Service, price and speed. These are the things I favor when choosing to mail taxes, parcels or greeting cards.
Like shopping at selective grocery stores, each consistently has certain advantages. We circulate our shopping to remain within budget. It’s like counting on an old friend, but when the stock is discontinued, lines are ignored and prices increase, it tends to bind the underwear.
Chatting about the USPS' current situation is like bringing up religion or politics at a cocktail mixer. Some feel that the state of the United State Postal Service requires a helpful intervention while others see it as a sign of the times – an example of survival of the fittest.
Many times while waiting in line at the post office, the sense of urgency seems to lag while prices continue to rise. A line of customers stretches to the door entrance, while one service window is open. Occasionally someone pops out from the back and says, “Anyone here to pick up mail?” People look around to see which lucky individual gets special treatment. No one comes forward. What’s frustrating is instead of helping the waiting customers by opening another window, the person returns to the back leaving Eeyore to handle the only open window on tax day.
While I wait, I look around and see hand written reminders taped on walls, pictures of grandchildren at closed stations while a fuzzy radio echoes in the back. I begin to wonder how, or if, the postal service will transform itself to become more competitive. I've walked into a post office, seen a familiar employee working the counter, noticed the line and left. It's like watching a 70s movie in slow motion.
Paper bills are a thing of the past. Most people pay bills online, making payments instant with immediate confirmation. The only paper bill I receive is from my oil company, which I’ve recently switched to paperless.
As I wrote this column I stared at a pile of mail that came to my door the other day. There were four envelopes soliciting various services – banks, Sirius XM radio promos, Cox Communications, magazines I don’t subscribe to – and one hand-written thank you note. Even though I’ve opted out (both online and via phone call) for bank solicitations, I still receive them by the gross.
With most of my daily mail delivery ending up in the recycle bin, is Saturday delivery really necessary? I see it being worthwhile during the holiday seasons, but not year round.
Regardless, something is missing. Has mail delivery lost its luster? As a kid, receiving birthday cards from grandparents (with the anticipated $5) or letters from a beau living abroad made my day. Unfortunately, we no longer receive mail MEANT for us.
At Christmas time, I usually send via UPS because the US Postal Service has size limitations. Understandably, when shipping gifts to my six nieces and nephews, a large box is mandatory. Even though UPS offers packaging, I opt to package myself, keeping costs down. Also, try to ship as far off from major holidays as possible. For example, when Christmas quickly begins to approach, ground-shipping rates mysteriously seem to increase and Saturday delivery is never available.
While UPS is good for large packages, mailing smaller, padded envelope-type mail can be deceiving. I recently shipped a box and a light, padded envelope. Shipping the box was roughly $14 while the padded envelope was $13. Granted, distance was an issue, the box was going to New York while the padded envelope to California. Mailing the padded envelope via USPS would have been less than $6 with priority shipping. The extra $7 I paid was the price I paid for one-stop convenience.
Now, FedEx is fast, like a cockroach on Red Bull. This company seems to have the shipping and tracking down to a science; even the delivery personnel hustles. The only time I use FedEx is for shipping my delinquent taxes off to my accountant during tax time. FedEx seems to understand the sense of urgency while dominating the corporate shipping world. Customers also use corporate accounts to print labels, ship from home or office while scheduling pick up times online.
All these organizations offer the same service (online tracking, home pickup, etc.) just different features. Some simply make us feel more comfortable and secure.