Every few years I hear in the new how the Post Office needs reform because it’s in the red, going in the red, or can’t get out of the red. The only ‘solutions’ I ever hear are closing post offices permanently and/or close on Saturday – close post offices, stop delivery, etc. Closing post offices will help, but by itself it’s not enough, and there is always a bunch of whining about which offices to close. The ‘Saturday’ solution isn’t enough as it will just delay more drastic measures needed later.
I have three particular ways the Post Office can cut costs and compete with the non-government-aligned delivery services. And no, I don’t have exact figures because I have no desire to do the research.
The first is to stop the defined benefits pension plan and move to a defined contribution pension plan (e.g. a 401(k) vs. a traditional pension). Then, once in the black, the USPS would be allowed to offer 401(k) matching as an incentive.
Many municipalities have passed laws to change their pension programs such that all new employees have to actually contribute or the organization say it will contribute X and be done with it. Those with the current plans keep them. Perhaps some people can figure out an equitable way to convert current defined benefit to defined contribution plans, but that would be a bonus to this idea.
Immediate savings: minimal. This is more of a long-term fix.
My second idea is a ‘Saturday’ solution, not to close offices on Saturdays or stop delivery on Saturday, but to cut residential delivery to just Saturday. Post offices would keep their current Monday through Saturday hours.
I don’t know about most people but I don’t send much mail. And the majority of mail I do receive I can do without or get all at once. Of the mail I do receive, 10-15% is actually for me or my wife – letters, bills, magazines, or packages. Everything else is either a catalog (just because I ordered from you once it doesn’t mean I need a regular mailing), promotions from business I am a customer of, postal patron mass mailings, or some other form of junk mail.
All bills I’ve ever received could easily have waited until Saturday to be delivered and the next Saturday to be sent. Currently, however, most of my bills I get are electronically paid. For the few I still receive in paper form there is no need for me to turn it around in less than a week.
As a residential customer if I need to send something out on a Tuesday I see no reason I shouldn’t have to take my mail to the Post Office, FedEx, UPS, DHL, or whomever else is in the delivery service. Some people even have the unusual luxury of postal service pickup at work.
Immediate and long-term savings: employee count, gas use, wear and tear on vehicles, actual number of vehicles needed.
My third idea is for business delivery to be cut to Monday through Friday. It only drops one day from their route, but what would they get in six days that they wouldn’t get in five?
As many bills are paid digitally or automatically they aren’t waiting for a large portion of money. And, considering mail is delivered faster now than it ever has been before, they won’t miss that sixth day of delivery.
Immediate and long-term savings: employee count, gas use, wear and tear on vehicles.
The most difficult part will be the downsizing. As I’m not a total cold-hearted jerk I suggest using natural attrition to initially get the employee count down. Unfortunately, natural attrition likely won’t get the employee count down fast enough, so other measures would need to be taken. Companies do this all the time, so there are ways to do it.
Take away: “When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight”*, there are options: FedEx, UPS, etc.
* FedEx, circa 1978-1983