Mailing Systems Technology - May/June 2009 - (Page 42)

Pushing the Envelope With the bottom falling out on mail volumes and thus the Postal Service’s revenues, an archaic institution is showing a willingness to think creatively. The Postal Service has created a discount for new volumes of saturation mail, a program that will start later this spring. And word is that the Postal Service is set to unveil a summer discount program aimed at increasing volume in the quiet summer months. Standard Mailers that increase their mail volume over the previous year could enjoy discounts of up to 20% to 30% off the list prices. One other radical idea that has gotten some play in the media is whether the Postal Service should get (back) into the banking business. Postmaster General Jack Potter alluded to the idea in testimony before a House subcommittee in March, albeit as a passing reference in his testimony. Certainly, the banking industry isn’t the most stable industry in the world right now, and one could argue that Americans have plenty of banking options available already. But it’s refreshing to see the Postal Service consider bold and controversial ideas. With Kate Muth Layoffs Can’t Be Off the Table through the first five months of its fiscal year. It estimates that its total volume loss in FY 2009 could top 20 billion pieces and the net financial loss for the year will be more than $6 billion. My sources tell me that one of the biggest problems the USPS has right now is too many workers standing idly around at its facilities. Yes, the USPS has shed more than 50 million work hours through the first five months of the year. It’s trying to cut work hours by more than 100 million for the whole year, and it has offered early retirement to 150,000 workers. It’s simply not going to be enough. It’s time to get bold on the cost-cutting side of the house. It’s time to start talking about layoffs. I know, this is probably political suicide. Congress makes it tough for the Postal Service to consolidate a tour or close an under-utilized facility, so it’s not going to be easy for the Postmaster General to tell congressional oversight committees that he needs to lay off workers. But it is time to take that step. In response to a question at the March oversight hearing, Potter suggested layoffs could be a possibility, but the USPS’ hope is that it can “offer everyone jobs. This is certainly the hope ” for all involved in the US mailing industry, but it seems to be a troubled reality. Folks, the volume losses here are unprecedented. I firmly believe that most of this lost volume is never coming back. Yes, the volume declines will stop at some point, and we’ll see growth from current levels. But the days of 200+ billion pieces are over. We need a smaller and leaner postal system. The Postal Service is not a jobs program. It’s not an entitlement program. It is a self-supporting entity that relies on revenues earned from postage to pay its costs. It is a sender-paid system, by the way, which means I don’t really want to pay higher postage so someone can stand around doing nothing next to an idle sorting machine. I am not unsympathetic to the plight of the postal worker. I feel for workers in all industries that are losing their jobs. (There, but for fortune…) Still, in an era of shrinking volumes and revenues, the USPS has to be able to lay off workers. I doubt it would be done vacuously. Funding should be set aside for education and new-skills training, which would help prepare workers for jobs in other industries. If Congress refuses to let this happen, either through legislation or “political” hurdles of some kind, then it needs to pony up the money and pay the operational costs of the Postal Service. But as a taxpayer who’s been tapped one too many times this year, I’m not sure I want to pay for inefficiencies in a postal system that needs to be leaner. a Kate Muth is President of Muth Communications, a writing, editing and consulting firm. She has written on postal topics for the past 14 years. You can reach her at Declining Volumes = Declining Revenue The USPS estimates that its total volume loss in FY 2009 could top 20 billion pieces — and the net financial loss for the year will be more than $6 billion. While there are likely to be opponents to all new ideas, most industry groups applaud these efforts. They are thrilled to see the Postal Service test the flexibility that the postal law of 2006 has provided it. Indeed, they are pushing the Postal Service to broaden its horizons on the pricing front, to move beyond the small-market ideas that the USPS and industry have bandied about for the past two decades. A summer sale on postage? Now that’s a bold move for the Postal Service. It’s not far-fetched, of course. For one thing, some mailers have been pushing the idea for years. Further, other industries employ these kinds of tactics to drum up sales all the time. The airline industry offers various discount schemes to fill seats on under-capacity planes. Retailers sell off-season clothing at a steep discount. Still, these novel ideas are not enough to stop the bleeding completely. The Postal Service has lost almost 11 billion pieces of mail 42 MAY - JUNE 2009 a

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Mailing Systems Technology - May/June 2009

Mailing Systems Technology - May/June 2009
Editor’s Note
Real Life Management
Software Byte
Employing Technology
Everything IMB
Ship It
Best Practices
What You Think
From the Source
The Key to Approval
Practical Insights
Mail.XML and Services Oriented Architecture (SOA)
Implementing the Intelligent Mail Barcode
Internet-Powered Postal Mail
Using Personalization Technology
Reality Check
Pushing the Envelope

Mailing Systems Technology - May/June 2009