Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Some things you probably didn't know about our Postal Service

News Item: The Postmaster General says that the United States Postal Service will be broke by August 2012. Supposedly, if the economy doesn't improve or Congress doesn't act, our mail will cease to be delivered a year from now. Phooey!

That's a classic cry for help, and he'd have been better off keeping his mouth shut. Why? Because there is plenty you don't know about the United States Postal Service, not the least of which is how they deliver the mail.

A few years ago, I found myself in a Center City bar sitting next to a FedEx pilot (off duty, I presumed) who related to me the details of how anything that the Postal Service gets winds up on a FedEx plane. I started out by kidding him about how he liked the movie "Cast Away," and one thing led to another. It turns out that I learned a valuable lesson before the beer got to me. That's right kids, it pays to drink. FedEx has a partnership deal with the USPS to fly their stuff around the world. His key line to me was, "How do you think all that stuff gets there overnight?" The Postal Service doesn't have the infrastructure, so they sub-contract the work.

Tell me the last time you saw a USPS airplane. [tick ... tick ... tick] You have never seen one. That is because all air freight and international package delivery is handled by FedEx and/or the United States Parcel Service (UPS). You have seen plenty of UPS and FedEx planes, and tons of their trucks on the road. That's because the USPS is in a partnership with FedEx and UPS to handle their overseas mail and Express Mail deliveries. You didn't think that the USPS was running that stuff all over the world by themselves, did you? HA.

For some interesting exchanges and a lot of news about the subject, click here and read about how the USPS is spending their money. They have been in a partnership with FedEx and UPS for over 10 years. The next time you send something Express Mail or send a package that has to go through the air, think about it.

So, the Postmaster General is crying to the government for help. He wants them to help the USPS the same way it helped the auto makers and the big banks: A big bailout. Chances are, the general public will support such a plan (moreso than it did for the banks and auto makers) because they think that the mail is being delivered by the USPS. Here's a clue: Order something and track the package. For instance, order a pair of fancy sunglasses from Oakley. They give the package to DHL and a few days (and a few thousand miles) later, DHL turns it over to USPS and they deliver it to your mailbox. Just like George wanted credit for Elaine's Big Salad, the USPS wants credit for delivering the package to you. In fact, it's a team effort. Why Oakley turns gives it to DHL in the first place is anyone's guess. I'd guess that it's cheaper for them to give it to DHL instead of straight through the USPS. And that should be your second clue as to why the USPS is in trouble.

My guess is that the USPS doesn't want the general public to know that they have a lot of help delivering the mail. Especially now that they are crying "poor" and asking the government for help. There is much more to the Postal Service's troubles than delivering a letter for 45 cents. Their troubles run deep, and bailing them out may be a mistake. One could maintain that private industry could deliver the mail as efficiently as the Postal Service. Why? Because private industry is already delivering the mail as efficiently as the Postal Service. All that's left is giving them the mailboxes and the rights to deliver letters and those annoying catalogs and junk mail.

Perhaps then we could get the annoying catalogs and junk mail to stop. Why? Because private industry knows better than to waste their time giving consumers something that they do not want.

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