ХудожникElectronic Mail (e-mail) was brought in to the corporate world in the early 1990’s and, at that time, it was considered a “secondary” service to most employers. A very short time later, by the mid-1990’s, that “secondary” service was viewed by those same people as “company critical”. Despite the constant warnings by the tech world that e-mail was inherently “not secure” and certainly “not designed for file transfer,” corporations and individuals alike now rely on it.
Avoiding the On-Coming Train
Certainly, those in the technology field knew of the impact, and many tech magazines ran articles about the cost savings implied by using e-mail vs standard postal services (thusly dubbed “snail-mail”). Sold as a matter of convenience, e-mail was poised to destroy the underpinnings of the postal service that the US holds dear. The excuse “the check is in the mail” could no longer be used as more and more companies accepted on-line payments. Those times that your mother sent you cash in the mail, wrapped in a piece of paper so the feared postal person couldn’t see through the envelope to the cash within, would no longer be necessary; she could just use an on-line service like Paypal.
The Postal Service, admittedly, saw some of this coming, and they hinged their bets on competing with the industrial mountains of UPS (at the time, it was United Parcel Service) and FedEx (at the time, it was Federal Express) by stepping in to the package delivery and overnight mail arena. It sounded logical: the postal service had footprints in every city and town (moreso than the two Titans of the industry had), had an established sorting facility structure, trucks traversing the country, an enormous workforce, 6 day access to their customers, and a cash cow of monopolistic reserves to pull from (daily delivery of mail). Yet, what doesn’t add up is: those two titans are proven experts as they have crushed their competitors time and time again (DHL & etc) whereas the Postal Service had (and still has, in many ways) no real experience in package and large package delivery.
Reaching in to the Deep Pockets
It has been no secret that the US Postal Service, once an arm of the government but now pseudo-privatized, is using the first class postage rates to fund their money losing battle in the priority mail delivery service. They have bluntly stated this during their pleas to Congress to get approval for the increased rate. This is obviously not the only reason for the rate hike since e-mail has substantially eroded their customer base, but the one-two punch (one: e-mail use going up means less postal mail which means less $$ in postage revenue, and two: the priority mail business has yet to be a cash-positive area) is what is causing the crumbling of the postal service.
And with every rate hike, they receive yet another PR hit. Combine that with unfriendly and depressing service at branch offices, and the Postal Service is actually driving their customers away.
Get Out of the Hole & Fill a Need
E-mail will continue to erode the Postal Service’s niche but it will be some time before it destroys it, if it ever. There will be a need for the Postal Service for a long time coming, just not in its current form. Just don’t go blaming “e-mail” for all of the Postal Services woes.
Perhaps the Postal Service should offer an electronic service for e-mail to flow through their systems for a minor fee ($0.01US per e-mail) while they provide “trusted verification” of the e-mail, we would see a lot less spam out there. (that would be ~$1.74US per person per day, on average).
That’s what the Postal Service was good at.. they need to take that strength in to the digital world.