I got a package yesterday. Now, when I say I "got" a package, I don't mean that someone came to my apartment and delivered it to me. I mean that I drove to the Post Office and retrieved it. See, last month I ordered several books online for my courses this fall. I received all but one of them in short order. That one book was finally shipped out on Saturday, August 27, according to the tracking history I pulled up online. it apparently went to a "Fedex Smartpost" in Dallas. From there, it was supposedly shipped to Waco on the morning of August 29th (last Monday). Pretty quick. Trouble is, I didn't know any of this until yesterday when I still hadn't received my package and tried to track it online. (I had previously tried to track it online but couldn't because it had not yet been shipped.) The latest entry on the Tracking History said "Delivery attempted" at 04:05:00 PM on August 29, 2011. There's a couple of problems with that: first, I was home at 4:05 p.m. on Monday afternoon, and I didn't hear anyone knock on my door then. Second, even if they tried to deliver the package to me, why didn't they try to deliver it again or at least contact me to let me know they had my package? Then I noticed that the "ship carrier" was USPS. Suddenly I was not surprised.
A lot of people have plenty of bad things to say about the Post Office, and I don't want to waste my time attacking such an easy target. I never intended to use this blog to vent my frustrations, and I'm not going to start doing that now. What I did find interesting is that the Postal Service has been in the news a lot lately, and it's not good news.
It's no secret that the U.S. Postal Service has turned into a money pit. It's been operating at a loss for several years now. In March, a spokesperson said USPS would cut 7,500 jobs and close seven district offices and 2,000 post offices by March 2012. Then, in July, we learned that as many as 3,700 offices could be on the chopping block. Now comes the news that the Service will default on an upcoming $5.5 billion payment for future employee health-care costs. Earlier today, Postmaster Gen. Patrick Donahoe urged Congress to take swift action to save the 219-year-old agency, saying that "radical changes" will be necessary to stabilize the tightly regulated service.
Some members of Congress are way ahead of him. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chairs the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, is pushing a plan that would create a commission to recommend office closures, allow for five-day delivery and make other changes.
The real problem, as is so often the case with government, is that the Postal Service has made promises it can't afford to keep. Current union contracts prohibit layoffs. How can anybody run an efficient operation when their employees know they can't be fired?