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 WSFB.com, 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.