Posted by: SWL | April 3, 2012

Postal Service Online Discount Not Worth Website Hassles

The US Postal Service has complained for many years that they cannot make a profit. So they keep raising postage rates. Then they spend their revenue on lots and lots of advertising. I see one or more television commercials every day. The ads often promote printing postage online. Too bad that has proven difficult for me.

I’m one for three in printing attempts. The first time everything went smoothly. The next time the label did not print. Of course, they had charged my credit card and I spent valuable time calling and e-mailing to get my money back. And I lost the online discount because I had to take the package to the Post Office to pay the postage fee. Last week, after inputting the package weight, I clicked “buy postage”. The next screen said they had changed something and instructed me to click another link. Within another one or two clicks there was a red message that they had encountered an error and I should come back later. They were sorry if this caused any inconvenience! When it is Friday, near Post Office closing time and the package needs to go out that day, I cannot come back later. Again, I had to take the box to the Post Office and pay the higher price.

I want the Postal Service to succeed. I value having mail delivered to my box at the curb. I am unhappy at the prospect of 5-day a week delivery. If they keep changing pages and forms online, they will discourage customers, even if the new parts are supposed to be better. (I have found that most website changes are better for the merchant, not the customers.) And if the USPS website has frequent problems making it unusable for periods of time, people will give up entirely. The online discount is often not worth the loss of time.

Congress should require the USPS to be thoroughly audited to determine if they are spending wisely. Does the advertising actually increase business? Which form of advertising brings the best results? Is the online discount wise? I like discounts and postal employee time is saved when I weigh my mail and print the postage. But Post Offices still have the same number of employees being paid the same salaries – so how does that help the USPS bottom line? What are the projections for lost revenue from lost customers if mail delivery is cut to 5 days a week, and how does that compare to any savings? The Postal Service tells Congress and the public that there are few options, but I hear no statistics to back up their claims. They may be a quasi-government agency, but as long as Congress has oversight power, we should require good research and accountability.

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