On the subject of the USPS and my suggestion for how retailers could perform an election-related public service for their customers, one MNB reader wrote:
You are falling victim to the political propaganda of the day when worrying about the US Postal Service and the election.
In the latest data available on the USPS website for 2010, total annual piece volume was 168 billion pieces annually or 460 million pieces per day. The maximum number of ballots that could be mailed to the US population would be about 360 million, and millions of those are not eligible to vote due to age, citizenship or other reasons but use the number anyway,
Even if mail volume has dropped as much as 20% over the past 10 years to 368 million pieces per day, the USPS probably has the capacity to handle the total volume of mailed ballots for the election in one day, so over a two week period, the USPS could handle 14 times the number of votes mailed if 100 of the election was done by mail. The mailed ballots just would not be a significant increase to the daily mail flow given that only some states will try to conduct the election by mail.
The hysteria just does not seem warranted unless the purpose is to get headlines, clicks, views and tweets, not to be taken seriously.
First of all, I am not falling victim to anything.
My suggestion in FaceTime yesterday was keyed to addressing a concern that clearly is felt by a lot of people - that they may not be able to mail in their ballots and have them counted because of changes being made in the USPS.
Regardless of what you believe about these changes, this worry exists. And if retailers - staying within the letter of the law, of course - can help facilitate the sending of ballots directly to boards of elections, bypassing the post office, and alleviate a customer concern … well, that's my definition of being relevant.
I should make a couple of other points here. If I suggested that there weren't any operational issues at the post office, and that everything is copasetic in how our mail system works, then I'd be a fool and a hypocrite. There's no question that the system could be made better … but choosing this particular moment to make changes isn't the best marketing decision I've ever seen. And the questions remain, why are the changes being made, and why now?
I do know this. A package for which I paid the fee for two-day delivery at the post office took 10 days to get from Connecticut to Chicago. I've had to reschedule the issuing of checks to make sure that they get where they're going on time and I don't get dinged with late fees. I know that when I get my daily USPS Informed Delivery email every morning, there often are pieces of mail displayed that are supposed to be in my mailbox that day, and that somehow don't show up for several days. And we've all heard the stories of people not getting their prescription medicine on time because of what appears to be a slowing down of operations at the post office.
I'm not being hysterical here, nor am I falling victim to propaganda. These are just facts … I leave it to others to divine why these things are happening.
MNB reader Joe Axford had a different reaction to my suggestion:
I for one think it's a great idea. You're always thinking outside the box! I'll bet the bulk of the replies to this will be why it CAN'T be done, instead of trying to get it done!
From MNB reader David Fowle:
Hey Kevin – maybe you’ve already floated this idea, but in terms of the insolvency of the post office, I’m wondering if this country might be ready for what to me seems like an obvious piece of the solution. Go to every other day delivery. –but do it by splitting every community physically in half and delivering to half of the town Mon-Wed-Fri and the other half Tues-Thurs-Sat. Maybe this would not make sense in the cities – I don’t know – but this would cut nearly in half the number of miles traveled and person-hours spent delivering each week. Speaking personally, if I have to wait one extra day for the delivery of any particular item, it won’t kill me (and it seems that’s going to happen anyway!)
I don't know. We've gotten used to the USPS making Sunday deliveries and, often, coming two or three times a day to make various e-commerce deliveries. Success emanates from better service, not reduced service.
From another reader:
Just to chime in on the postal service and it’s redundancy I recently moved and changed my address. During the process I was set up for delivery notification service. Do you know what that is? They send me an email with a photo of the actual mail I am going to receive that day. Yesterday I didn’t even get the stuff they emailed me. In fact, I got nothing…
The USPS delivery notification system - which I referred to above as USPS Informed Delivery - is a terrific service. I'm sure some in the USPS think it is a pain, since it automatically tells me what I'm going to get before I get it … which then allows me to ask questions if I don't actually get it. (Which I have.)
I heartily recommend you get it. The cost is zero. And you can sign up here.