Demise of the U.S. Postal Service

The USPS has nobody to blame but itself for its impending demise.

Just a few days ago I had another (click here for the last one) extremely frustrating experience with the services of the USPS. I was going to let it go unsung, but then I received a message from my postmaster friend about losing her position – and here I go.

She has been a postmaster in a rural post office for decades. Her customer service is impeccable. The rural postoffices in our country are institutions. The postmaster is like the pastor, the mayor and the teacher in the country of old. Yet she is being let go, after decades, without a career opportunity out. The postal service is dying, rapidly at that.

A few days ago I had to send a letter, certified with return receipt. I went to the post office in Escondido. This is a large post office, with counters everywhere. There is a machine to buy stamps, a kiosk to mail. There are racks of forms to fill out everywhere. You have to fill out two cumbersome forms by hand to mail a certified letter with return receipt. There was counter space all around the place.

But there was not a pen to be found.

Every place where the pens were supposed to be attached to the little chains, and I counted a dozen of those, the chains and pens were missing. There was no container anywhere with pens. There were no pens lying around.

I had to wait in line, ten people ahead of me, until a got to the counter, with blank forms. The clerk looked at me like I was an imbecile. Didn’t I know I needed to bring a pen to the post office? He pulled the precious pen out of his drawer of valuables. It had a big green slip of paper pasted to it so it was hard to write with. I am sure this was meant to keep it from getting stolen. I then had to stand aside while he helped a couple of other customers to fill out my forms, which I could have done many times over while in line right next to a counter.

I get pens by the dozens when I go to conferences and I throw them away. I can go to Costco and buy a lifetime supply of cheap pens for a few dollars. But a large postoffice, with significant counter traffic, has only one pen to share, like a bathroom key at a gas station.

Who has the pen right now???

The post office should have an entire barrel filled with pens, with the phone number and the web site of the USPS printed on it. They should make you take the pens home. You should want to go to the post office rather than Staples or Costco when you run out of pens and get a few more free ones. What an opportunity missed. Customer service, coupled with a necessary task of filling out the (stupid) forms, and advertising all in one! The postoffice is where you get your stamps. The postoffice is where you ship all your stuff. The postoffice is where you get your pens.

But the postoffice is missing all of those opportunities.

In an age where we no longer go down to Main Street to buy many an item, shipping locally and across the nation and the world is booming. FedEx, DHL, UPS are all burgeoning companies fed by this boom. This will not slow down. We have no viable alternative to shipping goods in sight. Shipping will grow. The USPS could have been the giant of this industry. It had all the infrastructure in place. It had the staff, the expertise, the local outlets down to every rural postoffice in the country. And yet, it can’t seem to compete and it is declining, crashing rather.

I can’t help but speculate that it must be because it’s a governmental body without the profit incentive and therefore the ingenuity, motivation and creativity it takes to survive in a dog eat dog economy, society and age.

(Is this what we’re building with government administered healthcare?)

6 thoughts on “Demise of the U.S. Postal Service

  1. V.T.

    I am so sorry for your negative experience Norb. I am so sorry for the lack of
    “ingenuity, motivation and creativity” on the part of the U.S. Postal Service. It is not a government owned entity, but it is highly governmentally regulated. It has not been free to make many adjustments to the rapidly changing environment in which it operates. Despite the recent financial assistance, the USPS has not received any federal funds since it was a civil service agency back in the early 80’s. It was actually quite profitable until approximately 8 years ago when it started sliding down the slippery technological slope called the internet.
    You are so right that many opportunities were missed, mostly from adhering to a a business model lacking in just what you said above…….but mostly… not having enough belief in it’s people and the public. They literally have the public coming to their doorsteps everyday. UPS, Fed EX HDL do not have the visibilty and accessibility that the postal service has. This is going by the wayside.

    These rural offices are/were a window to our country’s soul. The heartbeat of my community was placed in my hands each and everyday. I’ve had customers come in with tears in their eyes and tell me they just filed for divorce, lost a loved one or were just diagnosed with terminal illness having only months to live. I can’t tell you how many times, I broke postal protocol, opened my office door and stepped into the lobby to give someone a hug and shed a tear right along with them. I have young ones come in and I show them around, let them sit at my desk, show them where their letters to Grandma go and then stamp their hands with “spoiled” and send them on their way. I’ve had to call the ambulance and then hold their hand until it arrived. I took a 99 year old customer to the emergency room one night after work and stayed there with him until 1:00 a.m. He passed away three days later, but prior to that week, he walked to the post office EVERYDAY at 11:00 a.m. He had immigrated here as a 14 year old boy from Hungary, not knowing a word of English and leaving his parents and family behind. He fought in World War II for this country and raised his five children in the same house that he still lived in for 66 years. The life stories of rural America are priceless. It has been an honor to have a front row seat to it. I will miss it. America will miss it.
    I may write that book after all. Now, I’ll have the time.
    The pens…..a great analogy.

  2. Eric Petrie

    But how do you compete with UPS and maintain those rural postal stations? It does not make sense and it kills USPS.

  3. so my understanding is you are complaining about not having a pen in the usps basically, and yet you seem to not comprehend why the pm maybe being moved or let go, is that is basically?And at the same time you are stating that the usps is the one responsbil for its own demise is your concept is that right? so in order to make a more perfect understanding and since you seem to be not fully comphrehending here goes: Up until 2006 the usps was on a pay as you go retirment system in which employee’s checks were deducted from to pay in to retirement that is fers and csrs, or ferderal employee retirement systeam and civil service retirement system. And up until 2006 , the USPS worked on a system of one, breaking even, 2, loss of income and 3 . raising of postal rates, this worked well from 1970 until 2006. but in 2000, 2001, Postal Federal Employeew were by law under the budget reconcilation bill made to pay in 15% more to their retirement funds just to balance the countries budget deficit. Basically a piggy bank to balance the defiict on the back of Postal Workers.This was removed from the Presidents budget in 2002, and new legislation began, which then besides having 2 retirment funds, the USPS was forced to by law to pay in 5 billion out of the profits made , even with 2 retirmeent funds on a pay as you go system, and make a 3rd retirement funds for its employees which basically are not hired or working for the USPS or born yet, from 2006, until 2016. Meanwhile according to postal testimony berfore the federal trade commision in august 6, 2007, the csrs was fully paid up to 55 billion and another charge of 85 billion was also made to the usps, and the fers by anywhere to 7 billion to 15 billion, so the 2 retirment funds were fully funded, and paid and overpaid. Then the postal accountibily and enhancement act was enacted, making a 3rd retirement fund that no other agency or business has to deal with. In the paea was also clauses of pay per performance bonues to top exec in the usps, including a pay raise for the pmg or post master general and 12 others including legislative counsel. Who then recieved a bonus of 72 thousand , and began shorting workers, closing postal plants, and offices, since the USPS had to pay in 5 billion a year and now is basically dealing with shortages cash wise in order to function, due to the payment in to the new retirement account. ( he later retired with 5 million and a new pmg is in place donahue) so if you got to, or awpu3800 pa, library online you can read of some of postal politics, then go forward to the postal comments to the federal trade commision , august 6, 2007, then go to federal budget treatment of the usps, oig report, 2009, from there go to, and from there go to ALEC/Koch The Privitization of the USPS for Ups and FedEx and then go to, and as a last minute thought, pick up a pen and write more letters to congress about the state of USPS. thank you.

    1. There is excellent information here, much inside detail that somebody that is not deeply engaged in the USPS would not know.

      Interestingly, the writer labels my “pen anology” as a complaint of a pesky customer, missing my point entirely.

      I used the pen as an example and an attempt to show how the USPS could use innovation to better its existence. I am simply a customer, and I walk into an establishment that ships stuff to places, at a competitive rate. One such establishment, FedEx, makes that very easy. Another, the USPS, makes it pretty hard. Why is that? When it made it hard in 1970, when there was no alternative, it got away with it. With DHL, UPS, FedEx and countless other carriers available now, it does not get away with it.

      The writer of this response seems to say it’s the fault of congress. Congress is a governnmental body. The people that were there in 2006 and apparently, per this writer, made bad decisions, are not all there any longer, and after this November, even fewer will be there. But the postal service is still ticking along.

      My point: governmental organizations and bodies apparently are not fit to run major service organizations, like transportation companies (which the USPS is), healthcare companies, insurance companies. I am feeding you the Republican Kool-Aid here.

      Buttom line, I don’t know whose fault it is. I am just a consumer of services, and the USPS is making it increasingly difficult for me to turn to it for the shipping work I need done. I am not the only one this is happening to. Hence the pending demise.

  4. postal widow

    yes it is republican kool aid that has done this to the usps, interesting enough the republican are part of the govt and are saying govt is not capable of running the usps and have done this, tell me how incompentant they are for 1. having the usps make a huge profit in 2006, with 2 overfunded retirement systems, fully paid and overpaid, passing a law making a pefunding mandate to what make sure employees get retriement while that retirment was already overpaid, and was coming from the taxpaying workers checks, only to take money from a federal agency in favor of lobby money via private corporations to do this, in order so they can destroy the very insittution that was formed in may 1775 to help make a nation and a constittuion just so that in may 2012, they could try to dismantle it due to a false image of bankruptcy thru a law passed to help corporations take down a univeral constittutional service that is part of the federal govement by the republican party who apparently want to be elected and run the very govt that they say cant run things. oxy moran to say the very least, and then allow the fair labor standards act to be broken so that federal workers are understaffed and dying on the routes due to having too much money paid in to retirement systems in the first place so they need another retirement system for the purpose of destroying the agency they work for so congress can have a job and the same benifts and retirment system, and I get to hear repoublican state its because it the govt , when they are the govt doing this. if that isnt insane coolaide I dont know what is, and sometimes I want to know what was wrong with my marine working for the usps and trying to get retirement and because 2 people retired he got to do the job of managment of replaceing and fighting for workers only to be worked to death since they werent doing their job and told he did not deserve his retirment while they did and he died. if someone can make sense of this please go ahead and complain, for apparenlty I have no reason to think I am in america anymore, or that the usps deserves to exist when it oriignally was made so we could have a nation and congress free of tyrany for all men created equal not all corporations. post office in criiss, the real truth, michigan postal workers union, or

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