What If There Was No Mail?

On Monday this week (in the United States) we had no mail delivery because of Veterans’ Day.

To miss mail for one day is not a problem, but what if this occurred on a regular basis? What if Saturday delivery was omitted or we only received mail three days a week? (These ideas are considerations to help the USPS — United States Postal Service — save money.)

I could deal with that, too.

But what if all deliveries stopped? Looking at what I receive via US mail, what would be the contingency plan?

  • Magazines: I like my magazines but would not start reading them online (at least not how it works today). I guess I’d go without — and that would give me more time for other activities. (Of course this would be a problem for those in the magazine business.)
  • Bills: More and more companies send invoices and statements via email. This allows me to move one step closer to paperless bill paying.
  • Checks: My business receives some checks via mail. But payment could be made by credit card or electronic funds transfer instead.
  • Formal communication: Invitations and thank you notes, as well as cards are typically mailed. If need be, they could go online as well.
  • Shipments: Although the USPS is sometimes the least expensive option, it’s far from the only one.
  • Ads and junk mail: I could do without this category of mail, but I supposed they’d go online too and start spamming me.

The USPS isn’t likely to stop all mail delivery anytime soon, but if they did, we could get by.

A Postage Increase for January 2, 2011

In a move that surprised many, the USPS (United States Postal Service) requested that it be allowed to increase postage rates an average of 5% on January 2, 2011.

This flies in the face having annual increases each May that track with the CPI (Consumer Price Index).

What does this mean to you?  For starters, a first class stamp will cost an extra two cents.  (This is a good reminder to buy the “forever stamps” at today’s price and use them next year in lieu of 46 cent stamps.)

Additionally, expect a bigger push to move mail online.  More statements and invoices will be sent via email.  Worse will be the email notifications that you need to download your statements, that cumbersome process of logging-in to a website, navigating security protocols, and downloading them — a safe, yet timely and hassle-filled procedure.

Also, more periodicals will cease mail delivery, requiring them to be downloaded as well.  Still, most people (myself included) do not like reading magazines on their computers, but Apple’s iPad may offer an acceptable alternative.  (Although e-readers, like the Kindle, are embraced by many for books, they do not work well with magazines, as they are text-only.)

The final consideration is one of those good-news bad-news situations.  You can expect the amount of direct mail you receive to decrease — it will instead move to the inbox of your email.  In essence, less junk mail, more spam.  Thank you USPS.

No Postage Increase for 2010

It was recently announced that the United States Postal Service (USPS) would not raise rates in 2010 on “market-dominate products”; this includes first-class mail.

The USPS is authorized to raise rates each May, based on the inflation rate (CPI) for the prior year.  Although it’s looking like the CPI for 2009 will ultimately hover around zero — that is no inflation, but no deflation either — the USPS decided to make a decision early, heading off any doubt or uncertainty.  This allows businesses, that are postage intensive (such as magazine publishers), to appropriately budget and plan for 2010.  (Typically, postage-intensive businesses budget for an increase based on what they think the CPI will be.)

Although this is great for businesses, such a mine, it will ultimately be problematic for the Post Office, which will post another huge loss again this year.  At some point they will need to stop the losses and at least break even.  That means that those who use their services will rightly pay for it.  So, it is realistic that at some time, there will — out of necessity — be a large increase.

From a consumer standpoint, however, it is nice to know that the cost of a first-class stamp will remain the same until at least May 2011.  That means you can safely stock up on 44 cent stamps.

What Will The USPS Do?

Yesterday, I talked about the United States Postal Service (USPS) and their poor financial status given increased costs, a fixed infrastructure, and decreased patronage.

I fully expect that one response to this will be a rate increase next May, regardless of the CPI.

They have also been talking about reducing delivery.  Cutting out Saturday is one option, but that would make Monday an even more arduous day.  (I receive more mail on Monday that any other day.  I suspect that is because Sunday provides an extra day for intra-post office delivery, resulting in more mail piled up for Monday.)  They have also talked about delivery every other day.  I could accept either solution — like I have a choice anyway — however, this move would just encourage more people and businesses to seek alternatives.

They have also talked about closing offices.  Reportedly, 677 retail facilities (about 14%) are listed for possible closure.  I have a local post office that is within a couple of miles.  It is a small office, with limited hours (they close for the day at 4:30 as well as for a late lunch, 1:30 to 2:30).  If that office were to close, there is one about six miles to the east and another about six miles to the west.  It would be a minor inconvenience for me, but an emotional loss for our small town.  The result is that I would merely plan my trips to the PO a bit more carefully.

Interesting, the PO to the east is about the same size as the local one — albeit busier — so I suppose it could be on “the list” for closure.  The one to the west is bigger, but I’ve never used it.

Instead of wondering about it, I just checked out the list of possible post offices to be closed and I can’t find any of the three on it., though there is one about 20 miles away that is listed.  Interestingly, it seems that most of the proposed closures are in larger metropolitan areas.

Since this is not going to affect me — I’m all for it!

The Postman Always Rings Twice

For the past couple of years the United States Postal Service (USPS) has issued a rate increase each May.  The amount of the increase is tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of the year.  The result is smaller postage rate increases on an annual basis.  Prior to this procedure, rates were increased in much larger increments, but on a less frequent bases.

What is intriguing is that year-to-date for 2009, the CPI is slightly negative.  If it ends the year that way, it will be interesting to see what the USPS will do next May.  One thing is certain; they will not lower their rates.  It could be possible that there would be no rate increase come May 2010.  However, that is unlikely given that the USPS is operating at a loss expected to be in the billions.

The same provision that mandates annual rate increases tied to the CPI, also allows for a rate increase surpassing the CPI in the event of extreme or unusual situations.  I expect that amid raising costs, decreased mail volume, and a negative CPI, the USPS will exercise this clause and seek a rate increase this May anyway.

(The title of this blog is borrowed from a 1946 movie, and its 1981 remake, of the same name.  As I recall, the movie had nothing to do mail and everything to do with deceit and intrigue.)

Let’s Play Tag — In Cyberspace

I have been blogging since January 2008 and have made 315 entries to date — no wait, 316.  To organize these entries, I have concocted 30 topic categories, adding each post to at least one category, usually more.  This allows readers interested in the topics of, say, Computers and the Internet to read related posts, while skipping the Family or Movie Review musings.  This entry, for example, will be placed in the category of “Blogging,” for which there are now 24 entries.

I have recently begun adding “tags” to words that often find themselves in my posts, but which do not rise to “category” status.  So far, I have six words or themes that I have tagged:

  • Google, a company I love; 23 entries.
  • Microsoft, a company that I love and love to criticize; 21 entries.  (Five entries are tagged with both Goggle and Microsoft.)
  • Netflix, my fav; 13 entries
  • USPS, 10 entries (there are 61 posts that use the work “mail,” but I’ve yet to tag them).
  • AARP, 9 entries
  • NEA, 5 entries.

Of course, this post will have to be tagged with all six!

If any of these tags interest you, click on the above links and check them out.

Enjoy!

Get Ready Now for the Postage Increase in May

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has another rate increase looming in the near future.

On May 11, 2009, the price to mail a first class letter will increase 2 cents, from the current 42 cents to 44 cents.  This increase is just shy of 5%.

Although such a high increase seems untenable given the current economic conditions, the reality is that the USPS lost several billion dollars last year due to a decrease in mail volume.  Unfortunately, their operation is not easily scalable so when volume drops, their costs do not decrease proportionally.  (Instead of rate increases to stave off the losses, I favor steps to increase mail volume — a rate decrease should accomplish that.)

Most other postage services will see increases on May 11 as well.  However, the cost for additional ounces on first class mail will remain unchanged at 17 cents.

To avoid needing to buy a bunch of 2 cent stamps to match with your soon to be out-of-date 42 cent stamps, buy the “forever” stamps instead.  Although they only cost 42 cents now, they can be used to mail a first class letter “forever” — regardless of future rates.  (At current interest rates, buying forever stamps is a much better hedge against inflation!)

By the way, the USPS is now on a schedule for annual rate increases, slated each May.

US Postage Rates to Increase in May

The United States Postal Service (USPS) announced today that new postage rates will go into effect on May 11, 2009.  The new rates will be:

Letter, first ounce: $0.44
Large envelope, first ounce: $0.88
Additional ounces: $0.17  (this did not change!)
Postcard: $0.28

To make sure that you don’t end up with extra 42 cent stamps, buy and use the “Forever Stamps” instead.  Regardless of when you purchase them, they can be used to mail 1-ounce letters after the rate hike, without adding additional postage.

Although this relatively modest increase will not present a hardship to most businesses, direct mail companies and magazine publishers take a hard hit, given the amount of items that they mail each year.

So that you may plan for the future, rate increases are now occurring annually, each May, and are tied to the CPI.

Being a Substitute is No Excuse

We had some frustration taking delivery of a package today.  It’s not the first time and, I’m quite sure, it won’t be the last.  Sometimes our packages are delivered to the wrong address; other times — like today — the drivers don’t really attempt to make the delivery, they just leave a notice.  Twice, they’ve skipped the first delivery attempt and moved right to the final notice.  The same type of thing has happened with our mail, although not nearly so frequently.  Our mail carriers, do however, seem to have a predilection for bending photos in packages marked “do not bend.”

From time to time, when frustration levels are high, we go to the trouble to complain.  Invariably, the response is the same: “Oh, there was a sub on your route that day” as if that is an acceptable reason for delivery errors, mistakes, and general incompetence.  A parallel explanation that I hear too often in customer service roles and among call center reps is the apologetic explanation “Oh, but they’re new.”

Sorry, those excuses don’t cut it.

Being a sub is not a justification for delivery errors and missed commitments (though it can explain being late).  Similarly, I expect customer service reps to know how to do their job.  They should be fully trained before they attempt to help me and not use my time as a training opportunity.  True, there are unique situations that can’t be anticipated and there are rare procedures that happen so infrequently that training is forgotten by the time the situation occurs, but for the most part, I expect them to do their jobs correctly.

Why to people offer inane excuses?  Why not just say, “I’m sorry and will make it right?”

We shouldn’t need to complain just to get good service, should we?

Snowplow vs the US Mail

Last fall, the USPS notified me that my once acceptably positioned mailbox was no longer acceptable.  It needed to be moved closer to the road so that I could reliably receive mail during the snowy winter months.

I determined that it was in my best interest to acquiesce to their “request” and reposition my mailbox as suggested.  So, on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, I happily worked up a sweat, moving it to the specified locale.

At the time, I facetiously remarked that if the snowplow takes out my mailbox, then I would not be able to receive any mail deliveries.

Today, that prophecy was fulfilled; my mailbox was ruthlessly torn from its post and tossed into the snow bank.

Thankfully the post is still standing, as the frozen ground would make in nigh impossible to set a new post.  However, the temperature is 7 degrees and the wind chill is hovering at -5.  Did I mention that there is a couple feet of snow where my mailbox once was?

I should be out trying to fix it now, but I’m blogging instead.  However, once I am done with this post, I won’t be able to procrastinate any longer.

If you don’t hear from me for a couple of days, will you send out a search party?