Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reorg Earth - USPS

Apparently, like most other businesses in the US, the United States Post Service is experiencing financial troubles.  Never one to withhold my two cents…here they are.

According to the NY Times the postmaster general Patrick Donahoe is considering getting rid of Saturday mail delivery in addition to laying off 120,000 workers and closing up to 3,700 post offices.  All this may be done in an effort to reduce the post office deficit which will total $9.2 billion dollars by the end of this fiscal year.

More and more people are going “paperless” which really means we are saving the companies that send us paper money by opting for e-mail instead.  I wouldn’t be surprised of 99% of what I use the USPS for is incoming mail I did not ask for.  The few times I actually deal with the USPS for items I would like to ship out or packages I would like to mail, it has been a hassle.

•    The wait is long at all hours of the day.
•    The post offices are usually understaffed.
•    The staff is unhappy and not to mention unsightly.  I’m sorry if that’s offensive but who comes to work without running a comb through their hair?
•    Every post office I’ve ever had to frequent usually stinks.

In other words it is not a pleasant experience.  No I don’t expect spa like treatment but it’s also not fair to have your paying customers suffer through this opposite extreme.  The cost of labor and the benefits associated with them haven’t changed fast enough if at all to meet the “downturn.”   Their services have also shown a dramatic reduction in traffic as well.  It is inevitable that changes are forthcoming.  This post is a short list of changes I believe could help keep the post office from disappearing completely.

First let’s take the bull by the horns.  Shutting down locations is a must.  I can’t see any way you can make up that amount of loss by any sort of simple reorganization.  Even in a good economy people would be using them less.  If the economy improves people aren’t exactly going to start sending letters of joy.

Shutdown the locations with the least amount of traffic provided there is another location at least a respectable distance away.  “Respectable” of course being completely subjective to the area they service.

The best and only the best reviewed employees are transferred to nearby offices to balance the greater workload forthcoming due to the shutdown.

Adapt to the changes forced upon by the competition.  For years now the USPS has provided tracking numbers which don’t track.  They just let you know, sometimes an entire day after the fact that your package has arrived.  This is unacceptable.  Their direct competition for package delivery offers sometimes up to the minute tracking.

Provide services the competition does not.  If there is one good thing about the USPS is that they are there on a regular schedule.  (Provided it doesn’t rain, sleet, snow or sprinkle.)  Or some random dog barks at them from behind a safe gate and then they refuse to deliver mail to your home.  Aside from that the post is usually delivered around the same time.  No other delivery service can say that so uniformly.  If the USPS offers guaranteed delivery schedules that range within the hour as opposed to the 8 hour delivery window usually provided by UPS or FedEx, that would be fantastic.

Do something about morale.  If they want a job, they better be happy about it.  If not they better be damn good about pretending they are.  They provide a service and they should do it with a smile.  The last thing anyone wants is to be spoken harshly to by someone you waited 30 minutes to see and pay money to.  This will make people come back.  Yes SOME UPS employees can also be rude (and occasionally terribly uneducated) but you can be in and out of a drop off in 5 minutes.  You can’t have both.

FREE package pickups directly from your home provided you apply the valid home printed postage.  Not all areas do this but they should.  Larger packages would have to be prescheduled of course but that would be made clear during the purchase of the postage.

Those are the few things I think would be interesting but the two most important changes I think would greatly help?

1.     Make the receipt of junk mail opt-in.  It would then be up to the snail mail spammers to do their research first before shipping their junk mail out (and paying postage.)  If your home does not accept junk mail and the advertiser sends it anyway, their junk mail delivery is completed.  To the origin address that is.  Less junk mail means a LOT less deliveries.  This also means less manpower is necessary in the long run once the junk mailers are forced to reduce that business practice.

2.    My second, and in my own personal opinion, best idea is to revitalize the mailbox.  Those little R2-D2 mailboxes served their purpose.  They should be retired.  In their place the USPS should install Redbox style mini post offices.  These new mailboxes should be a blend of a mailbox, and a Coinstar machine.  If you’re unfamiliar with Coinstar read this.  The mailbox would have a larger area than pictures in the Coinstar machine for up to medium sized packages, a scale, be able to dispense folding boxes and stuffing paper as well as postage stamps.  (Large packages would still require a standard post office.)  These machines would greatly reduce the workload of the post office and in the long run would also prove cost efficient.


Any suggestions?

(UPDATE:  Well lookie here.  (http://ups.com/MyChoice)  It looks like the competition is doing what I recommended to the USPS.  You need to be quick old Blue.)