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Small Talk, Big Issues: Addressing Misconceptions About the USPS

Kurt Ruppel

Wish you could offer friendly rebuttals to the many misconceptions you often hear about the USPS?

We’ve all been there. You’re making small talk at a social event when someone asks what you do. As soon as they find out your job is connected to the mailing industry, the conversation turns to the Postal Service, and soon they are tossing out claims about how it’s funded, the declining popularity of mail, etc. Most of the time their opinions or statements are factually flawed. It’s not necessarily their fault. They aren’t as familiar with the Postal Service as we are, and they’re simply reciting something they read or heard…somewhere. So do you just let it slide, or do you try to set the record straight? Here are some friendly rebuttals to common USPS misconceptions we’ve all likely heard at one point or another. Perhaps you can use them at an upcoming Super Bowl party or networking event:

“The Postal Service is just another example of wasted taxpayer dollars.”

Actually, the Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses. It relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. Technically, the Postal Service does receive an annual appropriation for free mail for the blind and overseas voters, which in FY2014 was $70.8 million (about 0.1% of annual revenue).

“They are losing billions of dollars!”

Technically that’s true, but it’s really more of an accounting matter than anything. Did you know in FY2014, the Postal Service actually had $1.37 billion controllable (operating) income excluding the impact of certain workers’ compensation adjustments and retiree health prefunding?

The main reason for the headline grabbing losses is because the USPS is required to make unnecessarily accelerated pre-payments into its Retiree Health Benefit Fund. The Postal Service has already put aside more than $40 billion of the approximately $90 billion it will need to pay retiree health benefits for the next 75 years – a savings rate higher than any other government agency and most private businesses.

“Anything that needs to be mailed should go through private companies such as FedEx or UPS.”

No single delivery service has the networks needed to deliver all types of mail and packages. But no delivery service has a better network than the Postal Service for “last mile” delivery of letters, flats and packages to every address in the country. It’s a network neither FedEx nor UPS have currently, and one that would take them a long time and substantial investments to duplicate.

In fact, the Postal Service is already engaged in a number of partnership programs with FedEx and UPS, using the best parts of each network to support delivery of mail and packages. These arrangements are sometimes called “coopetition.” For example, the Postal Service acts as a “last mile” partner for both UPS and FedEx, handling thousands of deliveries. FedEx and UPS perform similar duties for the Postal Service, providing services such as domestic air transportation and international parcel logistics.

“All they need to do is change X, Y or Z and their problems would be solved.”

That may be true, but it literally takes an act of Congress for the Postal Service to make nearly any change.

Although sensible actions such as re-amortizing retiree health benefits pre-payments, or better yet allowing postal retirees to take advantage of Medicare (which they and the Postal Service paid into during their working years), would go a long way toward providing financial stability for the Postal Service. However, those actions don’t fully address the scope of business challenges faced by the Postal Service. Additional measures, such as providing USPS management the authority to expand the scope of products and services offered by the agency and the ability to adjust the size of its processing and retail networks, are still required to secure the long-term financial outlook of the Postal Service.

“Everything is online now, nobody uses the mail.”

Study after study has shown that Americans still enjoy receiving mail. Furthermore, not all Americans have Internet access. A quarter of U.S. households (30.8 million households) have NO regular Internet access. The Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA) Foundation put together a study on the preferences of adult Americans regarding paper-format bills, statements and related documents. It found that 65% of adult Americans prefer paper delivery for at least some of their bills and statements.

These are just a few friendly rebuttals to common misconceptions. What are some of the main ones you hear, and how do you respond? Leave a comment to let us know.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2015/01/14/how-to-address-usps-misconceptions/
Kurt Ruppel


Kurt Ruppel

Director Postal Policy and Marketing Communications who educates clients on postal regulations and rates, helps ensure mail packages meet spec, and develops postal strategies that achieve in-home delivery targets at the best possible postage rates. Bringing the “all of us know more than any of us” business philosophy to IWCO Direct for more than 30 years (oy!). Three-time IWCO Direct President’s Award winner, Chairman of the EMA Board of Directors, graduate of Utah State University, bicycling enthusiast, and Ohio State Buckeye Football fan.

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