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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.

  • ThomasNeidhart

    Susan, I understand your frustration with the delay. I’d like to point out I got a small 1st class package in 2 days from California, that’s great for $3. Also, I believe since it’s newspapers it is being considered the slowest type of mail, but, it would get their days quicker I am betting if the post office did not have to cut staff just to cover the noose placed around its neck in the form of that ridiculous forced funding of retirement benefits that no other govt agency and certainly no private company does. But nonetheless, Congress forces billions a quarter to be placed from postal revenues to be put into an account thus forcing cuts to keep costs down. Simply put, blame the conservatives for trying to force the post office into private hands.

    • postalguy

      i have worked for the postal service for over 20 years..During this time the work force has been cut roughly in half while the size of management has doubled.you are also correct about the money grab from the bush conservatives but the democrats went along for the ride. I don’t know of any other business that has to ask for permission to raise it’s prices. how much has the cost of newspapers gone up in the last 20 years? i bet more than stamps.

  • Throw the parasites out

    Thomasneidhart is right for the cause but limits his finger pointing. For clarification the money is not placed in an account. It is placed into the general fund just like your social security money and spent with great abandon by the professional politicians in DC. Social Security was setup as a trust fund and many years ago plundered by the cash hungry politicians; they can snoop out cash better than a buzzard hunting carrion. The problem delays in delivery have been created by a group pushing to close processing plants and consolidate sorting operations to a few locations at the expense of delivery standards. Newspapers are the greatest evidence since they cannot be sorted in the machinery without damage and are manually processed. For clarification; Newspapers (2nd class mail) are given a discount because of a known subscription base and regular mailing interval, they should be delivered in the same time frame as first class mail.

    • ROTELLO47

      “It is placed into the general fund just like your social security
      money and spent with great abandon by the professional politicians in
      DC.” That they spend the set aide money on their own relatives and friends ought to alarm even more than the simple violation of good faith that would apply if the money were being spent on something useful and important, which it is not. But of course there is so much secrecy about everything our law-makers do that its always years after the deed has been done that any of them can be accused of doing anything out of self interest.

    • Harry @ Sedona

      Our home town newspaper increased the subscription price for mail delivery by 50 percent. However, you can now get their paper over the internet for half the old mail price. Not related, the local USPS office quite sorting and holding locally addressed mail locally and send everything except local advertising and newspaper mail to the regional sorting facility. Now local mail takes three days instead of one. They also closed the post office and hour earlier.

    • ThomasNeidhart

      thanks for the addt’l info

  • http://www.cyclingpeace.org/ F.A. Hutchison

    I recommended to the U.S. Postal ‘Service,’ that they get into email (being a provider) 20 years ago! The rest is history.

  • Michael_Shores

    We have unrealistic expectations of what the services of the USPS should cost. Postal rates in the US are significantly lower than in most other nations. They are also much lower than rates from carriers like FedEx for ‘mail’ types of packages. The best solution would be to allow the USPS to set its own rates. This would mean a large initial increase since Congress has been responsible for artificially suppressing rate increases to win votes. Once that is done, the USPS would become profitable and be able to compete on an even footing with other delivery services.

  • Bob1313

    The rate hike to 49 cents is, of course, per ounce for first class mail. Newspapers and other bulk mailers pay a much lower rate, but they still expect first class service. If they really want better service, then they ought to pay for it. Do they think that UPS or Fed-EX would give them better service for less money? It has been know for years that bulk mailers are a drag on the system and the first class mail actually subsidizes them. If they really want deliveries to outlying areas to be more timely, they could hire their own delivery people. What do you suppose that would cost?
    We seem to be perfectly ok giving subsidies to oil companies, multi-nationals that outsource jobs overseas, etc., etc., yet we expect the USPS to cover their expenses thirty years into the future without any help. Quit your bitching. We get great service in our rural area.
    While 50 cents might(?) buy you a candy bar at the grocery store, you still have to go pick it up.

  • disqus786

    The USPS is a dinosaur. Either outsource it completely to a non-governmental corporation (like many European nations have already done with their postal services), or free it from all Congressional oversight and regulation. The other alternative is what you have now, which isn’t working.

  • Common sense

    They ought to charge bulk mailers the same price as first class. With all the junk mail that still gets handled (ie: credit card offers, television service providers…), they would turn a profit again.