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Wednesday, August 4, 2010 • Posted August 4, 2010

The death of the postal system has been forecast many times. Though I would agree that it often seems to be on life support, I would also suggest that it is probably too early to start composing the obituary.

The U.S. Postal System is a unique creature. Created by the government prior to any other agencies, it is a governmental monopoly. No one may compete against it. Yet, it is not funded by tax dollars, relying on its own business acumen to remain viable. Though many of us may have complaints about parts of the system, it is unheard of for any "business" to remain in operation for two centuries in our country. But, they have.

Technological innovations have rendered much of what moves through the postal system moot. I can not remember the last time I actually sat down and wrote a personal letter. Instead, I opt for email or social network exchanges, or even texts on my phone. I do still send business correspondence; but, more out of a sense of tradition and legal obligation than for convenience.

I don't even send my bill payments via the mail anymore. I pay almost all of my bills using electronic transfer of funds. I sit down at the computer, any computer connected to the internet, and I move money from one place to another. No float time. No waiting for a check to post. No worrying about something getting lost in the mail.

According to Wikipedia, the postal service daily delivers some 660 million pieces of mail to 142 million delivery points. When we rant and rave about how long something took to arrive, I often think we should be marveling that it arrived at all. In spite of its many irritating quirks (and there are many), the U. S. Postal Service has one of the most sophisticated routing and delivery operations in the world, and at a price that is phenomenally low. And, in spite of the complaints that we all have about their service and reliability, they have proven time and again to be incredibly dependable.


In recent years, as the Postal Service has attempted to compete against email, faxes and private package delivery firms, they have begun making decisions that appear to be coming from the top down. And, we all know what flows downhill!

Our local post offices and postal employees are part of our community. They know we meant box 712, not 721, and they make allowances. They understand that keys get lost, and that we can't always remember all of their rules. They make their own share of mistakes and they do put mail in the wrong boxes. They occasionally return a mail piece that should not have had problems. But, they correct the problem, and we all move on.

My complaint is with those "further up the pipeline." It is those people that find logic in sending mail from Mason to Abilene in order to reach Doss. It is those decision makers that think that one set of rules and guidelines apply just as well in Mason as they do in Houston. There is no room for local autonomy and no respect for the effects upon the local customer. In the process of becoming a "strong business model," the governing board and administrators have lost sight of who it is they actually serve.

If the obituary of the postal system were composed today, it would end with the epithet, "They forgot the customer." There is still time to step back from the brink, and I only hope they do. Until then, please understand that we don't mail the papers hoping they take three weeks to arrive. We still had faith the job would be done correctly.

It’s all just my opinion.

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