mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Going postal...

Looks like the post office might be raising postage rates in January - stamps would go to 39¢ from 37¢ and a 5.4% increase for most types of mail. The first I actually saw of it was on the post office's website - where I was buying Regan commemorative stamps (I don't have the nerve to ask for them in person at a Baltimore post office - I think you can get shot here for that).

There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of news coverage on it - maybe I just haven't been watching enough news, or maybe it's overshadowed by the Jackson trial and that missing chick in Aruba. Most of the Google news hits for "postal rate increase" are to direct mail industry sources like this.

The background on it is actually pretty interesting. From what I can understand, the Post Office was overfunding their pensions, and a law was passed to make them reduce the funding of their pensions. However, it also required that the money that would otherwise go into the the pensions go into a trust fund. The Postal Service needs moeny for that trust fund, and is raising the rates.

Only in government do you have overfunding of pensions - coming around the same time that the automobile industry and the airline industry is discovering how underfunded their pensions are.

Gongol led me to this testimony of the postmaster general where he talks about the issues facing the post office.

My government leanings tend to go libertarian, and that doesn't make me like the post office very much. Like most government programs, they benefit some groups (people who live in left bumblefark, where it isn't cost-effective to deliver mail) at the expense of others (urban dwellers, private delivery company owners). I worked in a mail room for two summers in college, and we would frequently get mail for other people in our office complex, for the jail down the street, or for an office complex that was located at, say, 2000 Route 22 when we were 2200 Route 31. I've long gotten a laugh at the occasional shredded piece of mail packaged in the "we use high tech equiptment, and every now it eats your mail" bag. Their delivery confirmation is nothing compared to the UPS delievery tracking that tells you exactly where your package is. And most times when I go to a public post office, I wait in a long line.

In their defense, though, their employees seem to be less surly than they used to be. And they do have some good features - like their Click-n-Ship service, which I use for most of the stuff I sell on eBay. I can print postage and drop it off at the post office at work, without having to wait in line, and I get free delivery confirmation. And they do deliver a whole lot of mail.

So the post office can do well when they want - and it's not surprising that the places that they innovate are in things like package shipping. Click-N-Ship only works for priority and overnight mail, where they compete with DHL, UPS, FedEX, and courier services. Competition in this area has made the post office better. First class mail and retail post offices, where they by law have no competition - USPS has a monopoly on first-class mail - will always be worse, because they have no incentive to improve.


Post a Comment

<< Home