I was thinking of a few news stories I've been reading recently about the U.S. Postal Service. Now, this isn't the first time I've heard people claiming the imminent death of the USPS, but it does seem a lot more dire now than in the past. One thing they mentioned was that online bill-paying is cutting into mail traffic, something which I have to admit Andy and I have helped contribute to.
My feelings on the USPS going bust are not mixed. I don't want it to happen. It's hard to articulate why, but I really like the USPS. Sure, I've been annoyed, frustrated, even furious with it at times, but overall it's a pretty good service. I could do without the 80 bazillion catalogs and credit card offers and such, but it's so nice to get things like cards and letters. I would miss those. Even if FedEx or UPS took over the letter part, I would miss it. And, call me paranoid, but I would also miss the fact that tampering with my mail is a federal offense.
As I was pondering this is my half-asleep state I realized something: my main reason for not using the USPS is stamps. Although the forever-priced stamps have made things better, it is still the case that when I go looking for stamps I inevitably find stamps for the last few before-price-hike amounts, or sheets of partially used one cent stamps and so on. Part of this is my fault; if I were more organized this wouldn't be such a problem. But then again, I hear a lot of people complain about it.
This led to my wondering if maybe stamps could be done away with. Not by making another tax, but by offering an alternative, for instance, N letters per month for a fee, N+N2 for a higher fee, and including a flat rate which would allow unlimited numbers of letters per month. Or, perhaps something like EZ-Pass, wherein each time you send a letter they add it to a tab which is automatically deducted from a credit card or bank account. Or some combination of both. Anything to get rid of having to pay for and then find stamps. And heck, they could still sell stamps for people who liked doing it the old way; people more organized than I am.
Another idea has presented itself as a way for the USPS to keep itself afloat. It would no doubt be popular in areas with lots of rain or harsh winters, but even in my arid area with relatively mild winters, I would still pay for it. A quick explanation: in my development (and, I think in many new developments, as well as at apartment complexes and the like), mail isn't delivered to our home. Instead there's a bunch of post boxes (not PO boxes, mind, but clusters of boxes with locks). The boxes are smaller than traditional mail boxes, and for packages there are extra boxes with temporary keys which remain in the box once it's opened and can be retrieved by the postal person and given to the next package recipient. I really miss having mail delivered to a decent-sized box at my curb. Maybe it's just because I grew up with it, but for whatever reason I have a strong emotional longing for the way it used to be.
The idea would be to have post boxes, such as those in our development, for no extra cost, and delivery directly to your own mailbox for a monthly fee. I have no idea what the fee might be like, and installing post boxes in areas where they still get mail directly at their houses might be prohibitively expensive, but it's at least something to consider.
So those are the things which occurred to me as potential solutions. Any thoughts on that or other ideas of ways the USPS could stay solvent?