There’s a news release going around from a U of Illinois professor, Seung-Hyun Hong, regarding financial problems at the Post Office and attempts to stanch the flow of red ink.

A basic solution is obvious, but it is not being discussed that I can see.

Further, the vested interests won’t put it forward, and/or won’t allow it to happen, because they will lose money, although the public (and the environment) will benefit, from the ensuing cost savings.

The article discusses the current thinking about scaling back to save money:

Scaling back mail delivery from six days a week to five may be the best bet to stem mounting U.S. Postal Service losses, but could still be a gamble

and goes on to quote the U of I economist as saying

“Most residential customers probably won’t care, but some businesses might and could try switching to the Internet.”

“More people are switching to less-costly electronic alternatives, so the question is whether delivery changes could help accelerate that trend, particularly among business customers,” said Hong, whose study appeared in the Journal of Econometrics.

The stated implication is that the Post Office should be very careful about making this change.

I tend to disagree that “most residential customers probably won’t care,” as explained below.  (Also, I find that calling them “customers” is somewhat off the mark, in view of the clause in the Constitution for a postal service, but he is an economist, so we have to take that into account–noting that we are customers of his ideas, in the same  sense, perhaps.  It’s our postal service, and we need to keep thinking of it that way.)

Here’s the fix:  give people what they want along with NOT giving them what they don’t want.

What people want is service 6 days a week.  We are used to it, and taking it away will absolutely turn people off, in and of itself, and will push many people toward alternatives.  Then things for the Post Office will deteriorate further, over time, as those alternatives get better and better from the network effect.

The clincher, which will save lots of money and help the environment:  Make junk mail (OK, let’s call it Direct Mail, as per the industry that foments it) opt in only (for each sender).

The benefits are obvious.  We’d see a radical reduction in mail volume, a massive ramping up of loyalty, burn less fuel, save a lot of trees, among other benefits.  This change is what people want.  Any decent poll will show that most Americans don’t want junk mail, of all forms.  (All right, we like certain catalogs from certain manufacturers, but we can opt in with them.)

Lest the direct mail industry take umbrage, there is the view, nicely explained by Simon Wakeman here, that if people

…don’t opt-in then I’d guess there’s a fair chance that they wouldn’t have responded to unsolicited marketing material they’d been sent anyway.

opt-in direct marketing would mean smaller volumes being sent (giving an instant improvement in environmental friendly-ness) but a higher proportion of recipients responding.

It’s time for this radical shift.  It’s our post office, and we need to take it back.


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