Can the Post Office Survive the Digital Age?

By: Chris Crum - September 6, 2011

In an article earlier this year, we asked, “Is email killing the post office?” Well, the post office is not dead yet, but it’s not helping from the looks of it. The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t have the money it needs to pay its bills, and email and the web are clearly major factors.

Can the post office survive the digital age? Tell us what you think.

A report from the New York Times is all but predicting the U.S. Postal Service’s demise. “The agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances,” the report says.

“If Congress doesn’t act, we will default,” Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe is quoted as saying.

Whew we discussed the subject before, Bloomberg BusinessWeek had put out a lengthy report looking at the decline of the USPS and its contributing factors. While touching on email, it looked more at comparison of USPS performance versus that of FedEx, UPS and DHL, as well as their international counterparts.

Despite talk that social media might one day kill email, email has proven time and time again that it is still a vital part of the Internet. A report from Pew Internet recently found that email (along with search) is the top activity online adults engage in on the web – way more than social media (though that’s growing significantly).

Pew Internet survey

Unfortunately for the USPS, that conversation is irrelevant, because social media and email go hand in hand when it comes to less communication by “snail mail” – a phrase that the post office no doubt despises.

One can only imagine how mobile has contributed to even more communication by web over mail. Now the Internet is in your pocket at all times, not to mention the phone – another classic non-mail form of communication. Last week, Nielsen put out a report finding that 40% of mobile users in the U.S. use smartphones.

Of course email isn’t the only part of the web that is hurting the post office. Online bill pay is a big contributor as well – also now handily available from your pocket.

It’s just easier, cheaper and more efficient to communicate digitally.

Total mail volume decreased by 20% from 2006 to 2010, according to that Bloomberg report. The numbers can only be getting worse for the post office.

There will always be packages, but the digital age certainly continues to leave its mark on those as well. Movies, music and books are all digital now. Earlier this year, Amazon announced that Kindle books were outselling print books. Tablet (namely iPad) sales are on fire. The USPS also has to compete with those other parcel services too.

The Postal Service’s payment is due on September 30. From the sound of it, consumers wouldn’t likely feel the effects so much until early next year. At least the post office should remain open for the holidays.

Is the USPS in serious trouble or is this just a temporary set-back? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • james davis

    The only chance that the Postal Service has to survive is to be allowed to recover part of what they have over payed into the employee pension fund. No other company is required to do this. If not for the over payment the USPS would be making a profit. Mismanagement is also part of their problem. Like most big business they have many managers and supervisors being payed large salries and doing very little to justiy their positions. All of their problems are not to be blamed on the internet alone.

  • steve vaughn

    I think the post office is in trouble at two levels. First, it thinks of itself as an institution instead of a service. The fact that the post office management signed off on a ‘no-layoff’ clause in the union contract earlier this year is a symptom of this. The proposals to close post offices and cut Saturday delivery are also, since these make only millions of dollar changes in a billions of dollar problem. Clearly the post office believes it is entitled to subsidies from the federal governmental and has set itself up to fail with out them. The second problem is that there is a breathtaking shift going on around the delivery of information. We are seeing information that has been delivered in physical containers now being delivered electronically. Letters, legal documents, books, magazines, bills, catalogs and advertising, which have been the bulk of USPS revenue and all going digital. We saw Kodak contract to a shadow of itself in a similar shift that took perhaps 5 years total. The post office has much less time to live in my estimation. Unfortunately, the management and the union leadership have resisted taking an honest look at the future for so long, there is now question in my mind that they are incapable of dealing with this situation. We will just have to see if Obama and the democrats can muster enough to save the postal unions like the saved the autoworker unions. In both cases, the effort looks futile.

  • Carol Williams

    Maybe the p

  • Lisa

    This claim of the PO closing is a myth according to CNN last night.

  • S Rager

    Small rural post offices (those being targeted for “cuts” and closures) are only 7/10 of one percent of the USPS budget. Where’s the rest? Look to the multiple layers of management. Look to paying out millions of dollars for slick TV and cable advertising for priority shipping. Look to past bad decisions such as supporting US Olympics bicycle racing teams, and peddling cartoon character neckties. The USPS did not get into this financial difficulty suddenly, but over many years of poor management and poor planning. If Congress bails out the USPS, it should mandate that small rural offices not bear the brunt of the USPS’ financial realignment. They are mandated to provide mail service in the US Constitution. Small rural offices are important to keeping community identities in tact, and literally, keeping the presence of these places on the map. If the USPS cuts out small offices, there will be a concerted effort, I believe, on the part of these disenfranchised communities to say that as they go, so should the entire USPS.

  • Carol Williams

    Maybe the postal service should have thought of more measures years earlier before it got to this point. What about wage cuts, stopping the EAS bonuses and closing small inefficient post offices. Cutting Saturday delivery should been done years ago as well. The labor unions were started years ago and for good reasons. Now they are the demise of so many businesses.

  • tchurch

    In the long run (20 years), no the USPS will not survive. Service is being cut back and how many personal letters have you gotten? As the older letter writers die off the current and future generations will use phones, email, facebook or other media. They will be forced to become a competing company with UPS and FedEx. As far as rural areas, well placed cell towers, satellites and fiber will kill the last useful places the USPS was.

  • Booming Biz

    I think the Post Office will pull through. Our small business has been getting such poor service from United Parcel Service this last year, and Friday they failed to pick up our shipments once again. As a last ditch effort to get our products to our customers on time, we ran our packages to the Post Office. Guess what? It was actually cheaper and faster to ship with the Post Office than it would have been with UPS. Packages are due to arrive on Tuesday instead of Friday. That’s quite a difference. We’re now exploring the option of shipping with the Post Office on a regular basis. And if their services and prices are better, the Post Office may pick up more business from lots of small businesses.

    • Shadow Fire Promotions, Inc.

      Their prices compete just fine with UPS/FedEx. The issue is that you have a guaranteed shipment with UPS/FedEx, and a faster delivery window. The USPS sells “tracking” and STILL loses packages, with alarming frequency. Add to that “tracked” packages stolen by dishonest and un-fireable employees (among other things), and you have a recipe for disaster, which is what the Post Office is.

      The Post Office whines and complains, just like most government and quasi-government groups, but yet fails to do anything to resolve their problems. It’s akin to a beggar on the street, panhandling for change that he spent on liquor. Yes, he’s broke and homeless, but once he gets money, he’s going to drink again. He’s not looking to solve his problems, he just wants a handout.

  • J. Saller

    I would think gas prices would be a major contributer to the problem!

    • Chris Crum

      They can’t be helping.

  • Booming Biz

    I think gas prices are a problem when it comes to air shipments and long distance trucking — modes of transport that use crude oil related products — jet fuel, gasoline or diesel. But our local UPS trucks all run on natural gas. And natural gas is dirt cheap and our country is loaded with the stuff. In fact, we’re even thinking of converting our vehicles over to it to save money. The Post Office could convert their vehicles to natural gas, too, and save a bundle. (If they haven’t already done this.)

  • Shadow Fire Promotions, Inc.

    The Post Office is not failing because of e-mail and the web. That’s a load of bs. It’s an excuse. What kills the Post Office is (among other things)
    -investing in non-postal items, such as plaques (Obama, sports, etc.)
    -investing in shipping supplies that cost way more than any office store, such as Wal-Mart, Office Max, etc.
    -having supervisors work half-day shifts
    -having the laziest, most un-motivated people working at the Post Office
    -paying obscene money to Postal employees
    -having a “government” job that makes it virtually impossible to fire anyone for any reason, justified or no.
    -despite “tracking”, still managing to lose packages in transit (more frequently than one would expect)

    Of all the things that can be privatised, the Post Office stands to benefit the most.

    As a company that ships every single day, it is safe to say that emails will not kill the Post Office. Nor will FedEx or UPS. Has email and web-payment of bills taken a chunk from the Post Office? Sure. However, they are still a lower cost than FedEx or UPS for shipping small packages. Plus, not every single person DOES pay online or use email. Nor can certain things BE sent via email (official documents come to mind).

    Our business consists of shipping media, such as books, magazines, DVDs, VHS, etc. We used to have a FedEx account, but rarely used it. However, the USPS is still far and away the #1 shipper for such items, despite its many flaws. If they focused on their core competencies and quit trying to branch into unrelated things, they would do a lot better. If they could resolve their problems, streamline operations, and work more efficiently, they could stop bleeding money.

    The Post Office perpetuates the myth that the web kills their business, but one quick look at the operations of the Post Office, which includes their horrendous customer “service” would tell you that the Post Office is still a viable operation, but they shoot themselves in the foot with how they run things, and no one looks at it, just like any kind of government run organisation is given free reign to operate any way they please.

    Really, how many Barack Obama plaques do they sell to justify buying them? What about football/baseball plaques and posters? When the envelopes, mailers, tape, gift boxes and other mailing supplies are priced well over leading stores, who in their right mind would pick it up from the Post Office, unless it was an urgent matter? Their spending habits and hiring habits are what hurts them, email and the web are minor players.

    • John

      Apart from the Obama plaques your comments apply 100% to Canada Post whose employees took the Darwin award winning step of going on strike earlier this year and educated even more people as to their irrelevance.
      Canadians just got mad at them and I think it eventually trickled into their dinosaur brains that perhaps they had made a mistake.
      We are a web business and the post office is just too slow and unpredictable and we use couriers unless forced otherwise. Most times it works but every now & then UPS has a total brain f*rt and does something I’d expect of the PO like shipping an express package by ground!

    • John

      The USPS is only cheaper for small packages for people that do not ship often enough to warrant a UPS or Fed Ex account. However the USPS has done very well contracting to Fed Ex for small packages coupled with Ebay shippers that are not professionals . . . I do have to say we were hearing this crap before we had the net and it was always the fault of someone else then also.

      • Frank

        Not entirely true, since USPS does offer reduced rates for large shippers. If took the time to investigate, you would know this. So how about you stop spewing your crap.

        • Frank

          John, you sound a little negative, are you against small business?

      • Shadow Fire Promotions, Inc.

        We have worked with some Canadians in the past who have echoed your comments about Canada Post. We have also seen FedEx team with the local PO to deliver quickly (although the FedEx portion was smooth, we had to fight with the Post Office to get a tracking receipt), but for our business of books, CDs, DVDs, VHS, etc., you’re not going to find many people wanting to pony up $30 or so to ship your VHS to them by FedEx, when they can pay a fifth of that to ship Media Mail.

  • TPJaveton

    Hey Chris,
    Interesting article!
    It seems to me that with all the competition which arose in the last 15 to 20 years – competition that provides a better service (faster is better in this case) at a much better price (in some cases “FREE”) – the USPS just cannot continue in its present form.

    USPS must make drastic changes in order to compete (or survive). One of the first changes should be removing the requirement for “USPS to prefund its future retirees’ health benefits at a cost of approximately $5.6 billion per year.” This is a request that was already made by the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe. Apparently USPS is the only agency that is required to do this prefunding.

    Personally, I’d like to see the post office continue in business for the foreseeable future. After all, where else am I going to get my “return receipt requested” mail; And what the heck am I going to do with this stamp meter sitting on my desk? Thanks for the article!


  • Andrew Batty

    The USPS is run by blue collar excutives who do not do the carrier work. Our local small PO lost it’s Post Master and they have one poor girl running the whole PO! They let the larger PO next town, do the carrier work. Stupid Political Corp. management with no unions to put them in check. They spend more time spying on the workers and dinging them, then actually deliving the mail and taking with customers.

    They could make their online “click and ship” way easier and faster but they make it a royal pain to jump through too many pages!! I have to deal with it daily, I ship mostly USPS with my company, my PO is one block away. USP has a monoploy and charges too much for small packages. Also USPS Int. packages are way cheaper for foreign customers. 1/2 price than UPS.

  • Cherrie

    I don’t think it will survive. I’m not so sure it was the digital age that will be it’s demise. I think it never thought about proper diversification or competition in the marketplace. It just always thought it would be here. I think the job can be done by private business, and we may just get better prices out of some competition as we are seeing with FedX, UPS and others that are offering some competitive rates.

    I would not be mailing more letters if not for email. It would be about the same. Things that need to be mailed for business still get mailed the old fashioned way.

    Our local post office has been a very unpleasant place to do business for quite some time, and I wouldn’t miss them if they closed down. Employees at the post office are often rude, and try to pad the total by giving you the most expensive options first (hoping you’ll think that’s all there is). For example, I sent a small pkg to my son and they were trying to charge me over $50 to mail it with all the bells and whistles. If you don’t say assertively “I want you to give me the least expensive option”, they give you the most expensive one and then look at you hoping you’ll bite. I find that bordering on fraudulence, especially with the elderly or disabled who may not know to keep asking questions. So now I moved to mailing pkgs through a locally owned business that will give me the best option of FedX, UPS or US Post on any given day.

    The US postal service is top heavy, and inefficient and was arrogant enough to think they didn’t have to change…so they started making changes after it was already too late.

    That being said, I love my post man. He’s awesome. But now I have envelopes from the post office and I buy my stamps from him so I don’t have to wait in line for a long time for rude service.

    USPS thought they were the only game in town and were beyond reproach. We’re consumers. We want fast, friendly service and a competitive price. USPS has failed in moving forward with the times.

    • Joe

      Just so you know, the employees are required to attempt to sell higher priced services. Failing to follow these requirements can and will result in disciplinary action. They are not being rude, they are doing their job as they have been instructed.

      • Shadow Fire Promotions, Inc.

        Most places you shop at are going to give you the highest priced options first. You see it in stores all the time. That’s why some stores have their sales people brag that they are NOT on commission.

  • Thomas Bergel

    The USPS as it is now configured is a dinosaur. The 1st class letter can no longer support the other classes of mail (mostly junk advertising) that make up the bulk of mail today. I recently received an ad that had a metered stamp that showed the sender paid 8 tenths of a penny for that mailing. The USPS can no longer raise the rates on the declining volume of 1st class mail to recoup their losses. The USPS must charge advertisers a rate which supports the mailing or abandon the effort entirely. If the USPS is to survive it must intensify their efforts in the parcel delivery area and trim their expenses in manpower.

    • Obdurate

      Isn’t that the theory behind “redistribution of wealth”. The top tax payers will always support those who don’t/can’t/won’t work and/or pay taxes. Just raise the tax rates!

  • Obdurate

    Now here we have direct proof that the Federal Government CANNOT create a sustainable industry – People will migrate to whatever is in their best interests and avoid the more expensive alternatives when technology and lifestyles change, adapt and evolve.

    So, when the politicians legislating which industries must succeed or fail, remember the Post Office and AMTRAK and tell yourself that the markets will always decide which organizations will survive or fail.

  • Digital Matrixx

    This site will do it all when its complete

  • D

    The Post Office could survive if they stopped Saturday deliveries and stopped giving boxes away. I do enjoy the free boxes but let’s face it, they cost them money. Also, they should get into some social networking to build on their shipping services. I use the USPS all the time for shipping. It’s inexpensive and easy!

  • Liz Bryman

    As someone who does business by mail order, I’d hate to have to rely on only the established package delivery services such as UPS and FedEx. My small local p.o. has friendly helpful clerks who will go to extra lengths for their customers. I drive 10 miles to it but I don’t mind because I get exactly the service I expect and delivery to my customers has never been delayed.

    But there are many ways the postal service could do a better job. It’s definitely top-heavy in some areas with too many employees who do very little. I’ve seen that in some larger cities so others who commented here about rude and lazy employees are not wrong. The larger cities could benefit by reducing their number of post offices. We don’t need a post office every two-three miles apart; we can get to the next one if one closes down.

    In Europe many countries have post office banks, called GIRO. It was the way many people saved, paid their bills, and sent money before checks became popular in the 1960s. People had a GIRO account number and utilities and other bills would be paid into their GIRO accounts from the post office.

    If the USPS added a “giro” type bank, they’d have money coming in continually. USPS already sells money orders so is somewhat prepared for money dealings. A small charge to use the “giro” bank could be charged per amount, and of course a monthly service fee like private banks.

    USPS also receives money online from purchases from the online post office supplies and services. What’s stopping USPS from becoming a bona fide bank that more people would use because it’s convenient? Congress wouldn’t like it someone said? Don’t laugh. Congress would likely welcome one more measure to get out of the big financial hole their policies of the past have created.

    Email has not replaced first class mail except by a very small percentage (I don’t believe the official statistics there). Instead, thanks to email and online presence thousands of people are now buying and selling online, making several trips to the p.o. every week with packages that cost much more to mail than stamps can bring in. Take away those mailing costs and USPS would truly be even more broke than it is.

    I’d be very sorry to see my little post office close. The nearest one to it is 20 miles from my house. Yeah, I live in rural America. So do many more people.

    To take away their small p.o. because they don’t carry their weight in income is not fair when it’s the big city post offices that should make up for them in income instead of wasting it on being too numerous and bloated with employees.

  • Rusty

    Not really…it’s dying slowly.

  • Dale Carlow

    I see the Post Office as the modern day “buggy whip” factory. Its outlived its usefulness and should be retired. As for a replacement for parcels, I believe that Fedex and UPS do a far superior job. All we really need is electronic “proof of delivery” and the Post Office will truly be obsolete.

    • Frank

      As a online retailer that uses the PO, I can say they do just as good a job as FedEx or UPS. The cost of shipping my products by Priority Mail vs ground by the others saves me and my customers money, and on average is delivered sooner. If the USPS is not charging enough, so be it, raise their rates. But the real problem is the way they are run and their retirement plan driving them into the ground. Apples for Apples, USPS beats UPS / FedEx hands down.

  • Travis

    As a few people have commented, email and the “digital age” isn’t killing the postal service. It is a typical big, bloated inefficient bureaucratic organization.

    I’m surprised nobody has pointed out the elephant in the room – the pensions these postal workers get. This will never happen, but if they could just do away with the pensions, that one act would literally save them.


  • Bill Tucker

    No,. it will not survive. The USPS has been on the hit list long before Email.

    The US Post Office is one of only 2 parts of the US Federal Government that always paid it’s own way.

    And you would expect UPS and FedX to deliver your first class letter for under 50 cents?

    Privatization of government services has shown to be a boondoggle,
    always costing consumers 30% more at a minimum.

  • Bob Rodriguez

    The poney express was really cool during the days when it was fashionable to have a horse and buggy.

  • Frank

    The USPS has the infrastructure to succeed. Perhaps it should look at the Fed Ex and UPS model. It owned the parcel post market and lost it, try taking back your market. duh.

  • rm

    I remember discussion about this over 12 years ago and the failure of the USPS to offer email services, accounts – anything creative to get into the mix of the web and grow into the digital age – but no they are stuck in the mud and now want another tax payer bailout.

    They need to be sold off to UPS and others who know how to do this better for less money, offer better customer service and make a profit.

  • Bill Stewart

    I ship a lot of packages via USPS and it’s a tremendous cost savings over either UPS or FedEx when shipping packages under 7 lbs. If more business’ would send 1st Class Package, Priority Mail, or Parcel Post they would see a huge cost savings in their shipping expenses. Even when I need to add a’la carte services like insurance for more expensive items, I still come out ahead!

    Further, they must continue as the US Constitution requires their existence. An ammendment would be required to abolish them, and as there are still a large number of people living in rural areas, I doubt that will ever happen.


  • Deborah Rowell

    While email is certainly used for many communications that were previously delivered by the United States Postal Service(USPS), I cannot imagine a world without this vital communication channel. FedEx and UPS have their place, but do not serve all of our needs. They would be hard pressed to pick up all the work of the USPS. Our business still relies on regular mail delivery of invoices, statements, and payments from customers. Most of our customers still are not interested in being billed electronically or paying electronically, although we offer these options. Personaly, I still enjoy receiving greeting cards for various occasions, catalogs from selected companies, as well as sending and receiving and packages. I hope the USPS will find a way to streamline their processes and become competitive.

  • Bill Stewart

    Oh, I forgot to mention…

    Shipping small packages internationally is 1/3 to 1/4 of the cost UPS & FedEx charge.

    Also, IF they were to abolish the USPS, do you really think UPS & FedEx would not raise their rates? Who would police them to make sure they offered an affordable service for the regular person who needs to send a small package to family or friends? Will they ship a package to our service men & women overseas for such a small amount of money?


  • Peter Drew

    What’s killing the post office is a mandate by Congress that the USPS, “…must pay cash today for health benefits that will not be paid out till far in the future.” That’s a quote from a piece, Patrick R. Donahoe, Postmaster General, wrote for the June 2011 USPS marketing magazine, Deliver. He continues, “Other federal agencies and most private-sector companies use a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system, paying premiums until they are billed. Consider that the Postal Service had to borrow $12 billion from the US Treasury so that it could make the $21 billion prepayment to the Retiree Health Benefit fun over the past four fiscal years.”

    Donahoe goes on to explain that the USPS has set aside $42 billion for such future costs. Talk about killing your cash flow! No other business or federal agency pays for health care for workers in this onerous fashion. Congress is responsible for this problem and Congress must fix it to free up the billions of dollars unnecessarily going to a health care fund that could be used to run the business. Donahoe writes, “Were it not for this provision of law, the Postal Service would not be operating in the red; it would have turned a profit of $1 billion from 2007 to 2010, a period when mail volume declined 20 percent due to the recession.”

    And to counter the claims that digital is killing snail mail, independent studies I’ve seen indicate that under 40s actually trust and are happy to receive direct mail offers over online advertising and email. People, no matter what their age, still like to get mail, hold it in their hands, make a purchase, or hold on to it for future reference. The most important role for snail mail in this context is for marketers to keep it in their marketing mix, combined with email, banner, social, broadcast, and other marketing channels.

    Times change and the post office is trying damn hard to change with them. It’s pretty hard to do when you have to pay billions of dollars out the door up front for something you don’t have to.

    I don’t work for the Postal Service. I’ve been in advertising and know that direct mail works and continues to work. Between direct mail and package delivery, the USPS can remain very viable, but Congress must do what’s right and fix the problem they created.

    • Paula Martin

      You’ve explained the problem clearly.

      Currently S1789 is in the House. The video on You Tube explains some of the destruction to postal employees if S1789 is passed or combined with HR2309.

  • mike

    It has nothing to do with email.
    We still ship goods from the UK to our customers in the US and it takes forever, 3 to 4 weeks.
    Couriers take 3-5 days.
    The problem is they are so slow that nobody uses USPS any more.
    If they ‘Digium Extractum’ and got on with actually delivering ‘stuff’ instead of crushing it or just ignoring it, then people might actually use the USPS.
    Just have a look for USPS and slow and you will see what I mean!

    • Frank

      Can you post the price difference between these two services, are you trying to state they are equivalent?

    • DG

      we use Endicia to post our USPS shipments, and we ship worldwide. For the price their service is not bad and I’ve had limited losses if I just limit some of the countires. They need to dump their union contract and start over in the real word. Thanks

      • Shadow Fire Promotions, Inc.

        Customs does still play a role in International shipments. Not that we would defend the USPS.

        • Jolly Rogers

          Sounds like miss-management. Rid yourselves of many Post Master generals and the big salries.

          How can you owe 5.5 billion dollar payments and who do you owe them too?

          If you are to the point of begging congress for a tax payer bailout you deserve to go broke.

          Thats business.

          Let some oher private company show you how to turn a profit.

          • sabrina

            the 5.5 billion is to an account that has to be paid at the beginning over every year for retirement. If we didnt have to pay that in a lump sum every year guess what we would be in the black.
            and what is with everyone wanting to go private. then prices will rise.. and they probably wouldnt hire americans anymore.

  • headdragon

    They could not pay their bills 2 years after civilians got the internet.

  • Fozzy

    A) The internet was a boon to the USPS. Ever think of how much money they’re making shipping all those goods people buy over the Internet? Amazon is a huge customer to USPS.

    B) The USPS is suffering due to their pension and health care system. You can retire relatively early as a USPS and start pulling a pension. Have a look at their finances and I bet you’ll see that there’s a huge number in that box.

    The USPS business model works just fine. It is their employment model that’s killing them.

    • Shadow Fire Promotions, Inc.


      Here’s an example from Chicago: The Post Office has ONE PERSON on duty at 8 AM, 12 PM and 5 PM. What is the first thing you notice about those times? It wouldn’t be the times when people are most likely to be shipping a package, buying stamps, etc. because it’s say, their lunch hour, or on their way to or from the office? So, to make sure you focus on SERVICE, the Post Office removes all clocks, because you know, no one would think to wear a wristwatch or carry a cell phone that can tell you how long you have been in line. There was a Bill Kirchenbauer joke on YouTube that said the Post Office workers all take valium, and we would find that fairly accurate.

      The peak times that people would be there are when they have the fewest people, and no supervisors (all supervisors leave at 3 PM, and work that half day, so there are at least two supervisors per day that you have to pay). Supervisors start when the Post Office is still closed, and shift one is 6-8 here, and then second shift supervisor is 12-3.

      However, if you go at an off-peak time, you will see EVERY WINDOW manned, and no one mailing things. Because, you know, people are at their JOBS! Only people that do mail for a living (like us) will be at the Post Office throughout the day, but there is no reason to have 5-7 windows all staffed at 3 PM, when no one is there.

      Also, the removal of a clock does not mean better service. Whoever thought of that should be shot. If you want to focus on service, you should have MORE clocks, to show how fast you are being taken care of. Be like McDonald’s, where they can accurately service you within a certain time window, based on the complexity of what you are doing (one stamped letter should not be the same as a person with multiple packages to multiple destinations).

  • anon

    Have you been to the Post Office lately.
    The employees attitude should tell you something.
    Thanks to the unions ain’t much anyone can do!

    • sabrina

      im sorry if you have had bad service. i happen to be great to all my customers and have built many friendships. there are bad eggs everywhere.

  • Sherri davis

    If the post office had to live by the same budget rules I did – they wouldn’t be in business. However, we need a post office we just dont need the thousands of extra employees that it’s union makes it keep on staff. We need to clean house and then it will be able to survive. 3 days a week would suit a lot of people. If people want faster they use special services anyway!

  • DG

    The demise of the USPS is largely a result of expenses growing beyond revenue. The revenue simply can’t support it . . . do what we small business people do CUTBACK, DOWN SIZE. If they can’t we will all end up paying to keep this buggy wipe enterprise going. I’m not certain about this but I’ve heard that most countries have private post offices. All those dreams of a public service retirement – I feel so bad.

    • DG

      adding “I feel so bad . . NOT”

  • CaptainCyberzone

    The Post Office could survive if it was “privatized” and “de-unionized”.
    Government bureaucracy, as dictated by the Peter Principle, is inefficient and a proven failure whenever it involves itself in a “market dictated” business (especially a government in bed with “the mob/Public Unions” .

  • Louis

    Until everyone has email, the post office or something like it will need to exist. Once my generation, the baby boomer is dead, the next generation will not need a post office type of system. We will only need a UPS, FedEX etc system for large items.

  • Oakland Raiders Jersey

    I don’t think U.S. Postal Service will shut down entirely this winter.

    i belive Congress will solve the Postal Service problem.

  • delos

    The USPO will also have to cut expenses in other ways. What if you only had mail delivered 2 days a week? Less trips to each building means less employees means less expenses.

    The USPO needs to stay and expand within the communication field. For example, it could offer secure digital communications for important document delivery. Another commenter mentioned banking services, since a good chunk of the important documents are financial. The USPO could charge a small fee to send documents with a guaranteed delivery and to let the sender know if the document was opened. That’s the point of certified mail – to know the recipient got the message. Why not save the cost of the actual delivery of the physical document?

    Would all this solve the USPO’s immediate money problems? No, but it might keep it solvent and relevant.

    • CaptainCyberzone

      The problem is the number of employees and their associated benefits. They have 200,000 un-needed employees (as of now) and they know it and admit it BUT, because of UNION contracts, they can not lay them off or fire them!

  • Julie Ostrom

    I don’t think we should get rid of the Post Office because there are many folks who still do not use a computer to do all their mailing or corresponding activities. However, the Post Office should look at ways to change their way of engaging their customers, as any other private business. Have the hours open earlier and later in the day when people can actually make it there on their way from home to work, or vice versa. Or maybe they need to open a USPS office in places like Walmart, or Starbucks where people go to on a frequent basis. The hours and locations are limited and challenging for many families who are too busy to make it to the post office. Get rid of the Saturday delivery. Don’t need it. Although, I have noticed that my mails tend to travel much quicker over the weekend than over the normal weekdays. Plus, as we see in todays economy, no company can continue to dole out pension plans like we used to. That’s what is really killing the USPS and other big union organizations. No company can sustain lifetime pensions and benefit plans for their employees without running into financial troubles later.

  • Lionel Bachmann

    Just another example of why the government shouldn’t be in the marketplace. The unions vote for politicians that make policies so the union members can’t get fired or laid-off and their pay keeps increasing. Meanwhile the USPS doesn’t make enough money to cover costs, and now taxpayers have to foot the bill. Let the USPS die, save taxpayers money, and let UPS or FedEx offer a “snail mail” service if they can make it profitable. If not, the American people will survive, it’s not like it’s the end of the world if we stop receiving junk mail.

    • Richard Micco

      Tell your junk mail politicians that who, by the way, own the companies and make the money from those solicitations. It’s a vicious circle, brother.

  • David Perkins

    The USPS is in a serious situation and some “critical” thinking and “decisive action” by management COULD solve this problem… IF Congress will allow management to transfer funds they DO have between accounts and pay the bills that are due today.

    Then, decisive action steps need to be implemented to cut losses. Employees who do not produce should be let go on the spot. We see too many of them at OUR post office all the time. Speed and productivity is NOT part of the “job requirement” so it does not show up at the customer window or on the route. I hate it when I stand in line for half an hour, get to be next in line, and the next available clerk goes on a break for an hour or so. Somebody else ‘oughta fill that slot while they’re away on break, IF a break is so vital.

    Plus, someone needs to cut the number of vehicles that the USPS owns by about half. In some of our local post offices, the look is like that of a FLEET service. And most of it appears to ALWAYS be in the parking lot. Payments on those vehicles can’t be cheap and insurance isn’t either.

    My father worked for the old Postal System in the 50’s and 60’s and he drove his own vehicle. I don’t understand why the USPS needs to provide route people a vehicle. Having one should be part of the job requirement… One that works and is reliable!

  • Lyle

    For what they pay what is basically unskilled labor, the USPS deserves to go out of business. If the USPS paid their delivery people a wage commensurate with the skills needed to do the job, =and= average benefits, the price of a first-class letter would probably still be 10 cents.

    • Lyle

      That’s weird; “first-class” gets “bleeped”? How about classified? Someone needs to re-program their nanny.

    • Richard Micco

      It’s only unskilled to those who write about it and never have had the joyous experience of actually walking and carrying up to 40 lbs per set 20 times a day. I have done it and they are BEARLY paid for the LABOR they do and the customers who expect them to blow their noses everytime they sneeze because they’re too lazy to step off the porch and put their hands out to get their mail. When you have the experience behind you, please feel free to comment on a subject you know. Thanks.

    • brenda

      I don’t care if the USPS operates on a co-op or profit sharing business model and all who work for the USPS make a million bucks per year. “Skilled” or “Unskilled” has nothing to do with it. Pro-athletes make a stupid amount of money for what…a highly important skill? This is America where anything is possible. If you can get away with making an obscene amount of money doing absolutely nothing, go for it!

      The only problem is that the USPS is not run by fresh forward thinking individuals and therefor will be doomed.

  • Tom Alciere

    I just cashed a check I got in the mail. After thinking it over, I didn’t buy a money order at the drug store to pay my credit card bill. Instead, I went to the bank to deposit cash and paid the credit card bill on line, not just to save postage and the money order fee, but to make the payment happen right away. However, when there are numerous payments to make, I prefer to mail money orders so if anything happens to my bank account, the money orders still go through.

  • Geo. D

    All of you “pudits” assume that the entire country if not planet is digitally connected. What about those that aren’t? Are they second class citizens to be disregarded? Technology is to help mankind not to segregate the haves from the have nots. I think your journalism skills should be integated with whateve ethics courses you may have slept though.

  • Stephen

    The USPS has all the technology to really make a go of it. First, they should have mail delivery Monday through Friday. Saturdays are a real waste. The shipping costs they have are very competitive and I have enjoyed good delivery service from them. Finally, their distribution system is archaic. I had a package sent fro LA to Phoenix. It went through, and was scanned at 5 different sorting facilities. And that is from big metro to big metro. USPS needs to look at FedEx and UPS and learn a lesson. Also get rid of the old, worthless ways of doing business….

    • Stephen

      BTW, the USPS needs to really address rural delivery. It should be their biggest selling point. Don’t leave the rural business behind…

  • Richard Micco

    Yes, the post office WILL survive the digital age if it will do ONE THING……….Be competitive with Fedex, UPS and the other delivery services instead of keeping their prices so low. Please consider the fact that you can mail a one ounce letter from the Florida Keys to Hawaii for HOW MUCH?????? 44 cents?????????? with gas priced at $3.55 a gallon as an average figure, the Postmaster General needs to use some common math sense and re-evaluate pricing. The postal service is a government entity in name only. It is still expected to run like any other business. Treat it as such. Even walmart increases its prices and I don’t see anyone not shopping there anymore. Also, it shouldn’t take 5 people in management to manage 20 individual workers. You don’t have that many people guarding prisoners in jails. Why would you do that in a business. Perhaps the Postmaster General needs to lay off the public relations and possibly earn that great bonus he makes yearly and place more emphasis on working on a few simple plans to reprice and replace unnecessary supervision without hiring a subcommitee to tell him what he already knows.

  • Bobby Tangeray

    I find this article extremely short sighted.

    The USPS is in trouble because it has huuuuuuge (5.5 Bil)retirement benefits payments it HAS been making in a recession.

    UPS and FedEX don’t have those payments yet. They are young companies.
    Only an oil company can continue making 5.5 Billion dollar payments and stay afloat.

    If we lose the post office America is done. Postal workers do more than deliver mail, they are the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods – their mere presence keeps our communities together and fight crime.

    Postal mail is the ONLY truly private form of communication. Your every keystroke is being monitored, cataloged, bought and sold.

    Wake up America!

    • Richard Micco

      Finally, someone who thinks!!!!! Thank you, Sir. You have restored my faith in those that think outside of a trend. Postal workers also have been known to advise ambulance services of those with grave injuries and , not to sound morbid, the coroner when someone has died at home alone. Also, the dog scenerio is one of great humor with most civilians, but most postal workers have been bitten at some point during their employ. Unfortunately, workers comp doesn’t pay for what they consider to be a knowledgable occupational hazard. I dare any person who has a job, be it inside or outside, to put up with having a dog try to bite you. They would be crying all day long about how unfair their jobs were. Thank you again for your statement.

    • brenda

      Nothing is truly private. Postal workers have been accused of opening people’s mail.

      All of that aside, how about creating a new occupation for postal workers… the PoWOPS. Postal Workers On Patrol. A little COP and a little Postal morphed into one. This way they will deliver what mail is left to be delivered and keep a watchful eye on the neighbor hood. They can carry guns and shoot the occasional crazy dog who comes to attack them plus have the ability to arrest idiots.

      The only way to save an occupation is by thinking outside the box. Don’t let your profession die off, get creative! No use being afraid of change…change comes whether you like it or not.

  • Dave

    No way the Post Office will close down. Closing of Post Offices, No Saturday Delivery’s, Layoffs are a must. Wow the layoff’s would put a big increase in are unemployed now. The Pensions are killing them.

  • kate

    I am an Australian. I have been waiting 5 WEEKS FOR 2 packages from America. I have already called and complained to them, there were not helpful.

    As a creditor, I have a right to be annoyed. If they’ve been running an unsuccessful business model, that’s the US GOVERNMENT’s problem. Other P.O. businesses are coping. Australia’s is still making big money. New Zealand looked at cutting delivery days because of waining profitability. The U.K.’s is not on the brink of disaster.

    In Australia, our P.O.’s sell uncompetitive priced office items, like pens, tape, printers, scanners, mobile phones. Apparently this is making money for them. I put this to an American who said it wouldn’t work in the US. In Australia, our postal costs ARE expensive. You do have to fly to get to rural places like Alice Springs, the Pilborough, bits of far north Queensland, and our prices are higher than the US. I know I get stung hard enough to post something to Australia from America, if the USPS thinks that it should charge the same from Florida to Alaska, Rhode Island to Hawaii, than from Connecticut to New York, then those big routes need to start subsidising the small or prices must be charged on distance. Territories of Australia are counted international for the sake of packages. While the US has 2 states not connected to the landmass, it has quite a few outlying territories and I’m not sure of how the US administers their mail services.

  • annonymous

    They Are Not Suffering From The Digital Age. Their Problem Is That They Are Still Living In The Past. The Fact Of The Matter Is Yes Less People Are Sending Letters To Friends And Family Through Snail Mail But That Was Only A Small Percentage Of The Mail Anyways. Infact The Digital Age Has Brought Them Tons More Business Since You Can’t Have Any Object Of Substance Delivered By E-Mail And The Digital Age Has Opened The Market on Buying Objects From All Corners Of The World. The Only True Competition Is Their Own Stupidity And Archaic Methods Of The Still Use To Send Mail Today. UPS Is Winning The Snail Mail Race Because It Offers Insurance (Up To $100) And Simple To Use(Every Move Updates) Tracking Information All For Free Where USPS You Have To Pay Extra For That And The USPS’s Tracking Number Are Anything But Informative(Only Telling People When The Package Has Been Picked Up And Delivered With Zero Information On Expected Delivery And Where It’s Currently At. In Short If They Want To Survive They Need To Get With The Times Offering Free Tracking On Every Single Package And/Or Letter And Offer A Decent Insurance For Free(I Mean Come On You Can’t Guarantee That Our Merchandise Is Safe In Your Hands) And It All Needs To Be Offered And A Competitive Rate To Their Competition Or They Will Be Phased Out.

    • brenda

      I agree. The post office is operating as if in the year 1980. USPS seems like it needs to be privatized in order to spiffy things up and get up to seed with new technology and operating more efficiently because what they are doing now is not working. well no, it is working alright…. working against them.

  • Jesus Olvera

    Yes it does looks bad for the USPS. Their services are no longer much of a necessity as they once were. Remember the “elevator operators” and the “gas station attendants”? Their services were taken over by automation. In addition to automation, they do have some stiff competition in their packaging services. I believe that the USPS will have to downsize. It’s their only salvation if they are to continue in existence.

  • Alec Ward

    The US post looks to be in the same position as the UK post inasmuch that it is a state run enterprise trying to exist in an age gripped and manipulated by all things Friedland. I have no doubt that when it is finally ‘finished off’ it will, within a short period of time, be resurrected under private ownership who will ‘transform’ it into a ‘vibrant business reflecting the best of blah blah blah’. The reality is that your post office, like our’s, has been deliberately run down by various means to ensure that nothing which smacks of ‘socialism’ succeeds.

  • Nuasoft Web Design

    I can’t see the post office closing down. It is a vital service and a lot of online sales are still sent through the post.

    The comment about it reappearing in private onwership would be a disaster because the private owners would only service profitable routes.

    Can you really see a private company delivering a letter to somebody living in the middle of nowhere for a few cents?

    • G. Barlow.

      Private enterprise is the only solution to the U.K.’ problems. Anything to do with the government and councils is guaranteed to waste money.
      Private P.O. can offer a collection service and/or delivery on specified days in a specific area.
      Imagination and profit oils industries’ wheel.

  • G. Barlow.

    No the Post Office can never survive applying its current policy.
    Recent investigation reveals that their counter scales are in-accurate and biased towards over-charging.
    Complaints to both the P.O. and the Office of Fair Trading have proved useless. The public are treated with contempt.
    FOC’s plan is privatisation with an offices in every hamlet, open six days a week, dawn to dusk.

  • Norman

    All businesses come and go in cycles. The stagecoach was destroyed by the rail services about 100 years ago. The rail services were destroyed by private cars and airlines.
    The Pony Express rider by the telgraph and the telegraph by the phone and later the fax.
    So what makes anyone think that the Post Office will always be there?

  • James

    I don’t the United Postal Service is needed any more. Most of the time it’s junk mail that they send out anyways. I am so sick of getting it. Yes, everything is going digital and pretty soon we won’t need their services. Just a waste of government money.

  • Mat Weller

    Since it’s constitutionally guaranteed, it will survive. However, if it’s going to be even remotely useful, it will require some drastic changes and leadership with a third-grader’s knowledge of business. The post office will always have the advantage of not needing to turn a profit to be a win. It doesn’t really even have to break even. It just has to not leak money like a bottomless bucket.

  • Tommy

    I think the postal system’s problems stem from employee pay and benefits package, if they can get that portion of their expenses under control they could and should survive.

  • http://N/A jeff

    The problem is not email nor social media. Fed Ex has survived this competition of email/social media because they adjust to market changes more effiecently because they are focused on their bottom line profit. The Post Office is not. The Post office is bled dry by union workers and union pensions and benefits. They are so focused on the greviences and contracts of these employees that they don’t spend enough time focusing on their ledgers. It really irritates millions of Americans that see the Post office as a needed necessity, but feel it is no place for the Government to bail these guys out. Let the private sector run this and it will survive…

  • SEOWritingExpert

    The days of the UPS is numbered when it comes to the traditional mail like letters etc. I receive most of my accounts electronically and it is also much easier to file, whilst the billing company save thousands on mailing cost. The only viable option for the UPS is to diversify and look for other complementary revenue streams.

  • FreelanceWritingJobsOnline

    The digital age is most definitely a serious challenge to the Post Office and it will need to almost re-invent itself to survive. How about expanding into banking and commercial services, or even selling more stationery?

  • Theresa M. Moore

    While I do not rely on the USPS for sending letters, I do rely on it for special packages which must be in physical form and also to ship my products to customers. I would not mind not getting mail on Saturdays to make up for the difference if it would help the USPS get back on track. However, the cost to mail something has gone up enough that I am forced to consider using another service. USPS needs to re-examine its allocation budget to see where it can cut other costs. On the news the other day, I saw that the rural community of Hack, NC was used as an example of a post office about to be closed, and it did not help the USPS to see the mail carrier using an SUV to drive from mail box to mail box. Maybe if the USPS went back to the time-honore tradition of having its mail carriers walk they would cut back on the amount of gas consumed, and save money that way. Blaming the costs of labor does not cut it. Other companies and shippers don’t appear to have this problem.

    • Richard Hance

      Rural North Casrolina has hills and snow. The rural carrier could possibly go back to horseback, but that is way slow. Some routes in the universal delivery are miles a part. Want to pay the rural carrier to walk between boxes? I didn’t think so. The pay schedule for rural carriers in SUVs is the same as for rural carriers in subcompacts, so much a mile. The issue is whether the vechicle can lock the mail securely when the carrier is not in the vechicle, hold all the mail to be delivered, and travel the route in any weather.
      The demise of the Postal Service started when the USPS allowed other carriers to take unwanted package routes, at first in big cities. Don’t know if any of the readers remember when UPS first started and didn’t offer service to some addresses. The Postal Service lame management didn’t even try to keep that business.
      On the subject of pay, the UPS drivers are teamsters and get more per hour than a Postal Service letter carrier.
      My experience as a former letter carrier makes me reflect the problem with the Postal Service isn’t the workforce, it is the number crunching management types that don’t see it as a secure, universal service. They think man hours (and delayed delivery)verses quality of service in any weather to any address nationwide.
      The postal service is kinda like FEMA. No one likes it (USPS) until they need it. Maybe the Board of Governers of the Postal Service will wake up and require people skills in managers.

  • Elizabeth Urlacher

    I’m not sure that it will, since I can certainly see that in our business we don’t buy stamps nearly as often as we did in the past. We email invoices, and most payments are made electronically.

    I fear though that if the postal service doesn’t survive that it will become significantly more expensive to send a few of the necessary every day items by way of private carriers. Or maybe it’ll actually just even out… private carriers will have more business and perhaps their rates and pricing will eventually come down to be more competitive.

    Times are definitely changing. We just had the last video store in our city close down. No more Block Buster, I think a little guy called Netflix had something to do with this.

  • kuppyus

    I think the US Post OFfice missed an opportunity and it shows how poorly they operate.

    The US Post Office is in the information delivery business and there is no reason they did not think about become an Internet Service Provider early in the game.

    How they never thought e-mail, online bill-pay, online greeting cards, online bank statements, online credit card statements, etc. would not impact on their business can only make one think they were led by people who kept their head in the sand.

    The handwriting has been on the wall for years, yet they have done nothing.

    Poor management and leadership.

    Management all deserves to be tossed out with NO PENSION. They failed miserably and should be punished accordingly.

  • Bill

    The USPS is top heavy with personnel. When other companies were trimming back their work force and striving to become more efficient, the USPS simply asked Congress for an increase in stamp prices.

    Instead of embracing the Internet (until the last few years), they pretty much ignored it and carried on, business as usual. The problem is, with each increase in stamp prices, they drove more customers away and to the Internet.

    There are postal services in other developed countries that are running profitably – so there are examples to be followed. They need to hunker down, trim the fat and get serious.

    I rarely go into the Post Office these days, but when I do, I can count on standing in a line, with only one or two stations open, while being able to hear and see personnel sitting around, being totally unproductive in the back room.

    Any business I have been associated with, took care of the customer first, then worked breaks into the flow of the day. Not the PO. There can be 20 people in line, and when it’s time to take a break, well, it’s time to take a break!

    The USPS is just another example of how the Unions have outlived their usefulness, and driven costs labor costs and benies to unsustainable levels. I’m not anti-union per se, but they need to open their eyes to reality. They have priced themselves right out of a job.

    They have talked about eliminating Saturday postal service. We could adjust to that. We rarely receive anything but “junk” mail on Saturdays, anyway.

    The bottom line is, they are in this position because nobody wanted to make the tough decisions necessary to make the business profitable. And they’re still not – they’re turning to Congress to solve their problem for them. Management, leadership – it’s more than just a title!

  • Vivek

    Hi All,

    It is wrong to say that the advent of Internet Technologies such as EMail and Messaging services replaces Postal Services.

    In fact it is the other way around. Today’s Information technology can
    be a valuable asset for Postal Services. For example, one can send message from Electronic Media instead of writing on a post card and sending it. The final Postal message can be delivered at the other end which involves both manual and electronic usage in a quick and efficient way.

    With Regards,

  • Norman

    I can’t speak for the US Postal services, but as an online seller of books, I can certainly say that the sheer costs involved in selling hardback books through the post (our books are quite heavy e.g. Vintage Advertising Old Automobiles is 3kgs in weight) has been a major factor in our reviewing our Marketing for 2012 and introducing our titles as eBooks.
    Whether the French rates are more exorbitant than other countries I don’t know, but we also have a bizarre situation that if our books were written in French, and supported ‘French Culture’ this particular tome would cost only €7.00 to send worldwide, whilst although it does feature a lot of French posters for example, the book is in English, and therefore cost us close to €40.00 to send to the USA.
    It’s these examples of massive over-pricing, and selective as well, that are certainly affecting our business decisions. Either way, we will be spending less with the postal authorities in the future.