I was raised on the belief that the United States Postal Service delivered your mail anytime and anywhere you needed it. Nothing could stop the delivery of the mail.

I was disappointed to learn the official motto of the Post Office…

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

…turns out to be more mantra than motto because the United States Postal Service has no motto — official or otherwise — and you can blame it all, of course, on New York City!

This inscription was supplied by William Mitchell Kendall of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, the architects who designed the New York General Post Office. Kendall said the sentence appears in the works of Herodotus and describes the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 B.C. The Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers, and the sentence describes the fidelity with which their work was done. Professor George H. Palmer of Harvard University supplied the translation, which he considered the most poetical of about seven translations from the Greek.

I mention this research because I’ve noticed lately how lousy the mail service has become.

In our neighborhood you can count on two things:

1.  If it’s raining or snowing, you won’t get mail delivery.

2.  If it’s a day before a holiday, you won’t get mail delivery.

I suppose the only comfort in those two harsh and lousy facts is that you quickly learn to anticipate them and they become the ordinary and the expected.

I also find it strange that when our regular mail carrier is out sick or on vacation, we get our mail at 9:30am in the morning instead of 3:30pm.  What is our regular mail carrier doing that takes six hours longer than a replacement carrier running the same route?

It seems every couple of years the USPS threatens us with going out of business unless they raise rates.  We’re quickly getting to the point where we don’t care.

The USPS also wants every single email we send to cost us a few pennies because email is hurting their hard mail business.

There has been some talk about having your local Post Office also serve as your community bank to help ease the current financial crisis.  I’m not sure if that’s a good idea or not in light of the USPS charging more for less.

I grew up in the days when you’d get home mail delivery both in the morning and the afternoon instead of once a day.

Now there’s talk about removing Saturday delivery for our mail and I wonder how fast the USPS will move to a three-day-a-week schedule followed by “in person only” pickup for mail as it eventually becomes too expensive to bring your mail right to your front door.

Do we still need a United States Postal service?  Or have email and ebilling changed the way we communicate and do business?

15 Comments

  1. I wonder if it varies from area to area because I have honestly never had that kind of problem with rain or days before a holiday. It’s sad that the USPS has degraded this much. Funnily enough I was just admiring the slogan the other night when I walked past the post office on 34th street. 🙂

  2. I ended up here because snow halted my delivery and I thought, “Don’t they have a rule preventing them from this?” Most of what you said are valid concerns. However, a replacement postman doesn’t take the entire route of your regular postman. He only takes a small part that he adds to the beginning of his own route. Several other postmen do this as well. At least according to MY replacement postman.

    Yeah, when the post office inevitably goes out of business, they’re going to deserve it. They ignore the spam filters I’ve put on my postbox, threaten to call postal inspectors when I deliver junk post back to them, and don’t even listen to my ideas about saving the post office. They’re so hellbent on stopping Saturday delivery that they won’t even listen to someone who has the answers. They can run that right into the ground for all I care.

    They sent me this survey that said the USPS has been voted the most trusted branch of the United States government by the American people. Yeah? With an approval rating of 14% (beating Congress by one point). That’s like saying the 7/11 has the cleanest truck stop bathroom. I think the only reason they’re most trusted is that we know what we can expect from them, as you said. The rest of government tends to surprise the people with the most bizarre scenarios, even though they KNOW they’re going to do SOMETHING.

    1. Yes, I think the USPS is in a bind. They’re old. They have an aging infrastructure. They aren’t the internet. They don’t deliver every day no matter what. They have an image problem.

      Because of our past delivery problems — magazine subscriptions lost for weeks, non-delivered checks, packages deliveries not attempted so we have to go pick them up — we’ve cut down as much as possible. We use electronic billing and payments. We buy stuff on the internet to be delivered by UPS or FedEx. We use email and chat and video instead of paper letters. We read our magazines on our iPads now.

      What is their future? To tax our electronic transactions for their lost revenue because we ran from their lousy service?

      1. Unless they can revolutionise what they do, they’re just redundant. Their plan is to raise prices and cut service, but just like the newspaper industry, that plan will only result in more problems rather than fewer.

          1. If it’s up to them, they’re going to fade away into
            obsolescence and then blame the people rather than taking
            responsibility. Much like is currently happening to the newspaper
            industry. However, if they would listen to me, I have some ideas
            that have a chance of turning things around for them. Except,
            whenever I try to tell a postmaster, they tell me I don’t
            understand how it works, as if I’M the one running the damn thing
            into the ground.

          2. Yes, the USPS never changed their meme or way of working. They should’ve, 20 year ago, become the internet backbone provider for every citizen. Guarantee a free, basic, speed for everyone, and then if you want to go faster, you pay. They could have also collected fees from content providers and built a really rich communications infrastructure. What a missed opportunity!