US Post Office: Virtually obsolete

Our neighborhood mailboxes look like this, except there are three units instead of two, and they are silver colored.

Once upon a time, when I was growing up, the U.S. Post Office delivered my mail to my box on my front porch. But I learned as an adult who moved around a lot that front porch mailboxes were the norm only in certain neighborhoods and in certain parts of the country. Sometimes I had a front porch mailbox; sometimes it was a fixture out by the curb. Now, however, in a 10-year-old subdivision north of Denver, my mailbox is one of 50 or so in a cluster of mailboxes (like one might find in an apartment complex) a block away. And I’m one of the luckier residents, because some people have to go two blocks to their box.

It’s annoying. It’s inconvenient. But of course it’s cheaper and easier for the Post Office. Goodie for them. And if they cut back on their “service” even more, I’ll hardly notice, because as it is I only get up to my box every week or so. Why go more often, especially when most of what I get is junk mail?

My “haul” today (about one week’s worth of mail) was as follows:

  • 8 pieces of campaign literature (5 from Mitt Romney)
  • 5 mailers/cards/menus from local restaurants and businesses
  • 2 of those fat, sloppy bunches of several dozen newsprint ads like you’d find stuffed in a Sunday newspaper
  • 12 catalogs and magazines (none of them paid for or even requested)
  • 2 items specifically for prior owners of this house (even though I’ve lived here for more than 5 years)
  • 14 letter-sized envelopes or similar sized items of junk, scams, etc.
  • 3 envelopes containing legitimate business

and, almost overlooked in the middle of all the junk

  • 1 flimsy little postcard, the only notice I’ll receive, billing me for my car tag renewal

The four items of “real” business could have been sent to me electronically. And would have been less likely to get overlooked. It’s scary, actually, how close I came to chucking the car tag notice with all the newsprint.

Looking at that list, it’s hard not to conclude that we — or, at least, I — don’t really need the Post Office anymore. It delivers junk, lots of junk, and clearly the people who send that junk are its primary supporters. It’s a symbiotic relationship that holds no benefit for the general public.

I can’t think of anything I get via the Post Office that couldn’t be delivered another way, and most of what I get, I don’t want. Never thought I’d be saying it, but I don’t need or want what the Post Office has to offer these days.

11 thoughts on “US Post Office: Virtually obsolete

  1. Good post, PT, good observations. The slow demise of the USPS is poignant, a death from a thousand cuts, a part of two centuries of culture coming to a stubborn end. The thing I liked best about the Post Office was that it was (and is) reliable, a paternalistic government presence and conduit for communication, both public and private. The tag-renewal instance is notable and symbolic. Now we are to be at the mercy of our computers. Oh oh.

    Next week I am changing my ISP from ATT to our local cable company. I am tired of having to jump through automated phone hoops only to talk to an ESL-challenged foreigner about DSL problems and with uncertain stress that the problem will even be solved. Plus, ATT extorted an extra year’s contract out of me at $15 a month to solve the last problem. Enough! The cable company promises not to charge extra to fix problems. And, they speak English. And, they have higher speed. We’ll see. The computer is not just a luxury anymore, because with the USPS fading away, it is now vital.

    1. I dropped DSL years ago, as soon as I learned cable was faster. Not that dealing with Comcast is any picnic. But they do seem to speak English and as it happens, the last time I had to call them, I actually got hold of a woman who knew her job, quickly solved my problem, and actually taught me something useful. I was so grateful she must have thought I was nuts. For what I’m paying them, though, it should be that way every time I call. Especially since my computer is such an essential part of my life, as you pointed out.

  2. I think we’ll always have mail.
    I don’t think we’ll always have mailmen.
    Oh, they may LOOK like mailmen, but they won’t be the same.
    They’ll be changelings.

    Dogs will still attack them.

  3. There now, PT, you have updated me about a stereotype I have held. I thought everyone in America had those red end-of-path mail boxes! After all, Homer Simpson does! (My sources are second to none). Here we berate Royal Mail, but a postman still comes each day to put post through our letter box, about 50 per cent of it non-junk.

    I must remember to tip the postman at Christmas.

    1. I’ve never lived in a house where the mail was actually put through a slot in the door, although my brother’s house is like that. That would be the ultimate convenience.

      I used to leave a Christmas card and tip for the mailman. But that was when he (or she) was on my porch every day and we actually got acquainted. These days it’s more like the mail just materializes in that box up the street.

  4. Given that the mail in my area often arrives after my financial institution closes, and given that I suspect dyslexia in one of my carriers because of how the mail is sometimes delivered incorrectly, I would love nothing more than for all of my clients to pay by ACH transfer.

    However, I will say that the mail has gone through without a hitch in spite of the hurricane. In fact, I think it says something about the apathy of my carriers that the mail actually arrived EARLY on Tuesday and Wednesday. It makes me wonder why they can’t deliver the mail earlier when it’s nice out.

    1. Hey, good to hear from you!! I feared you might be without power. Gotta give the Post Office credit if they are managing to deliver there despite all the disruption. I guess “Neither rain nor snow …” still holds true, even if “fair skies” doesn’t.

  5. Oh, crap… this post reminds me… my tags just expired at the end of January. Oops!!!! Guess I’ll have to go to the privately-owned DMV and pay the extra. But I usually do anyway because the convenience and little to no wait is worth the extra fee.

    Anyway, somehow I missed this post. Sorry about that. I may not read them as they are published, but I usually catch up and read a bunch at once. I missed this one, though.

    I so agree. Losing Saturday delivery is no big deal to me. I would prefer it simply for green reasons. I cannot even begin to imagine how many miles are driven by the Post Office in one day. All that fuel saved and less emissions…..

    Any account I have that can be done electronically is set up electronically. This way I never miss a bill. I’ve almost thrown legitimate stuff out with the junk just like you described above, too. One reader commented that the internet is no longer a luxury but rather a necessity, and that is so true. At least for a growing number of people. But I have to remind myself that there are many people who cannot afford a computer let alone the monthly charge for maintaining internet connection. They are the ones who are dependent upon the USPS. But losing one day is not going to hurt anyone the least little bit. Before the internet when everything was done via mail, anything I received on Saturday I usually set aside until a weekday anyway. I imagine most people are like that who still rely on the mail. Saturday isn’t a standard business day, so most people most likely set aside that legitimate piece of mail on Saturday to tend to on Monday or later.

    I cannot believe all the to-do that losing Saturday is causing. Ridiculous.

    1. I did hear a report yesterday that mentioned how many jobs would be lost if Saturday deliveries are discontinued. I expected some work schedule changes, but not actual job losses. I’m sorry to hear that, but I still won’t miss Saturday deliveries.

      Yes, I’ve changed to electronic delivery and payment of all bills, but there are one or two that still don’t offer those things. The DMV here is so behind-the-times. Snail mail statements. Too few offices so the simplest transaction can require a wait of several hours. Okla. had its shortcomings, but it seemed there was a tag agent every couple of miles and rarely a line for anything.

      1. I had heard that, too, about x-number of jobs being lost. I imagine this would be the part-timers at most. Shortly before Christmas, I was chatting with our postal carrier. Nice man. Not talking about anything in particular, if anything, the long days he had due to all the holiday deliveries. He mentioned that he works every other Saturday, so I’m guessing that the person that takes his route on his Saturday’s off are the type of jobs that may be lost.

        I feel for these people. Losing jobs is not a good time. But Saturday delivery has become obsolete and times change. Hopefully the post office will be able to place a good amount of people in another position. After all, the mail still needs to be sorted and Monday’s delivery will have more there to sort and deliver….

... and that's my two cents