Postal Service Goes Negative on These Newfangled Electronic Mails


The U.S. Postal Service is royally screwed. Mail volume is down, benefits and pensions are out of control, and the USPS is Out of Money. After careful consideration, they have decided to deal with these fundamental structural problems by…attacking these unreliable electronic communications the kids are using these days.

The new ads crow about how USPS customers "feel safe and secure that important letters and information don't get lost in thin air, or disappear with a click." Apparently these ads are targeted at old people who are still sorting out the whole single click/double click thing.

The first ad also features a horrifying montage of people jamming the paper delivered to them by the USPS into drawers, folders, accordion files, and decorative trays. Seeing all those dead trees hiding all over people's houses gives me the willies.

Also: How soon we forget. As Robert Cannon reminds us, once upon a time the Post Office was desperate to get into the email biz:

E-COM was a simple concept. The USPS would set up a network where a message would originate electronically. It would then be sent to one of a handful of participating postal offices that had terminals, where it would be printed out. The hard copy of the message would then be delivered to its destination—essentially in the same manner and with the same speed as first class mail. USPS launched this service in 1981.

The Postal Commission, the Department of Justice, and the FCC simultaneously freaked out about this idea, not least because there are rules against government agencies explicitly competing against the private sector. 

Well, the USPS would not accept "no" for an answer, tinkered with its network in order to weasel out of FCC jurisdiction, and launched E-COM in 1981. A message was priced at 26¢—and for each email message, the USPS was said to lose around $5….And by the way, if you used the service you had to send at minimum 200 messages. The service was one directional; if you got an error message, you would receive it in the mail two days later. When the E-COM messages were printed out, it would take two days more to be delivered. And it cost the same as First Class mail.

You know how this story ends:

Three years after service was initiated, USPS terminated the service and tried to sell it off.

For more on the USPS and its ad misfires, go here

Via Adam Thierer's Twitter feed.