How The Post Office Can Stay Relevant

The United States Postal Service needs to introduce electronic mail if they want to survive. USPS Logo with @-symbol

Despite private e-mail and private delivery services, The Postal Service remains top courier. However, as electronic correspondence increasingly cuts postage revenue and smarter private distribution centers enable Fedex and others to compete on cost and services, USPS needs to adopt modern messaging paradigms if it wants to protect its business viability.

I urge John E. Potter (current Postmaster General) to realize that USPS is in a unique position to do things that no one else can, and can accomplish them thusly: sell electronic post office boxes that take regular mail.

USPS e-mail: a certified, electronic, and virtual mailbox run by USPS which can get away with doing things that neither e-mail providers nor private companies can directly compete with:

  1. Charge for Message Delivery. Credit card companies and healthcare companies, for example, need to notify you by mail of any changes to your service offering or plan. An official address that officially (as in governmentally-official) ties citizens to a mailbox. These companies are used to paying for this type of correspondence.
  2. Charge Different Rates Depending on Message Type. Credit Card offers: $1.00 a message. Not-for-profits: $0.01 a message. Et cetera.
  3. Strong-arm Government Agencies to Adopt Electronic Messaging Capabilities. Offer free message delivery for all government agencies, the cost reduction in the first year’s postage alone would likely pay for the entire implementation.
  4. Automatically discard Junk Mail. I’d pay $20/year for that.
  5. Automatic Package Redirection. Order something delivered to your e-USPS address and packages are automatically routed to the nearest facility for delivery, no matter where you move.
  6. Official Mail Segregation. Identify and differentiate government/very important mail from everything else at delivery.
  7. Certified Delivery. It can never get lost in the mail… and they can charge for delivery/opening confirmation. And you know it got to the right person.
  8. Physical Address Privacy. I know where Elvis lives.

I’d also love it if they adopted a scanned-mail service offering similar to Earth Class Mail, so my experience with my mail is the same regardless of how the initial sender sent it. Backwards compatible mail.

I’m sure you can think of other things that could be accomplished with this setup.

Inasmuch, USPS’s unique features make this proposal particularly compelling. Firstly, they are one of the few agencies explicitly authorized by The US Constitution—the country’s politics (likely) won’t let it fail. Secondly, the government and agencies rely solely on USPS to correspond with its citizens—and the government’s co-dependence on it (likely) won’t let it fail, either. Therefore, it’s permanent and environmentally-friendly, to boot.

Unless USPS can’t find a way to stop borrowing from The Treasury to pay budget deficits, we’re going to have another persistent taxpayer liability on our collective hands. Ultimately, USPS needs to take a fresh look at how it can play within modern communications paradigms.

This is my suggestion.

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