Wresting efficiencies from our USPS

SANFORD, FL (jbeech.com) – citizen involvement in divining further efficiencies at the USPS may help reduce debt without hurting service.

Nothing’s quite as American as the special attachment some of us have for our mailboxes. Unsurprisingly, fooling with this aspect of our postal service is something the USPS (and politicians) are discovering is fraught with emotions. Yet the need for greater efficiency means change must come soon.

While complaining about the mail approaches a national pastime, the USPS does a lot of things right. A perfect example is found at the very end of the delivery chain where things work rather efficiently, especially in the form of Community Mailboxes. While the styles vary (with some designs being quite old), individual units serving 8-16 families offer the chief benefit of minimizing stops for the postman.

Could the USPS garner further efficiencies by consolidating underutilized community mailboxes and thus, reduce the number of extra mail stops? Since even little bits of thrift add up, the aggregate savings should be quite welcome by the USPS if it’s accomplished without disrupting things too much. Thirft is always a concern but it’s especially true right now because of mounting concern for meeting pension obligations.

While some would consider these savings small potatoes, in the grand scheme of things if the answer is yes, then the old saw about a million here and a million there adding up to real money becomes quite apropos. During times when the belt is being tightened a notch, greater efficiency is an imperative for the USPS.

Mailboxes

The two principal places most Americans come in contact with our USPS are the individual mailbox and the in town post office. The mailbox is the least efficient terminus for mail because it’s one-on-one service, or Retail Mail. The individual box, usually found mounted by the front door, or on a post out by the road is the single most personal point of interaction with government, which a citizen typically experiences.

The most efficient interaction we experience with the USPS may be referred to as Wholesale Mail. E.g. the many mailboxes, which form walls at the post office. Combined with counter services like selling stamps, plus sending and receiving packages, it results in the post office being another familiar nexus for citizens as well.

The USPS has a never-ending quest for efficiency. It’s because gains, no matter how small, add up. For example, groups of post-top mail boxes exisit because they reduce mail stops. Boxes may be colorfully decorated too. Whether involving a unique look, or bright colors, they’re expressions of American individualism.

More efficient still, and midway between a single community mailbox and the post office are groupings of community mailboxes. In this example, nearly 100 families are served by placing 6 units of 16 together. The resulting close physical proximity makes delivery more efficient for the postman while retaining convenience for citizens. Score this concept as a clear win-win for the USPS and us.

However, examples of underutilized community mailboxes aren’t difficult to find. Perhaps citizen involvement may help the USPS find additional efficiencies. This thesis is a test of this idea.

Seeking greater efficiency

Rooting out and eliminating inefficiencies within the USPS’s generally efficient system will require postmasters keenly interested in saving money. From consulting with postmen, to getting off their duffs to see for themselves, it will take action. For example, this community mailbox located on the corner of Brisson and Pine Way (ZIP-code 32773), is underutilized because it contains several empties.

Located a mere 250 yards further into the route, this community mailbox (on the corner of Pine Way and Hallelujah, and also within 32773) contains empty units too. It represents an extra mail stop in close proximity and thus, considering residents won’t be greatly inconvenienced, consolidation may be something of a no-brainer for the postmaster.

Especially because of an added incentive; the mail truck often gets stuck turning around on this dead-end private dirt-road. It happens so frequently, in fact, the residents took it upon themselves to widen it considerably just to ease the task. Yet it still happens . . . a lot. Since calling for a tow truck isn’t cheap, this really should not be a difficult decision.

Strangely, it is too tough a decision for the postmaster Traci Murray of 32773 because the status quo continues. Add to it resident letters citing concern due to lengthy road blockage, plus fear the mailbox itself may be struck by drivers at night and it’s a rather perplexing situation.

Ignore the fact both of these community mailboxes are underutilized. Ignore the fact ongoing expenses for towing (three or four times in the last few years) will likely continue. Ignore resident’s concern for being blocked in, or delaying an ambulance when a truck is stuck again. Yet how can we ignore when a postmaster knowingly does nothing to plug the holes in the boat and show little interest in doing anything to save money? Simply put, why is this happening?

Conclusion

Ultimately, USPS postmasters need to do get out of the office more often because money saving efficiencies exist right under their noses. When ordinary citizen’s observations of easy savings are ignored, it’s time to wonder this; can America really afford this kind of mid-level USPS management?

While it’s only money, it’s our money. I take it personally. Do you?