Tracking USPS' slow burn: Group mail delivery?

U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Juan Padilla puts letters into a mailbox as he walks his delivery route on Dec. 5, 2011 in San Francisco, Calif.

The Postal Service isn’t getting much love these days. It lost almost $16 billion last year. When it tries to close post offices or nix Saturday delivery, all it gets is a fight from Congress. But never fear, USPS. The greeting card industry’s got your back. It’s pushing a list of more than a hundred cost-cutting measures it thinks can keep everyone -- including itself -- in business.

To really deliver a story like this, I immediately call my sources at Stationery Trends Magazine. That’s stationery with an “e” of course. Editor Sarah Schwartz says the greeting card industry has enough challenges, without all the postal woes.

There’s definitely been a rise of e-cards,” she says. “There’s definitely been the rise of facebook birthday greetings.”

And when folks do buy greeting cards, 60 percent of them still get mailed. There’s a lot at stake and that’s an invitation for concern. George White is chairman of the Greeting Card Association’s Postal Affairs Committee, the group that compiled the cost cutting measures. One of the biggest suggestions?

Postal cluster boxes.

You know, like the grouped post boxes you see outside apartment complexes. Only, all over the place.

“It obviously saves a lot of time and therefore money for the mail delivery person to be able to put all the mail in the cluster boxes rather than delivering it to each apartment door or the house door,” White says.

Savings, the group says, of some $4.5 billion annually. The greeting card lobby’s main goals are to save Saturday delivery and keep rates low.

John Callan is managing director of Ursa Major Associates, a group of postal strategy consultants. He agrees that a landscape of cluster boxes would save big bucks.

Although I think it would be quite unpopular with a lot of the general public,” he says. “Those of us who enjoy receiving our mail and parcels delivered to our households wouldn’t want to really give it up.”

But something’s probably gotta go. Whether it’s Saturday delivery, door-to-door service, or something else will be the subject of a hearing tomorrow on Capitol Hill.

UPDATE: To address the comments below, the Postal Service’s requirement to pre-pay nearly $6 billion in health benefits is a major contributor to its annual deficits, an issue we have examined in the past.  

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We keep expecting USPS to act like a government agency but budget like a private-sector company. Who cares if they "lose money"? That's what government agencies DO! They provide a service. We pay for it. No one expects, say, the public school system to turn a profit!

...actually, I bet a lot of conservatives think it should, because to heck with poor children, but that's another argument entirely....

But anyway. You want mail delivery, you don't want to pay for it, you're going to have to be okay with funding it through taxes. We're going to pay for it one way or another. I think USPS is a really crucial service, especially for the elderly, disabled people, and people who live in remote areas, and I'm totally okay with subsidizing it. So yes, I want my mail to come to my mailbox at my house, but I don't labor under the delusion that that happens for free!

Like ObamaCare, moving citizens to postal cluster boxes is something rich democrats in their gated mansions and country clubs will want to apply to everyone else but them. They certainly won’t want to give up door-to-door, six-days-a-week mail delivery. They would much prefer that the middle class, minorities, and the working poor be relegated to postal cluster boxes — the quickest, most efficient way to distribute those hundreds of thousands of welfare checks, food stamps, and other entitlements they dole out like candy to keep the non-privileged class out of sight and out of mind...unless it’s election time, that is. Then the only other place they want to see them other than landscaping their yards, washing their cars, or cleaning their mansions is at the voting booth.

Ms Davidson,

How can you report on the Postal Service deficit without mentioning the bill that is forcing them to pre-fund their health care obligations? It was seemingly designed to cripple them and costs the USPS $5.5 billion a year. That's a third of their deficit. It will eventually rise to $11 billion a year.

It's like reporting on the financial meltdown without mentioning CDOs.

The greeting card thing is cute, but deal with the elephant in the room.

John Callan said

“Although I think it would be quite unpopular with a lot of the general public,” he says. “Those of us who enjoy receiving our mail and parcels delivered to our households wouldn’t want to really give it up.”
I wonder how many of those people not wanting to give up 6 day to the door delivery are t party patriots?? or at least vote Republican. Take away other folks food stamps but don't mess with my daily delivery

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