This week I received my copy of Deliver, the magazine for marketers published by the USPS. I have received it for a number of years, and it is now fully relevant, mainly because it not focuses on the role of mail in our new integrated marketing world. Early on it was just a booster for mailing. In today’s world that is a diminishing crowd of consumers, and professional practitioners – including printers and mailing companies.
In this new smaller direct mail portion of the direct marketing field, unrest and uncertainty are running rampant. Not only are all of the users of the USPS worried about the future – so is the USPS and all of its employees. If you were to read the article The Postal Service Needs Relief from Congressional Mandates by Patrick Donahoe, our Postmaster General you get a real sense of their issues.
Last week this really became evident when the USPS stopped payments to the Federal Employees Retirement System, $115 million due every two weeks. This is just the USPS portion, the employees contributions will continue. I guess you would call that a shot across the bow of Congress who has not acted on a number of suggestions from the USPS to reduce their ongoing costs. These include dropping Saturday delivery and the closing of a number of post offices, but politically unpopular actions that elected officials are loath to do lest they offend their local constituents.
This has been building for some time, and I have chronicled some of the causes – but mainly it is due to falling mail volumes and growing labor costs. The falling mail volumes in both 1st Class mail – those we put those Forever stamps on, and in Standard Class mail that we love to call ‘junk mail.’ Truth be known, junk mail now pays the bulk of the freight for the USPS, and nearly all of its planning for the last several decades has been aimed at automating that mail, thereby reducing labor costs, has been very expensive, and the labor costs have still gone on. You can automate a lot of things, but it still takes a body to deliver it to your home.
The USPS provides the greatest bargain service on earth – for 44 cents you can send a letter anywhere in the U.S. –even if we have to fly it there, or load it a donkey and take it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Time for change has come, but the control is in the hands of the major mailers and Congress. In my next post I’ll talk about the issues being faced by major mailers and the industry that services them.