The 46 Cent Luxury Item

Postage on a package

So the U.S. Postal Service has now proposed to raise the cost to send a first class letter from 44 cents to 46 cents. Do you think that’s a good idea?

It costs a fraction of a cent to send an email message to anyone in the world, regardless their location and length of your message (including attachments). It usually arrives in mere seconds. It usually doesn’t matter if it is raining, snowing, or hot outside either. Compared to email, a postal letter is probably about 10,000 times more expensive to send. Simply put, a postal letter has become a luxury item.

That’s unfortunate, because I enjoy getting postal mail. As long as the ratio of bills to quality mail is reasonable, postal mail can be a great way to communicate. For cards and letters, catalogs and magazines, and other types of packages, there is nothing quite like getting an unexpected piece of postal mail.

But it’s different now. Recently my friend Brett shared with us that at his recent birthday, he got no birthday cards in the mail, two electronic birthday cards by email, and tons of friendly birthday wishes posted to his Facebook wall. Yes, times have changed!

So back to the mighty United States Postal Service. Do we really need six days of home delivery when there is so much less mail now? Is it okay if a bill takes an extra day to reach us? Isn’t it better to do electronic banking and bill-paying online anyway? And isn’t electronic communication so much better for the environment?

Here’s my advice for the Post Office:

  1. Keep the cost to send mail right where it is.
  2. Save money by eliminating home delivery on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  3. Keep promoting the various services (like the one price Flat Rate Box) with some good, unique advertising and marketing campaigns.
  4. Understand that you are competing head to head with Fed Ex, UPS and others. Become innovative like they have, and promote your strengths. For example, the sponsorship of Lance Armstrong and the US Cycling team was a great idea.
  5. Treat your employees right.

Although email beats up on postal mail in almost every way for business users, the Postal Service still has a very viable service, even if it has become more of a luxury. I hope it will be with us for many years to come.

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