In a country where we value efficiency and innovation, it’s sad to see one struggling industry beg for a life preserver from another industry which is in deep trouble.
Your editorial of May 31 (“Bad Business at the Post Office”) complains of cost-cutting efforts made by the U.S. Postal Service, such as closing a number of mail processing facilities and consolidating its work where higher volume results in lower costs.
This complaint comes from an industry that has greatly reduced its editorial staff and relies on the resources of news services for information they used to gather with their own employees.
Like the USPS, the newspaper industry has seen a drastic change in the core service it provides. With TV, Internet, and social media, the newspaper is no longer the communicator of first impression. I subscribe to The Sun News and I love having a newspaper to get my morning started; it gives me a feel for community sentiment and makes me aware of services that no other media provides. But the daily newspaper is no longer a primary news source for me.
Online bill paying and invoicing have put a huge hole in the USPS core customer base. Facilities and equipment were designed to handle typewriter-addressed business envelopes. The type of mail that now forms the largest part of the U.S. mail volume (bulk advertising mail) doesn’t require the processing equipment or employee knowledge that are the base of today’s postal service.
Your editorial also decries the special discount rates that the USPS wants to give high-volume mailer Valassis, stating that such discounts are unfair competition. We need look no further than newspaper advertising discounts given to customers who buy large ads in multiple issues of newspapers to see that the concept of volume discounts is neither new nor unfair.
Newspapers use alternatives to the U.S. mail wherever it makes business sense to do so. Trucks deliver to new stands and delivery contractors deliver to homes without any involvement by or compensation to the USPS. Your editorial also informs that the newspaper industry spends about $500 million per year in postage. What it doesn’t state is that the Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent agency that sets postage rates, advises that in 2011, postage collected for newspaper mailings (periodical rate publications) covered less than 80 percent of its costs. So, for every $500 million that the newspaper industry spends on postage, it costs the USPS $600 million to process the product. Taking your business elsewhere would be greeted with jubilation by USPS accountants.
It is time for both of these vital, universal services to reinvent themselves in light of 21st century realities. I don’t know about you, but the last telegram I received was in 1968; yet Western Union is a thriving company today. They obviously re-thought their customer base and moved forward with innovative products. Stop blaming the competition and take stock of what you have to offer.
The writer, a retired USPS executive, lives in Myrtle Beach.