Archive for Thursday, March 3, 2011

In support of snail mail

March 3, 2011

There has been considerable discussion recently about the future of the U.S. Postal Service. The post office has been facing shrinking use and revenue has been dropping in recent years. The post office is facing major challenges from private parcel delivery companies and, of course, electronic mail. Couple that with major financial deficits, and it is easy to see why the future seems to be bleak for the USPS.

While I certainly see advantages to electronic mail, I still enjoy receiving what is now known as “snail mail.” I know when I was in the hospital, I really enjoyed receiving cards. One of the highlights of the day, and there were very few, was when the volunteer came in with the mail. Jean and I enjoyed the cards a great deal and we are now utilizing the mail by sending more cards to others. Yes, I know there are e-cards and I enjoy those I have received. But I’m not sure that I am computer savvy enough and, anyway, I just like the old fashioned way.

I know that the speed of communication has increased dramatically in the past decade, however, I still look forward to the daily mail. Even if it’s a direct mail advertising piece, I really don’t care. Well, that’s not exactly true since I would rather see the material inserted in the local newspaper.

I have read that when the banks stop using checks, the postal service will be dead. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen. I’m not sure that paying bills online will save me much time and I still enjoy visiting with merchants as I take payments to local businesses.

Those of us who were in the weekly newspaper business had a “love-hate” relationship with the post office. Yes, we paid a lower rate, but we had to have everything sorted by zip code, labeled properly and bagged with destination tags. In addition we had to deal with a variety of forms and audits, watching weight limits and adhering to many bureaucratic rules. One of the biggest expenses when I was in business was the cost of mailing. The local postal personnel were great to work with and they were very helpful, but when you got to the district level, things were different. The annual inspection was a joke because the inspectors simply didn’t know the business and its changing technology.

One of the cost-cutting suggestions has been to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. It has drawn a lot of criticism, however, in time, it will probably happen. You have to be very mature to remember it, but there was a time when we had mail delivery twice a day. As a youngster I remember watching for the postman to come down the street, particularly when I had ordered a trinket from a radio show. I think the twice-a-day delivery stopped in the late 1940s.

Mail service dates back to very ancient times. The Romans had a sophisticated mail service throughout their empire. The early disciples made use of letters and some of their epistles are part of our Bible. Most of the medieval societies had some form of mail service and the need for a dependable mail service increased as more people learned to read.

When the post office started delivering mail order catalogues in the early 1900s, local merchants were concerned about the future. The idea that local persons could mail in an order and then receive it by mail certainly was a new concept, but the local merchants soon learned they had nothing to fear from mail-order houses.

In 1971, the USPS was created and a new era of professionalism was ushered in. The last figures I saw showed the USPS having more than 500,000 employees and nearly 218,000 vehicles in operation.

I still enjoy receiving letters and like they say, “A day without mail, is like a day without sunshine.”


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