FedEx Sends Post Office Death Notice?

Congress Daily reports from the sickbed of the U.S. Post Office:

Speaking at what lawmakers called the first congressional oversight hearing for the the Postal Service in nearly a decade, [Postmaster General John] Potter said that changes in the Postal Service's business model -- dictated by new rules set under legislation enacted in December 2006 -- could lead to dramatic changes to its workforce. "I do not believe any law, however well intended, can repair [our] broken model, because mail volume is no longer growing at a rate sufficient to sustain the ever-expanding delivery network," the one-time mail clerk said.

Amen, brother.

Still, they're not going down without a self-defeating fight. Said Potter: "I do not foresee laying off workers" to cut labor costs, which amount to 80 percent of its budget

Back in ancient times, libertarians were obsessed with privatizing/abolishing the post office. Founding documents of this obsession include Lysander Spooner on The Unconstitutionality of Laws of Congress Prohibiting Private Mails (1884), and Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom. It looks like the rise of FedEx and other private mail carriers have taken care of most of the job already with competition--a shrinking market share and a congressionally-mandated cap on prices combine to make the future look grim--but Reason has been predicting the imminent demise of the post office since at least the '80s, so I suppose we'd better not get too cocky just yet.

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  • ||

    The Post Office is one of the most frustrating experiences I have these days. You walk in, there is a huge line (20 to 30 minutes), and there are all kinds of postal workers milling around, talking on cell phones, doing nothing. In my local Post Office, the lady who retrieves packages from the back will often tell customers waiting in line that if they stare at her, she'll work slower.

    The Post Office is a damn joke. If they lay their workers off, where will they find jobs where they can be rude, lazy and uneducated?

  • Guy Montag||

    . . . but Reason has been predicting the imminent demise of the post office since at least the '80s, so I suppose we'd better not get too cocky just yet.

    Yea, but if you predict it long and often enough it will come true, just like the Leftists and their "population bombs" and "anthropologic climate change". You just have to remember to stop talking about it for a couples of years so you can bring it back fresh, with new words.

    Skip from the USPS to TVA every once in a while. That should work :)

  • ||

    It looks like the rise of FedEx and other private mail carriers have taken care of most of the job already with competition...

    I thought email and e-billing was to blame for the drop in volume. Are people really sending personal letters or paying their cable bill via UPS?

    Could I have sent in my 1040 via FedEx? How would that jibe with the "postmarked by today" rule?

    [Full disclosure: I have an aunt who works for the USPS, and an uncle who used to, too.]

  • ||

    Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that it was illegal for UPS, FedEx, et. al. to carry "letters". IOW, they could ship packages but things like letters, post cards and what not where strictly the purview of the USPS. Did this change?

  • ||

    I think UPS and FEDEX sniped a lot of corporate mail. A lot of important business documents run through UPS now, while I almost never saw certified mail.

    Basically the Post Office has been getting eaten by UPS at the top end of the business and the Internet at the bottom.

  • ||

    So what happens to the guy who's rural home is too isolated to make it worth FedEx's while to deliver there?

  • VM||

    Aw heck - go for it. Since "going postal" has just been replaced by the equally catchy, "going english major". why not.

    joe - is that an issue now? (areas where Fed Ex won't deliver?

  • ||

    Why would serious businesspeople want anything to do with the most laughable, non-business there is?

  • ||

    Lamar,

    2-5% response rate on direct mail.

  • ||

    Joe- I used to live in the country. The post office would not deliver to me. I could either place a mailbox about 3/4 of a mile from the farm house I inhabited or go to the post office in town to get my mail.
    The FedEx truck showed up in town fairly frequently.

    OTOH, I don't think any private business is going to touch the first-class mail market. There's just too much expense and not enough return there.

  • ||

    So what happens to the guy who's rural home is too isolated to make it worth FedEx's while to deliver there?

    Uh, FedEx puts his package in a drop box in town and lets him know it's there? Or they tack on a surcharge? Or they refuse to accept the pain of delivering the package?

    Or... get this... they mail it to him?

    I don't know that there is anyone who lives where FedEx doesn't deliver, but it's not like the world will end if the problem requires some Coasian solution that doesn't put the entire cost on FedEx.

  • ||

    Or... get this... they mail it to him?


    bwahahaha

  • ||

    Lamar,

    Further followup:

    http://www.entrepreneur.com/advertising/adsbytype/directmailandcoupons/article73476.html

  • Other Matt||

    So what happens to the guy who's rural home is too isolated to make it worth FedEx's while to deliver there?

    We just institute background checks for the guy to actually get his mail, make it illegal for him to actually own mail that isn't locked up in a safe, and come down especially hard if he exposes the mail to juviniles.

    That seems to be the panacea solution joe and others some people have come up with for other topics of late.

  • ||

    If you want to live so far from civilization, you can't receive a FedEx parcel... Well isn't that the point of living there to begin with?

    At any rate, why the fuck should I pay to have you're birthday card put on a burro and hauled to your doorstep?

  • ||

    Whose rural home...Juveniles...your birthday card...

    I'm normally not a grammar nazi, but the level of literacy in this thread is getting dangerously low.

  • ||

    My mailbox, if I wanted to use it, is three miles away. I use a P O box in town. UPS and FedEx both deliver to my door, and if I called them, they would probably come to my door to pick up any outgoing stuff. As long as the UPS truck can find you, there is no reason to live in a city.

    Sez me...

    If you think the Post Office loses money on first class envelopes, what does that mean for junk mail?

  • ||

    Honestly, folks, why make things so complicated? Try my easy solution. Build pneumatic tubes everywhere. With tubial access in every home, on every street corner. Everywhere. With bomb sniffers and stuff, too. Can't have pneumatic tube terrorism, after all. After we build the Intertube, then we can shut down the USPS.

  • ||

    So what happens to the guy who's rural home is too isolated to make it worth FedEx's while to deliver there?

    He feels isolated. He gets lonely. He turns to the bottle for help. He drinks himself into a stooper, trips, and falls down the stairs, breaking his neck.

    Alas, poor Yorick! If only he didn't stop receiving first class mail.

  • ||

    jb,
    I make frequent typos when commenting. I rarely correct them as long as my meaning is clear. Indeed, a pet peeve of mine is when someone puts up another comment just to point out he misspelled a word, remove/add an apostrophe, etc.

    In my view, all those errors should go uncorrected. Irregardless, blogging is the most casual form of English.

  • ||

    We already have a system of tubes, it's called the internet.

  • thoreau||

    PL-

    So, what you're saying is that we can replace the USPS with a series of tubes...tubes that carry information. Not a mail truck, but a series of tubes.

    Hmm...

  • ||

    I feel bad for making that joke

  • ||

    Warren:

    I'd say texting and IM are more informal.

    On-topic:

    Wasn't the USPS profitable just a couple years ago? Am I imagining that?

  • ||

    thoreau, in this way, I am taking the initiative to create the Intertube. An Information Supertubeway, if you will.

    This will liberate mankind.

  • ||

    "Irregardless" is not a word.

    And yes, pointing that out is the sole purpose of this post.

  • Moose warning! A Warning Moos||

    DrT:

    careful with what ProLiberate says - he's obviously a shill for big liberation (or, depending on the size of teh Tubez, big lubrication)

  • ||

    VM, you sushi-slandering fool! I'm beholden to Big Vacuum!

    If we had the Intertube, someone could tube me a pizza from Gino's. That really pisses me off to no end. I have a right to high-speed pizza delivery from Chicago.

  • ||

    Not even Kevin Costner can save them now.

  • VM||

    ProL:

    You're right. I've already sullied your sushi. Now I'm victimizing your vacuum!

    (shill for big suck-shun?)

    [keed keed]

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    While we're on the topic of the ancient roots of American libertarianism vis a vis the USPS, we might consider the Congressional authority to "establish post offices and post roads" (U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 8, Clause 7), and what one proto-libertarian thought about the idea. Here are a few more historical documents on the subject.

  • ||

    VM,

    If the Intertube were fully operational, I could send you some sushi. The whole flaw with the Internet is its inability to deliver foodstuffs.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    PL, the video rental store called while you were out. Your copy of Brazil is overdue.

  • VM||

    Let's test it - can we deliver sushi to DAR's home planet of Alderaan?

  • ||

    Sorry Joe... I can't resist.

    "So what happens to the guy who's rural home is too isolated to make it worth FedEx's while to deliver there?"

    The "sender" pays more, and it gets delivered. Note: Fedex/UPS business model doesn't rely on a one-price-for-all-deliveries basis. Money makes it worthwhile for Fedex to deliver to anybody, anywhere, anytime. Money... profit... OH NO! CAN'T HAVE THAT! BUT WHAT IF I CAN'T AFFORD FEDEX!!! WHO WILL PAY!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!

    Sorry.

    CB

  • ||

    This reminded me of something. A few years back I found out about a rather funny Web site called www.suck.com, and the very first thing I read there was a piece about the Postmaster General and the failing fortunes of the USPS. It was written by a "Mr. Mxyzptlk" -- our own Nick Gillespie.

    I still remember that piece after ... seven years!?!

  • ||

    VM,

    I find DAR's lack of faith in the Intertube disturbing.

    D.A. Ridgely,

    That's true, Brazil had tubes. In fact, wasn't that a nod to 1984? In any event, I don't believe they went beyond mere government use of the Intertubial Network. I have a larger vision, one where ever man, woman, and child will have access to a tube. Universal tubialism.

  • ||

    Since I consistently receive packages addressed to my house for some guy who doesn't live there, even after I have called about a hundred times to say that this guy doesn't live here - please stop sending me his deliveries, I'd trust UPS with one of my packages about as far as I could throw one of their trucks. Everyone I spoke with on the phone sounded completely brain dead.

    Never had a problem with FedEx though. Knock on wood - I've never lost a letter or package with the USPS either. USPS is doomed because online bill paying rocks.

  • ||

    OTOH, I don't think any private business is going to touch the first-class mail market. There's just too much expense and not enough return there.


    Actually, it's because they get prosecuted for it if they don't price well above the USPO's rate for the service.

  • ||

    Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that it was illegal for UPS, FedEx, et. al. to carry "letters". IOW, they could ship packages but things like letters, post cards and what not where strictly the purview of the USPS. Did this change?

    I believe the USPS indeed has a legal monopoly on delivery of "first class letters" (not sure how defined) but that is obviously becoming harder and harder to enforce.

    I read somewhere (can't find the reference now, dammit, but it was probably the book The Sovereign Individual) that when fax machines came out on the market, it was (still is?) technically illegal to use them to fax somebody a letter. Technically, to comply with the law, if you wanted to fax someone a letter you were supposed to go to the Post Office and fax it from there to the recipient's local Post Office, where they could pick it up. Of course, nobody ever did this and as far as I know there was no real attempt at enforcement.

  • ||

    No doubt that all of the direct mail campaigns going on out there depend on the low cost of bulk mail. If the USPS disappeared, I wonder what would happen?

    On the flip side, that enormous industry might produce sufficient revenues to support a private sector business in first-class mail. Odd that direct mail seems to be unharmed by the Internet and e-mail. In fact, if anything, the reverse may be true.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    VM,

    How'd you get my home address?!? At least I don't hail from Kamino, which I hear is Mr. Bailey's home. (Either that, or he once drove an El Kamino, I forget which.)

    PL,

    Put not your faith in intertubes, my son. No matter how well the doctor says they've been tied off, use a condom!

  • Mike Laursen||

    and what one proto-libertarian thought about the idea:

    "and it will be a scene of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State"

    Thomas Jefferson foresaw Ted Stevens?!

  • thoreau||

    No doubt that all of the direct mail campaigns going on out there depend on the low cost of bulk mail. If the USPS disappeared, I wonder what would happen?

    That sounds like an argument for privatization...

  • ||

    Well, if we got rid of the US Post Office you're going to make a lot of patent lawyers and agents REALLY unhappy....(date something gets sent Express Mail is considered the active date. Awfully useful when trying to get things in by certain deadlines and maintain rights.)

    On the other hand, if we only had Fed Ex and the like, junk mail would really go down.

    (and by the way, why haven't we ever gotten around to putting "prices" on email--even a fraction of a cent would make spam inefficient.)

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Actually, "first-class mail" is a bit of a legal term of art, defined by the courts as "matter closed against postal inspection." See, e.g., United States v. Van Leeuwen, 397 U.S. 249 (1970) and, generally, Title 39, U.S.C. and C.F.R. for more than you'll ever want to know about such things.

  • ||

    I read somewhere before (but can't find the article now) that the USPS makes money on first class mail delivery, but has to use that profit to subsidize their money-loseing package delivery. The gist of the article was that if Congress didn't require the USPS to deliver packages as well, then they could dump that service and be profitable.

    Like a said, that's from memory and I can't find the reference, so take it with all the grains of salt you feel are necessary.

  • ||

    So what happens to the guy who's rural home is too isolated to make it worth FedEx's while to deliver there?

    I thought you were against government-subsidized sprawl.

  • Meat Puppet||

    I work in the industry, and it is my understanding that junk mail subsidizes 1st class.

    We pay a lower per piece rate, but we also presort and bundle the mail by carrier route and deliver it (at our expense) to the appropriate USPS bulk mail center (aka big post office).

  • ||

    USPS is doomed because online bill paying rocks.

    It's finally at a point where I can pay for pretty much everything via credit card. I pay that bill in full electronically and get a nice 2% kickback to my daughter's 529 plan. And I hardly ever use USPS.

    Sweet.

  • ||

    That sounds like an argument for privatization. . . .



    You busted me again, thoreau. I lack subtlety, truly.

    There are, incidentally, ways out of some junk mail. Other than establishing the Intertube, that is.

  • ||

    We Await Silent Trystero's Empire.

  • D.E.A.T.H.||

    Don't Ever Antagonize The Horn

  • ||

    For all those complaining about post office service: nobody's making you use it. if private alternatives are so much better, use them.

    And other than that, I don't know what there is to complain about. Since the post office is entirely self-funded, you can't complain it eats tax dollars.

    Basically, USPS already acts like a private entity, and the fact that it's still the #1 carrier of mail proves that it's a successful one. (yes, you can send a letter with FedEx or UPS).

    Some commenters have claimed there's a statute requiring FedEx and UPS to charge "more" than USPS for carrying a "letter." If so, then my argument totally fails. I'm pretty skeptical about the existence of such a statute though - pretty hard to pass a law requiring private business to charge *higher* prices. I'd love to see a link.

  • ||

    Just doing some quick Googling, this link doesn't say what exists, but hints at what might exist. Check this out:

    The postal monopoly would also be loosened to allow more private delivery of letters. A letter might be carried outside of the USPS mail under three new circumstances:

    · Amount paid is at least 6 times the first ounce First-Class rate

    · Letter weighs at least 12.5 ounces, and

    · Such delivery is already within the scope of USPS regulations suspending current law.

  • ||

    MP -who is giving 2% kickbacks on credit cards these days. I am stuck with 1%.

  • ||

    If the Intertube can be used to deliver packages, why not people? Yes, imagine delivering your tax check to the IRS in person. Why, with the Intertube, I could get the satisfaction of slugging a tax collector as I drop off my check.

    Ah, the future.

  • Guy Montag||

    So, what you're saying is that we can replace the USPS with a series of tubes...tubes that carry information. Not a mail truck, but a series of tubes.

    BAH! Think bigger! How about a super highway? We can call it the intertube-super-highway. I hear intertubes work better on highways too. Congratulate me for taking the initiative to create the intertube-super-highway. I am sure Vint Serf will back me up, well, if he was a big contributor to my campaigns and I used the oppressive police power of government to assist him and his San Francisco Bay Area buddies toward their goals . . . okay, don't repete that.

    Side note: If you want to check the Economic "proof" of how the USPS is some money spewing success story and how the VA is a shining example of how medical care should be for all, plus make a massive profit, check Ezra Klein's blog. He was at CATO talking about the latter recently too.

  • ||

    Here in Canada, we find the post office unreliable; we use private couriers..

  • ||

    MP -who is giving 2% kickbacks on credit cards these days. I am stuck with 1%.

    Fidelity was. They closed the program, unfortunately, and now only offer 1.5% via Amex. But they didn't kick out existing members, so I still have my 2% Mastercard plan.

    For about two years, I also had a Citibank card that paid 5% on groceries and gas. It was super-sweet.

  • ||

    NY City used to have pneumatic tubes for sending docs between buildings back in the early 1900s. (and so did lots of other cities).

    One of the big advantages of the US Mail and sending stuff non-certified/registered is that there is no record of the delivery, unlike sending something via UPS/FedEx. For example, (and this is only a hypothetical), if you lived in California and ordered cigars from an internet vendor and paid using a money order, the vendor would send the cigars to you via USPS. Effectively, no record of the transaction. However, if the cigars are shipped using UPS, then the California FTB can subpoena/demand UPS's shipping records from this hypothetical vendor and then send tax bills to the people that ordered cigars in CA. But, that's just a hypothetical. It's never happened in real life.

  • ||

    Example of a successful privatization of a state-owned postal service: Deutsche Post.

  • ||

    So what happens to the guy who's rural home is too isolated to make it worth FedEx's while to deliver there?

    The small rural Wisconsin town next to the one I grew up in, (Rochester) the post office refused to deliver mail because it was too rural. Everyone who lived in Rochester had a P.O. box and had to drive to pick up their mail everyday. Amazingly they could get FedEx and UPS delivered to their door.

    Stop peddling that myth joe.

  • ||

    So what happens to the guy who's rural home is too isolated to make it worth FedEx's while to deliver there?

    He shouldn't be living out in the country anyway, since that represents the worst kind of auto-driven "sprawl" development. Mandatory postal service to him just represents a government subsidy of his destructive lifestyle that we should get rid of. If we wants mail, he should move into a state-planned block of apartments near a mass transit line.

    Isn't that the party line, joe?

  • Guy Montag||

    He shouldn't be living out in the country anyway, since that represents the worst kind of auto-driven "sprawl" development. Mandatory postal service to him just represents a government subsidy of his destructive lifestyle that we should get rid of. If we wants mail, he should move into a state-planned block of apartments near a mass transit line.

    Thank G_d I did not yet have my morning mocha while reading that. I would be demanding $4.14 and a monitor/keyboard cleaning :)

  • ||

    RC Dean: Somehow I think the person that lives in the "country" and commutes to an office everyday can just get the package delivered to the office, then put it in his Hummer or private helicopter or whatever. You are confusing the exurbs with the country.

  • ||

    He shouldn't be living out in the country anyway, since that represents the worst kind of auto-driven "sprawl" development. Mandatory postal service to him just represents a government subsidy of his destructive lifestyle that we should get rid of. If we wants mail, he should move into a state-planned block of apartments near a mass transit line.

    that doesn't make any sense. country does not equal sprawl.

    and private developers love t.o.d. they are not generally designed by governments.

  • ||

    I'm pretty skeptical about the existence of such a statute though - pretty hard to pass a law requiring private business to charge *higher* prices. I'd love to see a link.



    A quick Google hits Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postal_Service#Statutory_monopoly

    with some cites in the entry.

    Trying going down the results of post office monopoly first class mail for further details..

  • ed||

    blogging is the most casual form of English

    It took me less than 10 seconds to paste this reply into a mail program and spell-check it. So not only are we English majors competent killers, we take pride in our ability to spell. Typos signify both intellectual and physical laziness. Clean it up, folks. I'm watching you. And I have an itchy trigger finger.

  • Allen||

    "Basically the Post Office has been getting eaten by UPS at the top end of the business and the Internet at the bottom." - Toxic

    That was my thought (and some others as I can see). And note that the issue isn't a lack of growth, just not at the rate they need to keep up with their growth in costs.

  • ||

    my favorite post office conspiracy theory

    http://www.qwantz.com/index.pl?comic=708

  • Elliot Essman||

    I live in a small New England town. I find my local post office, and the post offices in both neighboring towns, friendly, efficient, and competent in all respects. My mail delivery is punctual, my letter carrier friendly. The FedEx, UPS and DHL delivery people seem similarly efficient and professional.

    Maybe the real problem lies in cities and clogged suburbs. I've lived in them before, and had less consistent service from the USPS.

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