The United States Postal Service will cease delivering mail on Saturday beginning in August, but will continue delivering packages. The cut will save the struggling carrier $2 billion a year.
That's a hefty chunk of change for the Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year. Technology got us into this mess -- ah, the convenience of email and paperless billing -- and technology could help get us out of it. PostalVision 2020, a conference dedicated to figuring out the future of the post office, will host speakers like Google's "chief Internet evangelist," Vint Cerf, at its third iteration this April.
Here's a few tech ideas we've seen recently that we politely propose the agency could chew over.
1. Turn Letters Into PDFs
Back in 2010, Finland announced it would start a pilot program to convert snail-mail letters into PDFs to be viewed online. As of August 2012, their electronic inbox NetPosti had 400,000 users. Earth Class Mail, a U.S. company, also processes your mail and packages and sends you images of what's arrived. Other services will process an email, PDF or Word document for you and send it via regular mail.
2. Move Mailboxes Online
In late October, Australia Post launched a state-sponsored email inbox where they can receive government communication as well as some bills. The free service is expected to save money by reducing paper mail. It hit some technical blips after its launch, but is now accepting registrations again. Digital Post Australia, a private company, is also working on a digital mailbox expected to launch this year. The Israel Postal Company launched iPost, a secure electronic inbox, in 2010.
In January, the Guardian reported that the Postal Service was working with UPS to create MyPost, a digital portal where people could see all the packages en route to them and all the previous packages they had received.
3. Make Sure Packages Get Delivered The First Time
UPS lets alerts customers of when their package will arrive through their My Choice program and smartphone app, using text, email or voicemail. You can reroute or reschedule your package delivery so that it gets successfully delivered the first time to your home or a UPS location. For 40 dollars a year, you can authorize the package to be left with a neighbor or get a confirmed two-hour delivery window. The USPS mobile app lets you track packages, but doesn't make getting them delivered any easier.
4. Dump Stamps For Digital
Germany, Denmark and Sweden have all played with the idea of digital stamps, where a user can text a pre-set number and receive a code to write on their envelope in place of a physical stamp. The post office saves on the cost of printing adhesive paper stamps. The Red Cross used a similar texting platform to raise $5 million in the relief effort after the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
5. Think Outside The Mail
David Williams, the inspector general for the USPS, has said he envisions a Post Office-certified email inbox that could be used as a kind of cloud server, "a kind of federal safe-deposit box for sensitive personal information," he told the Guardian. It could potentially store passwords, medical records and photographs.
An even more radical idea comes from Michael J. Ravnitzky, a chief counsel at the Postal Regulatory Commission. He has suggested using the massive delivery network of the post office as a data-collecting machine. Sensors on delivery trucks could monitor air pollution, report cellular or WiFi dead zones or detect chemical or natural gas leaks.
This isn't hard:
Deliver stamps for free instead of today's surcharging.
Do M-W-F deliveries for half of customers and T-Th-S deliveries for other half.
Sell 1st class digital postage on their existing website (only Priority and Express now).
Implement zone based pricing for letters. How is it smart to charge the same for inner-city delivery as for a letter to a hermit in Montana?
Face the FACT that you're subsidized by inner-city 1st class mail, primarily bills, and that's getting smaller each day due to on-line banking and higher stamp prices.... a death spiral.
How can you justify the other big subsidy... inner-city junk mail?
Oh wait... all this, and more will happen after the biggie: get politics out of the business!
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Post Office certified? Yeah right as if I'm going to trust the Post Office with sensitive data. No thanks. They lose my mail all too often or deliver to the wrong house or grind it up in their machines (so their servers would probably crash with no backups), etc, etc. No way.
The conversion of regular mail all to email sounds unsettlingly close to the frequently re-arising notion of charging for email. It has already been invoked at least three times in the past decade, this sounds like starting down the road toward invoking it again. Before, it was suggested to just suddenly start charging, this sounds like it is planning to devise systems that facilitate it, then, when it becomes universal, suddenly declare it can't be done without cost and begin charging.
And Contoria's "argument" is just another attempt to install universal privatization. So many, at least those who haven't tried to place true comments that chip away at the lies of the New World Order on blogs only to have them removed, are aware of the leprous manifestation of "private property". "Freedom of speech", that darling of those trying to incite violence by Muslims to "justify" their genocide, suddenly is perfectly alright to abridge, as long as it's on "private propery". "The Constitution does not extend to private property", shills for the NWO say, "You can deny anyone any Consitutional liberties you want, on your own property!" Currently, full Constitutional guarantees are limited to only about 15% of the country! Privatize everything and the country will be turned into a slave state! Privatize the Post Office, and make the Post Office cover all emails, and the NWO will be in a position to disallow everything that threatens their enslavement of the population!
And, for all Contoria praises FEDEX and UPS, look to their records. They always charged at least 15% more for all deliveries that the Post Office! Easy to be a success if you overcharge! And, even though this might cause this not to be printed or to be removed, ask yourself, who but a quisling would praise soemthing that costs their "fellow Americans" more to use?
In fact, go into any Post Office. You'll see toons of items no one buys but that the Post Office keeps trying to sell, from Christmas ornaments to deocrative boxes to picture albums of that year's new stamps. If the Post Office would just stick to sending mail and packages, they could meet their budget better.
The problem with comparing UPS and FedEx with the United States Postal Service is that UPS and FedEx track every single package while USPS does not. There is no way UPS and FedEx could manage the volume of first class envelopes if they had to stick a unique tracking number on every one. UPS and FedEx would have to drastically revamp their way of doing things if they were to handle basic first class mail at the volume of the USPS.
I think if people really considered the competition and the price of a 9x13" sized envelop from UPS or FedEx, it shouldn't be outrageous for USPS to raise the cost on #10 envelopes another 10 cents each. People would complain of course because no one likes having to re-budget or have less spending money than they had in the past, but they would get over it.
The other issue that USPS needs to get a handle on is whether they are over staffed or not. The decision should be based on work load, not budget. There's no reason to employ a thousand employees if 900 can do the job. I haven't looked into the USPS union, but I have a low opinion of some of the other unions out there that seem like they would rather see the entire company go under rather than lay-off a few employees when the work load slows.
Assuming there are no stupid decisions like buying equipment at double normal cost, the only other areas to consider are that USPS is either not charging enough for their service or they are paying their employees to much. Nearly all other expenses, regardless of the business, is a fixed ratio to the work being accomplished.
It's not just e-mail that's the issue, it's the fact that they're never open when it's convenient. Each branch opens at different times, the one that I have doesn't even open until 9:30 a.m.! Do they honestly expect people to be late for work and or school just because their staff is lazy (the staff is in the building they just don't open)?
What they need to do is get rid of most of the post offices and rely on CPUs (Contract Postal Units). These are places in regular stores where you can buy postage and send packages. When I needed to mail something on a Saturday the local CPU inside of a hardware store was open until 5pm! Now that's convenient.
LESS POST OFFICES, MORE CPUs.
Post office official deficit last year was around $14 billion. As I understand, $9 billion of that was employee health care. I'd just like to point out that's their biggest expense.
Sadly, the USPS has become nothing more than a taxpayer-subsidized trash delivery service. Of the mail delivered to my mailbox each week, approximately 95% is junk mail that goes straight into the trash.
I don't blame the USPS workers for this situation. Instead, this mess was created by politicians seeking labor union votes.
why? WHY don't people get it? THE USPS IS NOT FUNDED BY TAXES.
@magoonski - a little education for you: not every postal employee is trained to work at the customer window. as a matter of fact, very few are. there's a lot to know. look up "domestic mail manual" sometime.
@pixelstuff - yes, the unions are part of the problem. it is very hard, even for people who clearly aren't doing their job, to get fired. it's VERY frustrating, but dismantling the unions isn't the solution. there need to be a lot of changes, but how? good question.
@cantoria - the USPS is NOT a goverment mail system. we haven't been the US postal DEPARTMENT for a very long time - roughly 3 decades, if not longer. if UPS and FedEx had to handle the volume the USPS handles every day, they would go bankrupt, too. this shouldn't be news to anyone - gas is expensive. when you have to go to every household no matter how remote, a few extra pennies per gallon of gas makes a huge difference QUICKLY.
@akamai22 - you hit the nail on the head. there is very little the post office can change without an act of congress. try running a business with congress making the rules of even the finest details, like how much you can charge for your services.
as for junk mail, there are companies paying us to send their mail. guess what? we deliver it. just like when people give us their bills and christmas and valentine's day and birthday cards with a stamp on them.
yeah, I guess laser imprinting and a little trickle of a gas feed so as not to have an actual burning laser in use would be too complicated to add to their feed system. too bad. That company has a whole buttload of tech that ain't doin much by comparison to what it could do.
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contoria, you are not listening. the post office is not funded by tax dollars. it is not a government agency. the US debt has nothing to do with the post office.
Lets start by saying the only reason the Post Office is in trouble is due to a lame duck Congress back in 2006, Now mine you the Post Office receives no tax dollars. and at the time was thinking of turning their entire fleet electric! Lobbyist from UPS and FedX and Oil interest wanted to prevent this from happening. So a lame duck congress force the Post Office to fund their pension for the next 75 years and they had to do it in a 10 year time period. You might ask yourself why would congress (republicans)would force the Post Office to pay for the pensions for workers that's haven't even born yet. The plan was to bankrupt this profitable monopoly! pick it apart! and privatize mail delivery, making people who live in very rural locations to pay thru the nose for mail delivery and to break one of the largest unions in the country. Also the Post Office is the biggest employer of our Arm Services when they return home from active duty. There is a bill right now in congress looking to relieved the Post Office of this unreal burden, returning them back to making a profit. You really have to ask yourself how would a public monopoly loses money, it would be impossible. If every American bought a 1 stamp at 47 cents and lets say their is 250 million americans for arguments sakes that's 11,750,000,000 for mailing one letter. lets not forget Christmas, letters to Santa and cards and Easter and other holidays we send letters.So let me stop here, do your own research on this travesty they did to the post office, and let your congressman know to repeal this bill, there no way this should be happening to the post office.
".....contoria, you are not listening. the post office is not funded by tax dollars. it is not a government agency. the US debt has nothing to do with the post office....."
The USPS is indeed funded by federal tax dollars. The USPS has been running an annual operating deficit of several billion dollars for the last 15 or 20 years. And federal tax money has been given to the USPS to cover those multi-billion dollar budget deficits every year. The USPS is also provided a monopoly on mail delivery by federal law.
The best thing to do would be to privatize the USPS, and eliminate their monopoly on mail delivery. The USPS would still likely survive as a private enterprise, but would be much smaller.
from a feb. 12th article at www.smirkingchimp.com by thom hartmann called "the USPS media #fail" -
" ... we the consumers will get screwed when the price of mail will rise dramatically without the Post Office. But, hey, it will make a bunch of stockholders and CEOs at for-profit corporations like FedEx and UPS really, really rich.
And perhaps most importantly, by breaking up the Post Office and its half-million unionized workers – Conservatives have once again neutered organized labor in America and starved the Democratic Party of a primary fundraising base."
For those on here that don't think the Post Office runs on taxpayer money haven't been paying attention at all to all the infusions of taxpayer dollars that have been keeping the Post Office running. Maybe you all haven't noticed, but we first started subsidizing their inefficiencies and monstrous overhead long ago.
The problem is the same as with all our government functions. And yes, while the Post Office is not federal; it is indeed fully plugged in as a function of integration at corporate level. The problem is that same old no accountability thing again.
Our current Postal Service COULD take out a Fed loan. Today. To move their operations out of their current massive old dinosaur buildings, into functional, made-to-order facilities, and it would pay for the new buildings in 10 years. THAT is just how much it costs to keep the Post Offices of yesterday operating, folks.
They COULD be using laser imprinting in those hundreds of thousands of units processed per hour machines. Yeah, laser writing really can be done at machine speed. Who knew? Well, do you have a cd player? Then you did.
The fallacy is that we can't do without them. That ANYONE is too big to fail. These retards have real options, and know it. Screw em.
Nice info to read on.
The U.S. USPS continues to be wracked by financial worries, as the agency is regularly short on funds. The Postal service fund payment, a $5.5 billion deposit, is going to be defaulted on and the bureau is scheduled to run entirely out of funds later this year. If you need extra cash, a personal finance can help.See more at: