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I love the U.S. Postal Service

Published May 12. 2012 09:01AM

The United States Post Office (USPS) has been falsely maligned for decades. People complain about the USPS almost as much as they complain about the weather. In my opinion, they do not know just how good the USPS actually is. They perform minor miracles every day. They deliver mail from any location in the United States to any location in the world. Their employees are courteous and provide assistance when customers have questions or special needs. Most people take the postal service for granted. The USPS is often blamed for problems when in fact the issues often originate with the sender.

Let's look at some facts. The USPS delivers 167.9 billion pieces of mail every year. This is 40 times what UPS delivers. The post office delivers to 151 million homes and businesses across the United States. In total, mail carriers made 935.7 billion customer visits last year. ( They also deliver international mail to and from countries around the world. By law they have to deliver to every address in the United States and they do so even in inclement weather. "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds". We have heard this often, but our unsung postal employees live it each and every day.

I spent the early part of my life living in Canada. Canada Post, as the postal service was known, was constantly on strike. If it was Christmas they were definitely on the picket line. The constant work stoppages crippled my business as we relied on the mail for customer payments. Yes, in Canada they paid bills with checks and mailed them to the vendor. We used to joke that 90 percent of the price of a stamp was for the cost of storing our letters and 10 percent was for delivery of letters. It was not unusual for a letter originating in one part of Toronto to be delivered a week later in another part of Toronto. Mail to other cities could even be slower.

When I started my company in Canada, we needed to mail catalogs to our customers across the country. We found that it was cheaper to mail our brochures from an American company based in Niagara Falls, New York. We would print our catalogs and brochures and drive them across to the border, clear customs and then mail the catalogs back into Canada. We were able to save almost 30 percent on our cost of mailing. To this day, mail in Canada is much more expensive than it is in United States. To mail a simple letter costs 61.5 cents in U.S. funds. Once it is put in the mailbox, it is anyone's guess when the letter will actually be delivered. Doing business in Canada was so frustrating that we moved our corporate headquarters to California to get away from Canada Post, the cold weather and high taxes.

Once we moved to California, we immediately noticed that the USPS was far more reliable than Canada Post. Mail was delivered undamaged anywhere in the nation within 5 days. The service at my ranch in California was excellent. The mail lady drove 19 miles from the nearest post office to deliver mail to the 12 residences along the highway leading up to my ranch. She made her way every day despite bad weather, searing heat that could hit 114 degrees in the summer, mudslides and even the occasional earthquake. She only missed one day when a major earthquake caused a massive landslide that blocked the entire highway. She promptly delivered the mail the next day using a four-wheel drive vehicle to navigate around the fallen earth and ruptured pavement.

Not only was she dedicated to her job and her customers, but she was grossly underpaid, earning less than $40,000 a year. Sometimes when mail would back up, she would check the house to ensure the occupants were okay. She discovered one woman who broke her hip and was lying on the floor for three days. In another case, she discovered the body of an old rancher.

To rural customers, the postal carrier is a lifeline. They drive by every house and farm daily. They often find and report problems such as downed electric lines, blocked roads, accidents or other unusual situations. If I need stamps, I can place a request in my mailbox and the mail person will leave the stamps or bring them the next day. Once I put it an unstamped letter in the mailbox with the correct change for a stamp. The post lady was kind enough to put a stamp on the envelope and mail it for me. Such service!

None of this would ever happen in Canada. I remember a neighbor who was a Canadian postal carrier. If the weather was bad, he would throw the mail into his car and call it a day. He was supposed to work until 4 p.m. every day, yet he was often in the pub with his cronies by 2 p.m. If he got caught, he would be suspended. The union would quickly come to his rescue and he would be back to work the next day. Even though he was seldom sober, he was never fired. He had lifetime employment at Canada Post but did not have to work.

Contrast this with a letter sent to me from Coalinga California last Friday. It arrived at my house on Tuesday. The letter was picked up by a rural postal carrier and taken to a small town postal station, then shipped to Bakersfield. Magically, it went from Bakersfield to Hamburg Pennsylvania in three business days. Considering the complexity of the route and the distances involved, this is fantastic service.

Our politicians are constantly attacking the Postal Service. It must work as they continue to be reelected. As I write this, Congress is considering a $34 billion bailout for the USPS. So far, they have only considered two solutions. The first is to close 3,700 post offices, eliminate Saturday deliveries, and possibly only deliver mail 3 days a week. Conversely they can subsidize the USPS to save the post offices and the jobs of the postal employees. For some reason they omitted the best solution. Simply raise the cost of a stamp. I would gladly pay 60 cents for a stamp if doing so prevented post office closures, staff layoffs, service downgrades and permitted the USPS to remain financially independent of the federal government.

Bulk rates could be raised from approximately 14 cents per unit to 30 or 40 cents a unit. If junk mail were more expensive to deliver, then maybe they would stop mailing it to me. Even though I use a service to opt out of mail lists, I still get enough junk mail use up a quarter of a garbage pail. (To opt out, go to If everyone else gets the same amount of junk mail, imagine the impact on our landfills! Only higher costs will deter the use of bulk mail that floods our homes with useless advertisements.

It is time to recognize the United States Postal Service for what it is: a highly efficient, well run, low cost mail service. The next time you go into a post office or see your carrier, I suggest you thank him or her for their service. Postal workers are often falsely accused of poor service. It is time to let them know we appreciate them and we value their service.

© 2012 Gordon Smith - All rights Reserved

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