers should read “Please hasten the demise of the U.S. Postal Service” or “I’d prefer to pay more for stamps.”

Here’s why these stickers are pointless:

  • According to the Consumer Postal Council: “Businesses and institutions that mail in bulk, which account for 85 percent of USPS revenue, receive discounts from the First Class rate.” Junk mail makes up a decent amount of bulk rate mail. Eliminating or reducing that makes the operations of the U.S. Postal Service more expensive, and you can guess what that will do to stamp prices and delivery schedules.
  • Clearly, the USPS understands the value of this advertising, as they use it is a marketing tool. What rational person is going to believe that postal carriers are going to act in irrational ways that could potentially harm their employment?
  • I haven’t double checked the law, but I am fairly sure that postal carriers aren’t given the discretionary authority to determine what mail to deliver or not. I am also pretty sure it is illegal for them to interfere with mail delivery.
  • Encouraging mail carriers to do anything other than deliver addressed mail sets a bad precedent. Because what is junk mail? Are you giving the carrier license to destroy any mail that looks like junk? What if he or she mistakes your much needed replacement credit card or other important document as junk mail? While I’m not a lawyer, it seems like if you sued for damages, they’d have a pretty solid defense. After all, you asked for that screening without stipulating concrete procedures or boundaries. Better to keep the law that all addressed mail gets delivered.
  • Unlike telemarketers, there is no “opt-out” or “do not mail list.” It would be infeasible and costly to administer if we forced USPS to do that. I don’t know if you’ve seen the news, they’re not flush with cash right now.
  • Last, but not least, the private sector already offers a fairly comprehensive opt-out feature. After all, it’s not in the best interest of bulk mailers and advertisers to waste their money.
The FTC’s website even provides this handy description:

The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years. When you register with this service (for a $1 fee), your name will be put on a “delete” file and made available to direct-mail marketers. However, your registration will not stop mailings from organizations that do not use the DMA’s Mail Preference Service. To register with DMA’s Mail Preference Service, go to www.dmachoice.org.

The FTC publishes a free brochure on Shopping by Phone or Mail. For a list of publications, visit www.bulkorder.ftc.gov; write to Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580; or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357), TDD (202) 326-2502.

I wanted to print this out and mail it to each of the people in my building who have made my trip to the mailbox both uglier and more aggravating, but I think I’ll just leave it online instead.

Further Reading:

GAO: Network RightsizingNeeded to Help Keep USPSFinancially Viable

CATO: Privatizing the U.S. Postal Service

BusinessInsider: 11 Things You Should Know About The U.S. Postal Service Before It Goes Bankrupt

 

Thursday Links

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