Susan Mattos: Postal rate hikes will not resolve issues
Happy New Year! Mailing a letter is about to get more expensive. But, there is a bright side for customers: The three-cent increase, set to take effect Jan. 26, is only temporary….or so they say!
Not being very Santa-like, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) handed everyone who uses the mail a lump of coal on Christmas Eve by voting in the approval of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) proposal to raise postage rates by more than triple today’s inflation.
The Postal Service cites an urgent need for the increase, claiming that mail volume fell by more than 53 billion pieces because of the economic recession. The PRC blamed the Internet as the main reason for the Postal Service losses and say that the recession was responsible for less than half of the post office’s financial loss. They granted the increase anyway – saying that the Postal Service needs the money – hey, guys we do too!!
The increase is expected to last no longer than two years.
The commission increase, means the cost of mailing a letter will increase from 46 to 49 cents. However, even after the rate hike takes effect, those who have already purchased the “forever” stamps can continue to use them without additional cost.
USPS must report to the commission by May 1 and quarterly thereafter on the revenue generated by the increase. This and the fact that the increase is only temporary has USPS officials upset – they wanted the increases to go on forever. The increases are expected to generate an additional $1.8 billion in revenues for the Postal Service.
We belong to the National Newspaper Association, which is a membership organization formed to help newspapers with the many issues facing our industry. The president of the organization, who is a publisher from Georgia, totally disagrees with the Postal Service’s request as well as the PRC’s decision. He recently posted this quote: “We are whistling in the dark. We cannot avoid the fact the Postal Service is operating in a new world. We all are. The longer the Postal Service and lawmakers avoid reducing core costs for the delivery network, the more pain will e inflicted upon all who use the mail. Fewer and fewer customers will be paying more and more. This approved postage increase solves nothing.” He went on to say that he did not believe that the USPS could achieve serious reductions in operating costs without critically diminishing services.
Which gets to the heart of this column. In the past several months we have received a number of calls at our office from subscribers who are tired of receiving their paper the week after it is published.
It is a difficult situation to explain, particularly since most of the people calling live in communities like Modeso, Turlock, Merced and Los Banos – all areas which certainly should receive their paper within two to three days of our mailing it at the local post office. These are people who like to read over the paper to find out what events are taking place on the weekend or funeral services for friends or former classmates. They don’t need the paper seven days later.
Our routine is the same each and every week: we take our newspapers to our local post office on Wednesday afternoon and they begin their journey into the postal system. Since we have a great local postal staff who know that our subscribers like to read their paper, they keep Newman and Gustine deliveries right here and only send on the out-of-town papers. We have done everything within our means to insure that papers are in the right kind of containers, in delivery order and bundled properly. The USPS over the years has pushed the burden of regulation after regulation on bulk mailers and the level of service, unfortunately, has decreased.
Our newspaper association reports that this is happening all over the United States – which is in certain respects a good thing that I am not the only one complaining about services or lack thereof – then again, to know that this problem is happening on such a large scale and no one is doing anything about it or wanting to be held accountable is maddening.
At the local level, our post office branches are staffed with hardworking and dedicated individuals but the bureaucracy handed down from the upper echelon is all but causing the postal service to collapse upon itself.
All of us are having to figure out ways to do our jobs with fewer resources – this is the new normal and we had better get used to it – the higher ups at the Postal Service need to know that they should not be immune to that new reality.