Thursday, September 15, 2011

Post office financial fix: Are you willing to pay for home delivery?

There were roughly 112 Million households in the United States between 2005-2009, according to USA QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau.  That's a lot of ground to cover for home delivery of mail, don't you think?  If you have a postal service approved mail box to receive mail at your home, the mailman will gladly bring your mail to you for free.

But many Americans and businesses actually choose to pay to receive their mail at a post office or other mail facility.  In checking local rates, the cheapest box that I could rent would cost me about $26.00 per year.  Yes, I could pay $26 for the privilege of having a secure mail box within a postal mail facility where the onus is on me to check for mail on a regular basis.

Then I got to thinking.  Should we be paying for home mail delivery?  Perhaps we should.  Charging even a modest fee would help offset the deficit that the post office faces currently.  I'm not saying that they don't need an overhaul.  I know that I've mentioned before that I'd be OK with Saturday delivery going the way of the do-do bird to cut costs.  And now they're considering ceasing overnight mail as a cost cutting measure.  I have been following the developments (and spoken to postal employees) enough to know that an overwhelming portion of their costs is labor related, but that union contracts have tied the postal service's hands so tight that they're literally bleeding money with no real hope of a transfusion.  I don't want to see another government bailout; instead, I want to see fiscal responsibility and a true good-faith effort made to find a workable solution to cut costs, just like any other business must do to survive.

Why not pay for home delivery of mail?  A delivery fee is built into the cost of your newspaper, yet you are glad to have it delivered to the box just under or next to your mailbox, or, if you're lucky, to your front stoop.  Have you checked your utility bill lately?  I would bet that there's some sort of delivery fee billed separately from your killowatts or cubic ft of gas usage.  What about your cell phone bill?  Are you paying a modest 911 fee each month?  There are many other delivery fees that we don't even think twice about paying, from postage and "handling" for online purchases to the $2.00 delivery fee that pizza delivery joints tack on, but don't actually give to the delivery boy.  I gladly pay to have pizza delivered, especially when the weather is bad, because I don't want to go out in it.  Yet postal workers do it every day.

My 9th Grade teacher, Mr. Wilson, first introduced me to Economics.  One of the many quotes that he had us memorize was that there's no such thing as a free lunch. Perhaps the postal service should be charging its consumers for home delivery.  Even a modest $25 per year x 112 Million households = nearly 3 Billion dollars.   That amount certainly wouldn't solve their cash flow problems, but coupled with other strategic structure changes, I think it would go a long way toward getting the post office back in better financial shape.

Are you willing to pay a modest fee to maintain home delivery of your mail?  Leave a comment and weigh in!
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