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Privatize the USPS? Sure; Better Yet, Privatize Our Mailboxes


By Ken Magill

The Direct Marketing Association last week put out a call to members to send letters to Congress urging it to free the United States Postal Service to act more like a real business.

Currently, any changes the financially struggling USPS makes must go through Congress first and, as a result, take a painful amount of time to get approved and implement.

“Now is the time to ask Congress to ‘free the Postal Service’ and remove the shackles that prevent it from operating as a truly independent business,” the DMA urged.

Unshackling the USPS is appealing and should be done. But it’s not enough.

The one true solution to saving postal delivery in America is to allow private access to our mailboxes.

Here’s what the rule says regarding mailbox access: “Except under 2.11, the receptacles described in 1.1 may be used only for matter bearing postage. Other than as permitted by 2.10 or 2.11, no part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle. Any mailable matter not bearing postage and found as described above is subject to the same postage as would be paid if it were carried by mail.”

The 2.10 section referenced above outlines paid periodicals’ access to our mailboxes on Sundays and holiday and. 2.11 dictates newspaper box placement next to mailboxes.

2.11 also says newspaper boxes next to mailboxes can’t display advertising other than the periodical’s name.

And let the ridiculousness ensue:

A Connecticut couple reportedly was recently billed for postage for some block-party invitations they placed in neighbors’ inboxes.

According to a report on Eyewitness News 3’s, the USPS charged the Sickles 44 cents for postage for all 80 invites they placed around their Royal Oak neighborhood.

"One Monday I had a note it is illegal to put these in mailboxes. Day 2 I had a bill for assumed 80 in the box, times 44 cents for the stamp," said Jeff Sickle, according to WSFB. "I haven't paid it yet. I'm trying to have the conversation that no one is willing to have."

That anyone thinks the USPS needs to be protected from private individuals exchanging messages using their own mailboxes illustrates just how inefficient the operation is.

In another example of how ridiculous the current postal setup is, the American Catalog Mailers Association is in the midst of conducting a marketing-practices survey consisting of 25 multi-part questions across different organizational areas.

Translation: No one person in any organization can fill it out.

The ACMA defends the complicated survey by saying it will take the information to the USPS officials, the Postal Regulatory Commission and oversight committees on The Hill to negotiate for, among other things, a drastically lower rate for prospecting mailings.

The idea is that if catalogers can get drastically reduced prospecting rates, they will prospect more, build their house files faster and the USPS will benefit from the resulting increase in books sent to catalogers’ house files.

All fine and dandy, but if private firms were allowed access to people’s mailboxes, an association wouldn’t have to implement a crazy-complicated survey in order to negotiate a one-size-fits-all deal with a bunch of bureaucrats who don’t understand how cataloging works.

If private firms were allowed access to people’s mailboxes, catalogers individually would negotiate their mail delivery expenses with private contractors who have every incentive to understand their customers’ businesses, just as catalogers negotiate with printers now.

“Unshackling” the USPS won’t solve the problem. It’ll still be a monopoly. An unshackled USPS may get more efficient, but mail delivery won’t get sufficiently efficient until the USPS begins to feel some competitive pressure in a market that is privatized from end to end.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: apayingvoter
Date: 2012-01-12 17:48:20

You want our mailboxes to become just one more way of being attacked by corporate greed. At least now we have the right to send and receive private mail without someones hand in our personal lives. If you think deregulation is to serve the people you are WRONG. It is just another ploy to decrease our freedom of living in peace. So why did this elitist neighborhood find it so inconvenient to respect our USPS delivery system and "forget" to put postage on their invitations? Just one more craziness to defy organization and civil peace. We need our government to protect the average tax paying citizen from these wolves who would lay claim to your paycheck before you get it--is that really what you want?
Posted by: Luke Glasner
Date: 2011-11-01 15:40:03

What's ridiculous here is that the USPS charged that guy for delivering to his neighbor's mailboxes. Last time we needed a mailbox, we bought and it is on our property. Really, this law is a symptom of a larger issue - that the Gov't has ceased to respect the rights of property owners in this country. What happened to the Fourth Amendment in this country? How does the USPS, another private entity, have a right to tell me what I can do with my property? How does Eminent Domain exist in this country if we follow this as a guiding principle: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,..." If I have to pay for the mailbox, I have to install the mailbox and I have to pay for the property the mailbox is on, how did the USPS end up owning it? And if they do own it, why don't they pay for it? Seems the price of the stamp is not the only revenue they make here....