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Monday, January 17, 2022

With DeJoy still at helm, U.S. Postal Service seems determined to demonstrate its own inutility

It looks like the U.S. Post Office is catching up on a backlog—and maybe trying to annihilate itself.

At home in Rhode Island, I was surprised this week when my cousin in Denver messaged me to report receipt of his birthday card from August.  Then my mother in Baltimore emailed to report receipt of a Halloween greeting from my daughter in Atlanta, as well as a Valentine's Day card—from February 2020.

Media reported this week that a Massachusetts widow just received the letter her husband had written to his mother from World War II Germany in 1945.  (NPR, WUSA 9.)

I was frustrated in recent weeks with inability to send a Christmas gift to a friend in New Zealand, given the Post Office's suspension of service to there, Australia, and elsewhere (furious reaction).  As if it's not already sufficiently outrageous that it costs $25 to $40 to send a small box.  The USPS blamed the suspension on covid-related shipping cancellations. 

I could be mistaken—I can't confirm this—but I thought that some years ago, the USPS eschewed ground shipping for all international mail (save hazards, animals, and the like), preserving only priority air.  No-hurry ground vanished, and rates spiked to their present levels.  So how can it be that shipping cancellations have caused service suspensions?

Planet Money recently tried to explain how Amazon manages "free shipping" thanks to scale.  I was utterly unconvinced.  No matter how much cost savings is realized by volume, negotiation, and incorporation into price, I find ordinary commodities such as my daily vitamins still cheaper on Amazon than my local big-box retailer, which should have some of those advantages, too.  Anyway, no one paid $40 to ship my $10 product in a bigger-than-medium box.  I smell corporate subsidies....

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., Louis DeJoy persists in office as Postmaster General.  Supposedly making the Post Office run in the American market tradition seems to mean disregarding the needs of people in favor of the profit margins of corporations, if not diverting public revenues to pad the latter.

I have come to suspect that DeJoy's whole undertaking is to turn the Post Office into such a parody of itself that Americans, in their outrage, abolish the institution.  Corporations, in the sparse numbers to which our antitrust regulation seems blind, will be left to occupy the field and fix prices that effectively kill off the nuisance of personal correspondence for good.  Transportation channels will be left to commerce and commerce above all else.

I guess that is the American way.

1 comment:

  1. USPS took 5 days for Priority Mail Express "2 day Guarantee" shipment of my passport. I would have used UPS, had the Algerian Consulate not required me to use USPS.

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