A look at the decline of the old-time letter carrier
The number-grinders at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are predicting that by 2026, the number of letter carriers and mail clerks in the Postal Service will fall 28 percent and mail sorters will decrease 50 percent.
Automated sorting systems and big shippers doing their own deliveries are nibbling away at the services of the U.S. Mail. Last year, the Postal Service delivered 149 billion pieces of mail, compared to 212 billion 10 years ago.
Such big bucks companies as Google, Amazon, Walmart, Target and Costco are finding ways to make their own deliveries. A report a few months ago said that Google had ordered 20,000 Mercedes vans to be used by contracted delivery people.
Amazon has offered some markets free same-day delivery service. Big shippers are described as testing delivery by drone. Some supermarkets now accept orders by email and truck the groceries to the customer.
During all this, the Postal Service, in October 2016, announced a five-year plan with four objectives: “1. Deliver a world class customer experience. 2. Equip, empower and engage employees. 3. Innovate faster to deliver value. 4. Invest in our future platforms.”
How’s that for ivory tower gobble-de-gook?
I remember when I was a little runny-nose row house kid, in the early Roosevelt administration, after breakfast some days, my grandmother would write a penny postal card to her best friend, who lived six blocks away.
She would tell me to run it down to the corner mailbox so her friend would get it in the morning mail. Her friend’s reply would be delivered in the afternoon mail.
In the 1970s, I lived for a while six blocks from City Hall. The mailman delivered to my house twice a day.
Today, while things that used to be sent from one place to another on paper or in boxes now move by email or Twitter or Facebook or such innovations, we still get mail delivered once a day.
Six days a week except holidays, there are still guys lugging heavy bags through heat and cold and rain and snow while the experts in Washington ponder how to arrange a world class customer experience.
One customer experience the Postal Service seems to have squeezed into that five-year plan is all kinds of fancy stamps.
The Postal Service publishes a quarterly color glossy 8-by-11-inch 46-page catalog called “USA Philatelic,” which offers special postage stamps, of many sizes and denominations and subjects. There have been 26 fancy stamps so far this year.
The first postage stamps were issued in 1847, and for some quirky emotion in human beings, people have been collecting them ever since. They were made mandatory for mailing in 1855. Some people complained.
Other people started sticking them in albums. Many still do. The United States has issued more than 5,000 different designs so far. So-called commemorative stamps are generally issued in printings of 25 million or more, depending on the subject. Maybe the Postal Service should quit delivering mail and just sell stamps to collectors.
But will paper mail die away? Will we no longer have the pleasure of getting paper Christmas cards, often from long or distant friends? Birthday cards have a warmer feeling than an email. Postcards from folks vacationing in distant places are welcome surprises.
And no robot or drone or electronic computer message can quite replace that friendly guy who leaves your mail every day and, if he sees you, hollers, “Have a good one!”