Niagara Gazette


March 3, 2012

EDITORIAL: Postal service needs to get with the times

The U.S. Postal Service has been mailing it in for years.

It has stuck like an old postage stamp to a business model that was going nowhere fast, literally. Snail mail is still the USPS stock in trade, and it has increasingly earned its nickname. And for a poorly run operation, it certainly does cost a lot.

While email, instant messaging, texting, online banking and Internet options increased exponentially, the Postal Service has experienced a 25 percent decline in first-class mail volume since 2006. It’s not too hard to predict that trend will only intensify, unless USPS gets with the program and upgrades its service and marketing practices.

For now, consolidation looms, as part of a plan to reduce operating costs by $20 billion by 2015 and restore profitability. The plan, which could go into effect as early as mid-May, would close the Buffalo Mail Processing center at 1200 WIlliam St. — and 263 other such centers around the nation. Mail will be processed through Rochester, instead.  And longer travel distance means even slower delivery. Mail across town will take two days, instead of one under the consolidated business model.

The impact here, we think will be negligible. USPS, we hardly knew you — you’re darned near irrelevant, if not R.I.P.

Businesses and residents already have moved away from snail mail when time is of the essence — hence the decline in volume. Personal letters? Rare these days, with the exceptions of thank you notes to Grandma and Grandpa and wedding invitations.

Meanwhile, Fedex and UPS all have married their services to the way business is done in 2012. People ordering goods on line are automatically guided toward shipping options that rarely include the postal service.

If you want to get a package somewhere via USPS, be prepared to cram it into a pre-sized envelope and hope it meets stringent specifications that might reduce your costs — and guaranteed overnight delivery? Prepare to pay through the nose.

Postal workers’ benefits are enviable — and costly to consumers. Twenty years in and you are set for life. Downsizing afoot? Not without the USPS offering jobs elsewhere to those whose mail processing centers are closing. Not so with competitors who’ve taken the ball and run with it. Lean and mean options abound, and customers respond by choosing them.

If the postal service wants to win our hearts and business back, it will need to do more than just downsize and offer worse service and lowered expectations. And brace yourselves: Next up for consideration, loss of Saturday delivery.

USPS must offer competitive shipping options, guaranteed faster delivery times and overall service enhancements — or the death spiral of an American institution will continue.

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