The Check's In The Mail

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Postman

More news on an old Reason subject:

With the average weight of periodicals down 10.4 percent year-over-year because of fewer ad pages, the United States Postal Service reported a $1.9 billion loss for the March quarter. It will raise stamp prices (by 2 cents for a first class letter) on Monday in an attempt to bring in more cash.

A year ago in the second quarter USPS lost $707 million.

USPS reported the biggest fall in the volume of mail it handles since 1971. That fall, and other effects of the ongoing recession, mean the agency might wind up short some $1.5 billion by the end of this fiscal year.

During the quarter, the service handled 43.8 billion bits of mail, down by 7.5 billion items from the same quarter a year ago.

Revenue fell to $16.9 billion, down from $18.9 billion in the March quarter of 2008.

Since it was reorganized in 1971, the postal service has accumulated a deficit of almost $7 billion. At the end of its most recent fiscal year in September, that total deficit was only $4.7 billion.

Whole parcel here. More from the Washington Post here.

As Associate Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward said in a post two years ago, "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."

Yesterday, The Simpson's 20th anniversary was honored with a stamp collection. Maybe when the post office puts out a Lysander Spooner postage stamp, we can finally start celebrating.    

Predecessor Mike Riggs' post here. Reason kicks the post office while it's down here, here and here.

NEXT: More Americans Faithless

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  1. Yo, fuck the USPS.

  2. I’ve not reread the old posts and I don’t recall the points made well enough to say that I am not repeating what has already been said, but here goes:

    One can make an argument that a postal service is a necessary “Social Good” that must be provided and therefore subsidized. However, it does not follow that the USPS or (in my case) Canada Post or any other national post office be given privileges or partial monopolies.

    If it is “essential”, then there are many ways to guarantee service without having a self-serving government agency.

    [BTW, this should not be construed as a claim that private delivery companies are some apotheoisis of delivery service. I’ve had crappy service from many of them, too. But at least I have the choice not to deal with them any more. (I’m looking at you, Purolator.)

    On the specific subject of the increase, it seems to me that raising your rates is not the way to encourage more customers. But that’s just my take on supply and demand.

  3. Maybe when the post office puts out a Lysander Spooner postage stamp, we can finally start celebrating.

    Don’t you mean, “a Lysander Spooner Stostage Pamp?” Oh, wait, wrong Spooner. I always get those two mixed up which leads to some embarrassment at parties.

    “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.”

    As Adam Smith pointed, “There is a lot of ruin in nation.” Likewise, there is a lot of ruin in a massive centuries old institution. Just because Reason correctly saw back the 80’s that the post office was doomed doesn’t mean they had to get the timing exactly right. Just because you correctly identify that erosion will cause a river bank to collapse doesn’t mean that you know the exact minute it will go.

    The Post Office will go the way of the Dodo because it is based on providing an increasingly archaic technological service. I use the postal service only a tiny fraction of what I did 20 years ago and I am far from unusual in this regard. I don’t read dead tree magazines, I pay all my bills online and I communicate by flat rate phone or the internet. I send postal mail only a couple of times a month and most of those are symbolic greeting cards who gain their emotional value through the trouble it takes to buy, sign and mail them. I receive only a couple of pieces of useful mail a week and the rest is just a pound or two of advertisements.

    The Post Office might evolve into some other kind of institutions so the name might remain but the principle function, moving hardcopy letters, is being rendered obsolete.

  4. On the specific subject of the increase, it seems to me that raising your rates is not the way to encourage more customers. But that’s just my take on supply and demand.

    I’m not sure the post office has a choice here. They could make it free to send anything under, say, a half a pound and people would still use e-mail for anything that doesn’t have to be sent physically. And I’d rather they raise the rates for postal customers than pour more tax money into it.

  5. NTD:

    Agreed. I was only pointing out the fact that raising prices is generally a poor way to increase the number of your customers.

  6. But if the Post Office closed, where would I get all my Sacagawea dollar coins that no one thinks is real money?

  7. Don’t be put off by the awful Costner flick, whose poster is used to illustrate the article. Brin’s book is a good read.

    If we privatized the Post Awful, we could subsidize the mailing needs of the poor, just as we do their housing and food.

    Stamp stamps?

    Kevin

  8. SugarFree,

    where would I get all my Sacagawea dollar coins that no one thinks is real money?

    Bart: What is that? A quarter?
    Milhouse: A Chuck-E-Cheese token?
    Marge: No! It’s a Sacagawea dollar! You can trade it in at the bank for a regular dollar! Huh? Huh?

  9. If the USPS carried 10.4% less weight, and fuel costs are down now compared to this time last year, they should make it up somewhat, right? I don’t mind much if they raise the price a couple cents, but I want it to be worth it.

  10. I thought the post office was going to start charging me for e-mail. Everyone sure that’s not going to happen?

  11. It will raise stamp prices (by 2 cents for a first class letter) on Monday in an attempt to bring in more cash.

    What are these ‘stamps’ of which you speak?

  12. I thought the post office was going to start charging me for e-mail. Everyone sure that’s not going to happen?

    I believe that is one conspiracy theory which will turn out to be true by the passage of time. Like remember how in the old days you couldn’t get a virus by simply reading email, and then Microsoft got ahold of the email process?

  13. Just a few years ago some Leftoid blog I was reading touted the USPS as a success in government. I never did find out exactly how the person was using the term “success”.

  14. Paul,

    Like remember how in the old days you couldn’t get a virus by simply reading email,

    At least you can’t get anthrax by reading email.

    In Snowcrash you got something a lot worse without Microsoft around any more!

  15. Brin’s book is an excellent read. I’ve refused to watch any Costner movie since he butchered The Postman.

  16. Brin’s book is an excellent read. I’ve refused to watch any Costner movie since he butchered The Postman.

    I’ve found a very effective way to get through The Postman. Throughout the film, just keep repeating, “At least it’s not Waterworld. At least it’s not Waterworld.”

    It works! Try it.

  17. USPS reported the biggest fall in the volume of mail it handles since 1971.

    Supposedly, one of the best leading indicators of economic health is postal volume. Not sure if that still applies as business goes on-line, but if so, the notion that we have seen the bottom seems naive.

  18. Losing all that money and yet the good ol’ USPS always manages to sponsor the US Olympic team.

  19. The Postman is a very underrated movie. I loved the Tom Petty cameo, the Oregon scenery, and the idealism of the Ford Lincoln Mercury character.

  20. That’s the difference between public sector and private sector. Only in the former is the response to losing business to raise prices.

  21. “If the USPS carried 10.4% less weight, and fuel costs are down now compared to this time last year, they should make it up somewhat, right?”

    problem is, they charge by weight. that 10.4% is 10.4% less income.

  22. The USPS defies logic.

    Demand is falling… so they insist on maintaining the same supply… and the price goes up.

    Can’t they just take off the first Saturday every month and see how it goes?

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