The Suicide of the Postal System


When Benjamin Franklin first stepped in as the United States Postmaster General in 1775 he had visions to propagate communicate from one person to another.

The Post Office’s postal rate in 1885 was 2¢ per ounce. Business was booming, as there were no other ways for individuals, or businesses to effectively disseminate a tangible message to an individual. Today, with options like e-mail, we have a new class of people that have a means for us to reach out to them in a manner that we can control, down to the minute, when they receive the information and statistics on if the message was opened, forwarded, deleted, or if it lead to a desired action. But e-mail isn’t for everyone.

A company that I do work for has a customer base of roughly 15,000 active customers. Only about 10% of these customers have e-mail (or check it regularly)—yes, the demographics, like most companies, are older than 30 years old. Post cards and regular mailings were common in addition to e-mail marketing but, in 2001, postage was now 34¢ per piece, in addition to printing and finishing. The cost to communicate has increased. The cost of doing business in America has always increased over time this should be the same for efficiency. After spending several thousands of dollars on an event promotion mailing, the company scratched its head when only 10% of expected customers attended. The reason was that customers never received their postcard and did not know about the event. Come to find out, the box of postcards was sitting under a Post Office desk. Oops. To add insult to injury, this is the second time this has happened to the same company from the same Post Office Distribution Center. Increased postage, decreased efficiency.

The Post Office is slitting it’s own wrists. Now, I cannot blame the Post Office for increasing its postage rate, as there are many costs that are incurred for the organization. But as postage continues to increase while we lose our trust in the system, so decreases the desire to use the system. Have we, as a society, come to expect too much from being nursed by the government? At which point will we be no longer justify thousand-dollar mistakes? Should we at all? Over time the portion of active e-mail users will increase, most likely proportionately, along with the price of postage.

Side note: After several months of jumping through loops and providing documentation, the post office refunded the cost of postage for the “lost mailing.” And the company was able to rebound for the dismal event showing.