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Why I Loathe the USPS, Part 709

March 14, 2008 Leave a comment

In case you missed part 708 https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/not-so-gentle-reminders/

So, I had to make another visit to the Postal Service today for work. I had to mail 3 packages to Canada. I got there at 5:03. On the wall is the myriad of forms to fill out. There is a form for Customs Declaration for packages under 4lb and a different form for packages over 4lbs. I filled out 3 copies of the under 4lb form. I also needed them insured, so once again, I looked at my options: Domestic Insurance form, International Insurance form. I filled out 3 copies of the International Insurance form.

I waited in line for 30 minutes, with only 60% of the stations open (which is more than usual). I finally get to the front. I put my packages on the counter, hand her the forms, and tell her they are shipping to Canada.

“Oh, you need to fill out the other form for this package” (larger box, but lightweight)
“Why?”
“Because its too big”
“The sign says all packages under 4lbs.”
blank stare

She hands me the new form to fill out.

“I need these insured as well.” I hand her the insurance forms.
“We don’t use those anymore. You need to fill out this form for all of the packages (the over 4lbs form).”
“Why do you have the international insurance forms on the wall then?”
“We don’t.”
“Uhm…”
At this point homeboy at station #2 jumps in.
“We ony have domestic insurance forms”
“Then why does this one say international?”
“It’s not supposed to”
“Ok, well it does. You shouldn’t put them out here and make people fill them out”
“Hey, don’t blame us, its a printing mistake. It’s not our fault.”
The woman again. “I’ll need to ask you to step aside and fill out those forms.”

At this point I get a little aggravated.
“No thank you, I will wait here until I am finished”
homeboy “Hey man, why you gotta get all worked up and act like a child?”
By this point I’m starting to make a scene, so I just take my forms and filled them out. I got back in line and went through the process again. I left at 5:59. 1 hour to mail 3 packages.

Now, its hard to find a comparison in the private sector because no other business makes you jump through the hoops the government does. However, imagine you wait in line at Chipotle, you study the menu, then once you decide, you step up to the burrito bar and, rather than ordering, you are forced to make your own Chipotle burrito. After the mess you have created, you get to the cashier and he tells you they don’t sell Barbacoa anymore, you’ll have to go back in line and make a new burrito. Suppose even further that you raise a fuss about it and tell them they should take it off their menu and the cashier responds by telling you to stop acting like a child. Just accept it and get back in line.

In reality, if there was some kind of problem at Chipotle, they would immediately apologize and if they didn’t offer you a free burrito, they would quickly remedy the problem, because the customer is always right. Now what does homeboy’s response imply? It implies that I have no reason to make a fuss about waiting in line. Everyone does it. That’s what you do at the post office. You wait in line. For me to suggest that I shouldn’t have to wait in line that long is to suggest that I am a customer who can choose where to take my business. Obviously this is incorrect. I have no options when it comes to postal service. I have to use the USPS unless I want urgent delivery (see prior post).

Now, fortunately, I was only dealing with packages of minor importance, but what if we were talking about life or death health care? Advocates of socialized medicine take heed. When the government runs the ship, you wait in line and don’t ask questions. When the free market is allowed to operate, every penny is a vote and the customer is always right, whether they are shipping packages, or having heart surgery.

Categories: economics Tags: , ,

Not so gentle reminders

January 15, 2008 2 comments

Yesterday I was hit with a mighty wave of reminders of the kind of country we live in. First of all, I was standing in line for 45 minutes at the post office to mail three small packages. This alone should be a constant reminder of the socialism of America. One of the Soviet Union’s primary symbolic achievements in the advancement of socialism was the institution of their postal service.

Why do I put up with waiting 45 minutes in line? Because its cheaper to mail the small packages (media mail) through USPS than FedEx or DHL, and unfortunately my time isn’t worth very much money, so I can afford to wait in line to pay the cheaper price. But why is the USPS cheaper than the private competitors? Doesn’t that simply prove that we would all be screwed if it were left up to private businesses to charge what they want? Wikipedia states it very well:

The USPS holds a statutory monopoly on non-urgent First Class Mail, outbound U.S. international letters[3] as well the exclusive right to put mail in private mailboxes,[4] as described in the Private Express Statutes. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, “The monopoly was created by Congress as a revenue protection measure for the Postal Service’s predecessor to enable it to fulfill its mission. It is to prevent private competitors from engaging in an activity known as “cream-skimming,” i.e., offering service on low-cost routes at prices below those of the Postal Service while leaving the Service with high-cost routes.”[3] The law that prohibits anyone except the USPS from placing mail in a private mailbox (18 U.S.C. § 1725), was also passed for the purpose of preventing loss of revenue to the post office.[3] Besides the prevention of revenue loss, the 1934 legislation was passed for another reason, the second being, “Congress sought to decrease the quantity of extraneous matter being placed in mail boxes”. Until 1979, competition in all letter mail was prohibited. However, faced with imminent legislation to exempt “urgent” letter mail from the monopoly, the Post Office decided on its own to exempt “extremely urgent” letters.[5] Competition in “extremely urgent letters” is allowed under certain conditions: The private carrier must charge at least $3 or twice the U.S. postage, whichever is greater (other stipulations, such as maximum delivery time, apply as well); or, alternatively, it may be delivered for free.[6] This is where carriers such as FedEx compete by offering overnight delivery, as well as where bicycle messengers compete for intracity mail. However, the private carrier of the urgent letters must not use the standardized mailboxes marked “U.S. Mail.” Hence, private carriers of urgent letters must either deliver packages directly to the recipient, leave them in the open near the recipient’s front door, or place them in a special box dedicated solely to that carrier (a technique commonly used by small courier and messenger services). The United States is the only country that has such a mailbox monopoly according to the American Enterprise Institute.[7]

Carriers, as well as mailers, are supposed to comply with the laws against using a competitor to mail an overnight letter that is not extremely urgent. A violation can occur at a home or a business where letters originate. But, since nonurgent letters can be mailed covertly through private carriers USPS has found it difficult to enforce. However, companies such as Bellsouth and Equifax have been investigated and fined for mailing nonurgent material through private overnight delivery services. Private carriers of overnight mail say that they do not inspect the mail of customers to determine if it the content is extremely urgent and suggest that the responsibility for ensuring that relies on the mailers themselves. Carriers do, however, have certain responsibilities under the regulations.[3]

Since the mail monopoly only applies to nonurgent letter mail, the USPS is losing a significant amount of business to their competitors in other services, who offer lower rates. For example, FedEx and others have captured 90% of the overnight mail business.[4]

During the 1830s and 1840s several entrepreneurs started their own letter mail delivery companies, with the intent of ending the postal monopoly. These included Lysander Spooner and his American Letter Mail Company,[8] Henry Wells (of Wells Fargo) and Alvin Adams. To begin with, they were financially successful. However they were forced out of business by several postal reforms leading to lower postage rates in the 1840s and 1850s as well as Congressional legislation enforcing the mail monopoly, or in the case of the Pony Express, became mail contractors.[9][10] The average price charged by the Post Office to mail a letter in 1845 was 14.5 cents, whereas the private postal systems generally charged between 5 and 6.5 cents. By 1851, the Post Office had cut their rates to 3 cents, which has been cited as the main factor in driving the private mail companies out of business. Another consequence of the rate cut was that by 1860, the formerly self-supporting Post Office depended on the Treasury for half its income.[11]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postal_Service

But wait, don’t you own your own mailbox? Can’t you decide who gets to use it? No.

Existing residential mailbox laws state that only authorized letter carriers may insert mail into a residential mailbox. A penalty will be imposed for anyone who is not a letter carrier and is inserting mail in the residential mailbox. It is a federal offense for tampering with the mail and a fine or possibly jail time can be the punishment for the offense. Generally, resident mailboxes are for mail use only.

However, newspapers and magazines which are sent on Sundays and national holidays can be placed in the residential mailbox if the homeowner removes them before the next mail delivery. The USPS code states that private carriers may deliver newspapers and place them in the newspaper receptacle only. The receptacle cannot touch the residential mailbox, cannot interfere with the delivery of the mail, does not extend beyond the front of the mailbox and does not display any advertising except for the name of the publication.

The USPS Domestic Mail Manual states that “no part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items of matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle.” In other words, the mailbox may not be used for anything other than for pieces of mail with postage attached. The USPS Domestic Mail Manual goes on to states that it is a federal offense and there is a significant penalty for violating this law.

Homeowners need to be aware that even though they purchased and maintain the residential mailbox, the mailbox belongs to and is controlled by the USPS (United States Postal Service). That means that any tampering of the mailbox is a federal offense.

http://www.residential-mailboxes.net/Article/Residential-Mailboxes/Law-For-Residential-Mail-Box.htm

Its a complete scam. The USPS stays in business by outlawing competition. We lose as a result. There is absolutely no reason for the USPS to exist.

Consider these articles:

An Untouchable Monopoly
USPS Monopoly Makes No Sense
USPS Monopoly Pamphlet
Is it Time to Privatize the Postal Service?
USPS, Competitors Square off at Conference

Don’t forget about all your utility companies as well:
Deregulate the Utilities

So while I’m waiting in this atrocious line (there were three employees working at their stations with 4 stations closed for no apparent reason. this is the case every single time I have been to the post office. there was an extra employee walking around the line annoying people to make sure their packages were labeled properly, etc. I have no idea why they didn’t put her to work behind the counter to move the line faster) I decide to check the news on my phone. Here I’m presented with three more reminders, which were more obvious following the Republican debate the other night and the arrogant mockery of wise comments made by Ron Paul.

Ron Paul’s comments on the Iranian speedboats followed the response of the other candidates. They all used it as a chance to glorify America as the strongest military power in the world. Huckabee said he had no problem introducing the Iranians to the gates of hell if needed. Paul responded by urging caution. The “moderator” Brit Hume mocked Paul by claiming the other candidates supported being passive (recall Huckabee’s comments).

So I’m in the line and I read this headline:
WGulf Prankster at Issue in Iran Dispute

Then I read this headline:
3,200 Marines Prepare for Afghan Tour

Again, here is what Paul had to say:

So long as the current mentality is maintained, there will always be a reason to attack some country.

Finally, I read this headline:
Congress Likely to OK Saudi Arms Deal

WASHINGTON – The Democratic-led Congress is unlikely to block U.S. plans to sell $123 million worth of sophisticated precision-guided bomb technology to Saudi Arabia, despite concerns from some members that the systems could be used against Israel.

Once again, here was Paul’s comments before I read this story:

The Messianic Character of American Foreign Policy