Thursday, March 19, 2015
Does the PMG Really Want to "Keep Mail Relevant?"
While addressing a crowd of fawning Postal Supervisors at the recent NAPUS conference, which I think stands for No Aptitude Plus Unabashed Suck-Ups, or something like that, our new Postmaster General Megan Brennan made a rather presumptuous statement that she was going to do everything in her power to keep mail relevant. Even if I believed her, if the actions of her and her predecessor didn't indicate exactly the opposite, I would contend that there is nothing at all PMG Brennan could do to keep the mail relevant even if she wanted to. I would contend that the power to keep the mail relevant belongs to me and you, the people working in the postal trenches.
Mail has been relevant in this country since its inception, ever since Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gave Congress authority to establish post offices and post roads. Some of the post roads I drive on every day to do my job are a little bumpy and rutted, like the one you see above, and during our rare rain storms they get a little muddy too. All the same I think we have enough post roads overall to get the job done, so the real question is whether we will have enough post offices to keep the mail relevant.
And this is where I get worried, wondering whether Brennan really desires to keep the mail relevant or whether she is continuing the trend started by Pat Donahoe to dismantle the assets and the goodwill of the Postal Service.
I don't understand how closing processing plants keeps the mail relevant. I don't see how closing Post Offices keeps the mail relevant either. There is a tiny Post Office in Valentine, Texas that gets Valentine cards from thousands of starry eyed lovers every year to have that unique, loving, heart-shaped postmark affixed. This Post Office is slated for closure. Even if this particular post office wasn't particularly noteworthy, imagine the struggle that rural residents have to go through to mail packages and buy stamps when their local Post Office has closed and they have to drive five towns over on bad, muddy roads to find the only place in five counties that still flies the flag.
I also don't comprehend how reducing first class mail delivery standards keeps the mail relevant. Letters that used to require only two to three days to cross the country now regularly take a week or longer. It took me five days to send a first class letter to my son, who lives a mere 500 miles up the coast.
So it looks like so far there isn't much Megan Brennan is doing to keep the mail relevant, but I don't think she could even if she wanted to. It's out of her power completely. The American public decides if the mail is relevant and it looks to me like they say the mail is more relevant than ever. This country has undergone the great experiment with email and online bill pay, and now a backlash has occurred that demonstrates that the mail has not lost its relevancy, despite efforts to kill it by legislative action and by bold, prophetic pronouncements about good old fashioned letter mail being anachronistic.
The Postal Service is not anachronistic. Some states are requiring the mailing of refund checks again because cyber-theft of tax returns is a very serious problem. Cyber theft is one stop shopping. Your pimple-faced neckbeard hacker cousin Albert can sit undetected in his Mom's basement eating fish-sticks, picking his nose and robbing from an entire database of thousands, maybe millions of refundees on his computer. On the other hand, Butch and his gang of tattooed, crowbar wielding thugs can only break into a handful of CBU or gang boxes of maybe 16 deliveries each at a time, tops, and out of those 16 they're lucky if they can nab one check. Furthermore, Butch is going to get spotted sooner or later, someone is going to call the police, and unlike meek and unassuming Albert, Butch's mother kicked him out of the house years ago so he has no basement to hide in to avoid Federal time. Altogether Albert has an easier and more profitable gig. Butch should have stayed in school and sat behind Albert, to copy off of his paper.
My point is that the mail is safer than online transactions, and more and more people are starting to realize this. Unless you have a 572 digit password containing special characters from the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cyrillic alphabets, with a few Egyptian runes thrown in for extra security, your password is not really safe no matter where you go online these days. We may even see a return to the mass popularity of good old fashioned mail order catalogs before it's all said and done.
Besides the American public, the people who really can keep the mail relevant are you and I, the letter carriers, clerks, mailhandlers, and other front line employees of the United States Postal Service. We deal with the public every day, and we need to provide them with optimum customer service no matter how hard the fat, somewhat wobbly NAPUS members cracking the whip behind us are pushing us to go faster to move the line along, or go faster to get the route done. We need to stop and take an extra 30 seconds to answer a question or point a person in the right direction; we need to make sure people can find a Post Office before they put their social security and bank account numbers into the hands of Albert and his buddies in the Nigerian mafia.
While the Brennan-worshiping NAPUS members sit around the buffet table at their conference, getting even fatter as they congratulate themselves about keeping the mail relevant, we're the ones out there really doing it. It doesn't depend on technology, it doesn't depend on state of the art postal vehicles with bunk beds, potted plants, and air conditioning inside, it doesn't depend upon drones in the sky following letter carriers to the bathroom to take pictures of them peeing, it depends upon people. So far the people say that the mail is STILL relevant, and we need to keep it that way.
Read about states returning to mailed tax refunds here
Picture of this lonely "post road" on my route is my own.
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