Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Death of the Postal Service

In the 1950’s the mailman was one of the most popular people in the world. You can almost picture the lovelorn waiting in anticipation, staring out the window at the lonely mailbox until that American Icon opened it and inserts the letter you had been waiting for. The mail included exciting cards from exotic places, letters from far-away loved ones, and even the rare advertising was read from cover to cover.

In the 1980’s a company called America Online sent out free software to EVERYONE. You would find a disc in magazines, in your mail, and for free at stores. America got online. By the end of the 80’s there were almost 2 million people getting and receiving email. By 1996 that number grew to 100 million and now it is close to 3 BILLION worldwide. My 90 year old father checks his email every day.

What happened to “snail mail”? Something that takes more than a few seconds to send moves at a snail’s pace. We are no longer impressed that a piece of paper can be sent from Maine to California in just a few days when you can send something a thousand times bigger electronically in seconds.

The US Postal Service sent over 170 billion pieces of mail last year. But with all that mail are you waiting, looking out your front window in anticipation of the mail coming by. Most of us don’t even pick up the mail daily. When I look at my mail the most exciting thing for me is the latest magazines I get. You can probably tell a lot about me by my list: Archeology, Biblical Archeology, KMT (Mag of ancient Egypt) Ancient Egypt Magazine, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Wired, Fast Company, Inc, National Geographic Travel, Scuba and probably a few others I don’t remember subscribing to. Today just about ALL of those magazines are online and in a better format. Of the 170 billion pieces of mail we get from the USPS only one half of a percent of that is personal mail; more than 85% of that is advertising; with the rest made up of periodicals and bills. No wonder we don’t rush out to get our mail and why we now avoid or at least wish “rain or sleet or” SOMETHING would keep them from their appointed rounds.

What do you get from the USPS that you could not get BETTER from some other place, media or method? Turns out the only good thing about the mail IS the time it takes for them to get to where the mail is supposed to be. I know a guy who will pay his bills on the VERY LAST day and then send his check through the mail without signing it so it comes back, through the mail, so he can wait a few days, sign it, and then send it back: so delaying and floating his check for almost two weeks. I know another guy who writes who he is sending it TO in the FROM section of the envelope and puts his address in the TO section and then drops it in a mail box without a stamp. That way it will be returned to sender and the sender is the person he wanted to send it to the first place; now free.

I am sorry all you Post People out there who make a living sorting, carrying and delivering mail but there is just a better way. There is a choice we as a nation have to make, do we keep supporting a dying industry because so many depend on it for their jobs or do we step into the new “flat” world? I know what I would choose.

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