Saturday deliveries ... a thing of the past?
I was once a mailman. vou are probably thinking, “What hasn’t he done?” I worked for the Glenside post office during two Christmas breaks when I was attending college. The pay was good, I was pretty much on my own and everyone seemed happy.
In those days mail was delivered twice a day and during the Christmas mailing season Eeveryone sent cards back then) they’d take the bigger routes and break them in half. The regular mailman kept half, the Christmas mailman Eme) got the other half.
I had my own post office storage box key and after I finished my morning run – and went home to Oak Road for lunch – I’d go to the large box located in the route itself and pull out my afternoon delivery packs.
My route was in the Twickenham Village section of Glenside. There were lots of hills EI think that’s why I got it and the regular guy kept the less hilly portion) and there was one nasty dog that delighted in chewing up the mail as quick as I slid it through the slot. I enjoyed it, though, and gained admiration for the mailman who does his rounds in all kinds of weather. Delivering mail in rain or snow is, as they say, a bear.
So as an alumnus of sorts, I have paid attention to the ongoing financial debacle that has been the post office of late. And I was surprised to read the other day that the postal crisis is solved, they simply won’t deliver mail Ejunk, advertising, bills or love letters) to you on Saturdays anymore Estarting in August) and that little display of efficiency will save a whole bunch of money Enote, that is not a technical term).
But wait a minute, the government just announced that they actually made money in the first quarter of fiscal 2013 - $100 million – delivering mail and now, to celebrate that milestone they’ve opted to save even more money by not delivering it quite so often. The figures tell us that the post office earned $17.7 billion in revenue against $17.6 billion in operating expenses, I’m not an accountant but that looks like a profit to me. So what’s the problem? Total expenses actually decreased by 1 percent from the year before. That should be seen as good news.
Well, here’s where it gets dicey, Congress is involved. So even though the post office department is an independent agency and gets not one dime of tax money, Congress controls expenditures. Makes no sense, right? That means they’ve decided how to prudently manage the operation’s finances and, as a result, it’s a train wreck.
One of the things they mandate is that the post office pre-pay for expected retiree health care costs. Pre-pay? Expected? That means someone there has a crystal ball and knows that so-andso might need something health-care related at some point down the road. Who says Congress isn’t omnipotent? They clearly know stuff and you’ve got to pre-pay for it even if it never comes about. With that kind of knowledge of the future you’d think they’d be making a killing in the stock market.
The people working at the post office don’t think cutting Saturday delivery is the solution to the problem. The offices will be open, packages will still be delivered and mail will find its way to your post office box. They are encouraging the deep thinkers in D.C. to look for other ways to balance the finances.
The postal service is a bargain. I can spend 45 cents on a stamp, stick it on an envelope and they will deliver it for me to anywhere I desire in the whole darn rnited States. It has always amazed me that they are so good at it.
In my small business, over the years, I have frequently shipped packages and my vehicle of choice is the post office’s Priority Mail. In eight years I never lost a package nor did one coming to me ever go astray. The private companies no longer have my confidence because I have seen them leave parcels for me out in the rain, in front of my door and have watched the driver’s walking down my driveway signing my name to the delivery receipt – and off they go.
When I challenged one of them about that I was told, “it was for your convenience, otherwise you’d have to go to our distribution center to get it.” But how convenient for me is it if someone sees it sitting outside, helps themselves to it, and departs? I’d call and they’d tell me, “tough luck, you signed for it” Eeven though I really didn’t) and headaches would ensue.
I’m a dinosaur I guess. I don’t flock to the Internet Eas they suggest we all do) to pay my bills online Etoo many account numbers I need to expose), I do use email, but haven’t forgotten how to mail a letter. I ship packages Ethat part of their business went up 4 percent) and, when push comes to shove, advertisers will still use the mail because they are a tangible, not a fleeting image across a computer screen. Total mail volume, by the way, 43.5 billion pieces last year as opposed to 43.6 the year before. Looks to me like they aren’t bleeding customers.
So the business itself is doing fine, the boondoggle here appears to be Congress meddling in, tah dah, the health care aspect of it. No pun intended, but it makes me sick.
Ted Taylor can be reached at ted@ tedtaylor.com.