Pros: Low price; Convenience
Cons: Post office reps; Inconsistent delivery times; Monopoly factor
How do you deliver most of your mail? Americans have several choices with large packages, among them UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, and others. But smaller size letters are best delivered using the least- expensive option available, the United States Postal Service Standard Mail. Let's take a closer look at this service:
U.S. Postal Service Facts:
The U.S. Postal Service is a government agency responsible for mail delivery for the population at large. Founded in 1775, the U.S. Postal Service is one of only a handful of agencies explicitly authorized by the U.S. Constitution. It is headed by the Postmaster General and serves the entire United States with uniform postal rates charged to everyone, regardless of the distance of service.
The U.S. Postal Service has several delivery options, but its Standard Mail delivery is the one best- known and most used by the public. With Standard Mail, anyone with a physical street address can receive mail, delivered right to the front door, for a fixed price. All it takes is a stamp (or official scan through a postal meter), affixed in the corner of an envelope, to prepare a letter for delivery. Mail can be dropped off in an official U.S. Postal Service box, at the post office, or from your own mail box. Mail boxes are the exclusive use of the U.S. Postal Service and may not be used by competing services such as Fed Ex or UPS.
Postal rates are the same for mail delivered within the United States. Generally, a single stamp is all that is necessary to deliver a piece of mail via Standard Mail. As long as the envelope is not too large or doesn't exceed a certain weight, it can be mailed with a single stamp. Bulk size and extra weight can increase the necessary postage.
The United States Postal Service is an extensive courier operation with offices and workers in every city and town, large and small. More than 600,000 people are employed by the U.S. Postal Service, making it the largest government employer and the second largest employer overall in the United States, next to Wal- Mart. The U.S. Postal Service operates a huge fleet of trucks and its people help to deliver more than six- hundred million pieces of mail each day.
Everyone in the United States uses the U.S. Postal Service and its Standard Mail on a daily basis. The main reasons are the low price and the lack of choice. Postal rates, in spite of consistent increases, are still inexpensive when you consider how far your mail travels for such a low cost. This reason, alone, would make the U.S. Postal Service a delivery option to consider, but the other reason everyone uses the U.S. Postal Service is because, well, there isn't any other choice. Competitors like Fed Ex and UPS are not allowed to go head- to- head in competition for the delivery of standard mail. The U.S. Postal Service has complete control in this area, so unless you can use e-mail instead, you have no choice but to use the U.S. Postal Service for standard mail delivery.
Okay, so the U.S. Postal Service has a monopoly, but is the service acceptable? Well, my response to this question is the politically correct "yes and no". Let's look at the positive side first. The number one reason to like the U.S. Postal Service is the low cost. For the low price of a single stamp (currently, only 44 cents), I can have my piece of mail delivered thousands of miles away. Second, I have found that delivery through U.S. Postal Service is generally reliable. When something leaves my house, I can feel pretty confident that it will arrive at its destination, and that it will get there in about three to five days. Sure, it would be nice if I could say that the mail always arrives in three days or four days or something consistent, but considering the varying distance for mail delivery and other factors, a two- day window is still pretty good. Third, I like the number of places I can drop off mail for delivery. Not only can I go to a Post Office, I can also send mail via any of the thousands of mail boxes that exist throughout the United States in every city or town. I can even leave mail for the mail man to pick up and deliver by placing it in my own mail box. These conveniences make the U.S. Postal Service one of the best delivery services around.
Now, let's talk about the cons. My greatest complaint with the U.S. Postal Service is its inconsistencies with delivery to residences. In the previous paragraph, I pointed out that I like the fact that my mail will be delivered in three to five days and I do like this. But what I do not like is that I never know what time of day my mail will arrive. One day, it might show up at noon. The next day, the postal guy might show up at 3pm. Then, on the next day, the mail shows up at 1pm. I don't know why the differences are this great, but it would be nice if the U.S. Postal Service Standard mail would arrive at a relatively uniform time; say, within the same hour each day. I have also noticed a tendency of the postal service to deliver the wrong mail to me, or send my mail someplace else. At least once per week, I will receive a letter from one of my neighbors, even though it has the precise address clearly marked.
Going back to what I mentioned above, there is, of course, the monopoly factor, which to some people is the main complaint they have with the U.S. Postal Service. Other delivery services cannot compete directly with the U.S. Postal Service Standard Mail. Thus, no matter how annoyed you might be with the service you receive, you don't really have a choice. You have to use the U.S. Postal Service for these purposes. The lack of competition is also the main reason why the U.S. Postal Service lacks creativity in its business offerings. Why don't they have special offers, like other businesses? It could be a "two for one" day, or perhaps a bulk mailing special offer (mail thirty letters for only ten dollars) or a percentage off incentive (twenty percent off if you mail twenty or more letters). The U.S. Postal Service has never offered deals like these, but if there were more competitors in the business, I bet we would have offers like the ones I suggest.
Another area of concern is with postal employees at Post Offices. I have no problem with the postal people who show up at my house- they are usually friendly and approachable. The ones I have issues with are those at the Post Office. They often display rude and/or indifferent attitudes and have little concern about customer service (the monopoly they hold is undoubtedly part of the reason). On a recent trip to the Post Office to pick up a large volume of mail following a week long vacation, I was told by the Post Office rep that I "really shouldn't go so long without checking my mail"! What kind of idiotic comment was that? Why would I go a full week without checking my mail? I made a snide comment in return, collected my mail, and left the Post Office. This is not the only time this has happened- I have encountered other forms of rudeness and stupidity at the post office before.
Overall, U.S. Postal Service Standard Mail is an acceptable service and my feelings are mixed overall. I like that I can mail any standard letter for a cost of only (currently) 44 cents to any location in the United States and I like the convenience of having thousands of mail boxes in which I can place my mail for delivery. However, I don't like the inconsistency of delivery (you never know what time the postal person will deliver your mail) to individual addresses, the poor customer service at the Post Office (long lines, rude reps, indifference), and the fact that the U.S. Postal Service has monopolized this service. It adds up to an average service overall, with an almost equal number of pros and cons.