For an entity fighting to stay relevant, the U.S. Postal Service has a strange way of doing business.
The financial struggles of the Postal Service are well known. For years, the snail mail struggled to keep afloat in the digital age, with a $9 billion net loss last year to prove it.
Something needs to change before the post office goes the way of the video rental store. That something is the “Postal Service Delivering for America Plan,” a turnaround strategy designed to dig the agency out of its financial hole.
The Postal Service launched this plan built around — drum roll please — slower, more expensive service. The price of a stamp went up in August, an incremental increase that has become so frequent that the public is numb to it. But the other changes will be harder to ignore.
In addition to a temporary price increase for holiday packages, the USPS will slow deliveries for first-class mail because it wants to rely on ground transportation instead of air. The three-day standard for delivery anywhere in the United States will change to three to five days for mail that needs to travel long distances. A two-day standard will remain for a 140-mile radius, which could cover Kansas City, Topeka, Kansas, and Omaha, Nebraska, for mail delivery from St. Joseph.
The plan will affect 40% of first-class mail, but what’s worse is how the impact will be felt disproportionately among those who need the Postal Service the most. Rural areas and elderly people who rely on the mail to conduct business and pay bills will experience slower delivery of postcards, letters, envelopes and lightweight packages.
Businesses with cross-country deliveries will be less likely to get orders sent to customers. Consumers will face the prospect of late fees if bills don’t arrive on time.
The Postal Service joins the ranks of struggling industries that punish their most loyal customers. Better options exist, including the passage of the Postal Service Reform Act. This legislation would have eliminated the requirement that the Postal Service prepays its health benefits for retirees, a move that would save $46 billion over 10 years.
Another possibility includes finding a better use for the network of 31,000 post offices across the country. Either close the underperforming ones or allow some near-vacant locations, like the Downtown facility in St. Joseph, to become repurposed for revenue-generating uses that serve businesses or the community.
It would almost make more sense to just shut the whole thing down and use the savings to bring high-speed internet to every single household and business in rural America.