Says Who? Anonymous Dead Tree Edition Blogger Talks All Things Publishing
The thinking used to be that higher postal rates didn't hurt demand much, but postal officials realize that's no longer true, given such low-cost electronic competitors as the Internet, e-mail and online banking. Postal officials aren't trying to fix their problems with higher rates, though I think we’ll see small exigent rate increases next year instead of the usual inflation-based increases. Most of the USPS’ efforts are rightly placed, though sometimes clumsily executed on the cost sideâ€•e.g., consolidating processing centers and post offices, downsizing its workforce through early retirement incentives, implementing the Flats Sequencing System, and getting prepared to eliminate Saturday delivery. It’s also going after additional business with initiatives like its “Summer Sale” and the recently announced partnership with FedEx regarding merchandise returns.
The USPS still makes huge mistakes. The Intelligent Mail program has been one disaster after another. Proposed regulations earlier this year that would've forced mailers to discard billions of window envelopes are a classic case of bureaucracy run amok. But postal officials finally seem to be learning from their mistakes, acknowledging when they've gone wrong and working more with other parts of the supply chain to avoid future gaffes.
Many mailers are hoping Congress passes partial relief on the retirement benefits front, but I fear that would be wasting a good crisis and just deferring problems. If the legislation passes, the USPS would have to make a smaller prepayment than normal on Sept. 30. If not, it'll probably renege on the entire $5 billion-plus payment, which it shouldn’t be making anyway. One benefit of the current crisis is that now the general public knows about the USPS’ financial problems. Average citizens hear about local post offices that might close or read discussions about eliminating Saturday delivery. That should put more pressure on Congress to fix the USPS, or give it the freedom to fix itself rather than using it as a political football.