Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

The U.S. Postal Service Should Expand, Not Conract

In Insight on January 29, 2009 at 10:07 am


Yesterday the U.S. Postal Service warned they are thinking of cutting service in the wake of a negative balance sheet. Here’s the key passage from that article:

Postmaster General John E. Potter, in testimony before a Senate subcommittee, warned of a possible worst-case scenario: eliminating the requirement to deliver mail six days a week to every address in America.

Maybe it’s just me, but my reaction is: Do us all a favor, deliver mail just twice a week.

To borrow from John Moore at Brand Autopsy and his “Would You Miss” Series: If the U.S. Postal Service stopped delivering mail one day a week, would you miss it?

Like the newspaper industry, the U.S. Postal Service has misunderstood what business they are in. They aren’t in the physical mail business (or at least shouldn’t be), they are in the information distribution business, just like newspapers are (or at least should be).

Where is it written that the U.S. Postal Service can only sell stamps and deliver physical mail? (Maybe that is written somewhere, I really don’t know, but you get my point). 

It seems to me that threatening to stop service one day a week is a short term remedy that really doesn’t solve the problem. If they are in a jam because people are sending less mail, how does reducing service solve that problem?  Cut it back to two or three days a week if that’s the route you are going to do. Now, that may be a problem for businesses and if so we enter a whole new conversation, but how many citizens really need to get mail six days a week at home?

The other, more interesting route, and one the U.S. Postal Service and many newspapers seem unable to make is: If they are in the information distribution service, how else can they distribute information in a way that has real value?

  1. Excellent Post. I’ve thought about their dilemma each time stamps go up, and customer base goes down. I would be happy to have mail delivered twice a week vs. 6. The only major negative I can think of is Netflix, but as we move closer to a set-top box model and streaming that will soon be less of an issue.

  2. As a Canadian, I was amazed you still have this. We get mail 5 days a week. No idea when they started this, but I can’t ever remember getting mail on a weekend (except a courier item.)

    On my last trip into your fair country, I had a chance to be inside one of your postal stations, and was impressed by the efforts to sell additional stuff, such as gift wrap and even gift items (small stuffies).

    I’ll be interested to see how this shakes out with their customer base.

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