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Post office fashion and financial woes

Inefficient USPS should stay out of the fashion world

Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 5:00 a.m. CST

In this space, I like to joke around a lot, so I thought, hey, let’s write about the postal service. I apologize in advance to all my friends who work for the postal service; you’re all wonderful exceptions, I’m sure.

The United States Postal Service doesn’t want to deliver mail on Saturdays, anymore. They’d rather design and sell fashion clothing.

Who is the Postmaster General these days, anyway? RuPaul?

That’s right. The USPS is launching a fashion clothing line. Nothing says “fashion” like a post office uniform. They don’t want to deliver mail on Saturdays, but they want to look good not doing it.

The new gear is called “Rain Heat & Snow.”

That’s a bit misleading, I think. We didn’t have mail delivery in my town one day last week because we got about 3 inches of snow. The USPS says the name of its clothing line is meant to signify resilience. Ha!

The USPS says it lost $15.9 billion last year – more than three times the previous year, which saw a loss of $5.1 billion. The same press release from the USPS states that the $15.9 billion figure includes $11.1 billion to prefund its pension plan, which it was unable to do. It states that it defaulted on those payments.

Using a cash accounting system, one can see that the USPS actually lost $4.8 billion last year, which is better than it had done the year before. But, when you’re trying to spin a catastrophic outlook, you want to use an accrual accounting system that treats unpaid bills as a loss.

I get that the $11.1 billion in pension payments is an obligation, but that obligation could change legislatively or be paid over a period of time. Plus, the USPS previously overpaid this obligation by some $50 billion. If you’re going to call the $11.1 billion not paid a loss, then you need to count the $50 billion not paid back as profit. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Cutting Saturday deliveries would reportedly save the USPS about $2 billion a year. Which means, if they want to really tackle their debt, they’ll need to cut out delivery on Mondays through Fridays as well.

The postal service said they’d stop most Saturday delivery in August but would continue to deliver packages. They’re apparently more concerned about you receiving your box of postal fashion clothing than they are about your pension check.

I realize that mail is down. Nobody writes letters anymore. People get their checks direct deposited and pay their bills online. Well, not everyone. Who still uses the postal service? Elderly people. Poor people. Disabled people. Rural people without high-speed Internet access. These are the people who would be hurt by the loss of Saturday delivery.

And newspapers. A lot of newspapers deliver store coupons and fliers on Saturday. Come August, those important pieces of mail will be worthless by Monday – or Tuesday if there’s a Monday holiday.

The postal service recently cut a price deal with a large direct mailer to encourage businesses to use direct mail instead of newspapers. Now, the USPS wants to eliminate Saturday delivery, too, which, by the way, they can’t legally do without Congress’ approval; but they say they’re going to do it anyway. Who do these people think they are?

Now, I know some really dedicated, hard-working postal employees. But I know some slackers, too, and I’ve seen some inefficiency. One day, three different USPS trucks pulled up to the back door of our office at different times throughout the day. Maybe they ought to get their heads together and make one trip. A co-worker pointed out the difference between our USPS delivery guy and the UPS lady. When the UPS lady comes in, she seems to be in a hurry. She is cheerful, but she doesn’t waste any time.

The daily postman, on the other hand, pulls up in his jeep and sits outside talking on his cell phone for 20 minutes or more. Then he comes in and engages everyone he sees in conversation, sometimes regaling us with stories of the bargains he found at the antique mall while he was delivering the mail.

The whole time he was talking, I couldn’t help but think, dang man, I want a fashionable uniform like that. Ill-fitting navy shorts with a blue-and-white striped shirt, a boxy hat and my name sewn on a patch over the pocket? That’s stylin’.

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© Copyright 2013 by David Porter who can be reached at david@ramblinman.us. All rights reserved and fully insured.

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