Wednesday, February 8th, 2012...8:39 am

The Mailbox Wars

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Have you ever had a business partner?  I had one once and partnerships can be very tricky to maintain.  Trust, but verify comes to mind.  Each party needs to trust the other, but just in case one of the partners lacks the ability to remember, an understanding in the form of a Partnership Agreement needs to be agreed upon.

We as individual stores have agreements with the three major carriers that could be seen as a partnership.  But occasionally a carrier, with its internal, competing fiefdoms, violates the spirit of the contract, creating an adversarial relationship by competing with us.  One department, by doing its job supports our businesses, while another department by doing its job, competes with us.

These departments, internal to an organization, also appear to be competing against each other.  Such is just the nature of large organizations.

Speaking with Postmaster General Patrick Donahue last year, he emphasized the value of retail partners like USPS Approved Shippers by calling them, along with Contract Postal Units, Village Post Offices, and other affiliates, essential partners to the survival to the USPS.  These replacement Postal outlets have the verbal support of the Postmaster General and his Executive Team.

So why has the USPS seen fit to imperil these very businesses by directly competing with the local neighborhood shipping stores?  The USPS has offered the following services to PO Box renters who have boxes in the designated Competitive List areas:

  • Offering Post Office Box renters the use of the Post Office street address for Post Office Box addressing.
  • Offering Post Office Box renters email notification of mail delivery.
  • Offering Post Office Box renters the use of the “#” designation.
  • Offering Post Office Box renters to receive packages from private carriers.
  • Allowing Post Office renters the use of Change of Address Forms allowing the USPS to forward renters mail at no charge.
  • And, eventually, the only address that will get mail on Saturday.

On the USPS’ entry into the express market, Fred Smith from FedEx said:

“The problem with the USPS’s vain attempts to compete … is that there is not a shred of evidence that its entry into the field serves any public interests. There are, to be sure, important interests worthy of consideration, primarily those of postal workers and the postal family. However, a convincing argument has yet to be made to show that the public interest requires the Postal Service to use its monopoly … to gain an advantage in a service that can be and is being provided more efficiently by private enterprise. Moreover, it is noteworthy that these private companies, with which the USPS seeks to compete, pay taxes while the USPS does not; purchase license plates for vehicles, which the USPS does not; and, unlike the USPS, must comply with zoning restrictions and pay fees and other charges; are subject to customs laws; and are constrained by a host of government-imposed burdens.”

Unfair competition – that is the essence of the argument of stopping the USPS from adding the mail receiving enhancements that have been enjoyed by the customers of Commercial Mail Receiving Agents.  No sales tax collected, no property taxes, no gas taxes, no license plates, no local codes or regulations to follow, and a $100,000,000 marketing budget allows the USPS advantages beyond comprehension.

Even if the above advantages of the USPS are tempered with the inefficiencies of unions, bureaucracy, PRC, Congressional regulation, and a monopoly mentality, the USPS still has an unfair competitive playing field with FedEx and UPS.  But let these behemoths battle it out amongst themselves.  Their armies are large are fairly balanced.

On the other hand, the USPS is now attacking the foundation of American economics.

When the USPS unleashes its firepower on the local mom and pop, independent family businesses, it’s the US Government versus the family and that’s wrong.

When the USPS uses its labor, which is paid for by postage, to move and deliver private carrier packages, to subsidize these businesses by consolidating their delivery stops, returning undeliverable packages, and communicating delivery information to the private carriers’ customers, that’s wrong.

When the USPS, who regulates Commercial Mail Receiving Agents, does not allow them to use the USPS Change of Address system for their customers, but allow the use of that system for PO Box customers, that’s wrong.

To claim financial reasons to implement five-day delivery for Private Mail Boxes, but service the PO Boxes on Saturday, that’s wrong.

Competing with the businesses you regulate is unethical, unfair, and corrupt.

Now we fight.  We fight with everything we have.  We will be commenting on the Docket we created on the PRC site.  We will be writing letters to our Congressmen during an election year.  We will be writing letters to the House and Senate leadership.  And we will travel to Washington DC to confront the responsible people.

We cannot do this alone.  We will need your help.  Although we have other organizations willing to sign complaints, wars are expensive and signatures do not buy ammo.   If you are not an AMPC Member, join us at the Classic Level; if you are not a Classic Level Member, upgrade, if you are a Classic Member, renew.  This will become a fight for our existence, our survival, and the basis for our businesses.

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  • Get me better postage rates and I will be happy. Let the USPS add services their personnel cannot handle. You think someone wants to wait in line for 20 minutes to pick up a UPS package? Or get an email about it the day after they pick it up?

  • Keep up the fight, it seems like the same thing as back 15 years ago when I was in the business then. They never quite trying to steal from us.

  • Clearly not what the industry needs is someone trying to squeeze out a few more dollars. The cost for them to put this in place will be astronomical. To keep it up to date, notify customers, store packages I don’t think they can handle it.
    They are not set up to provide the customer service that this type of work requires. It will only end up costing them more money in the long run, it will cost stores business. And it will probably fail in the long run for the Post Office.
    Problem is they are not doing this legally, they are offering services that they don’t have permission to offer. They will be harming thousands of small businesses across the country all in a failed effort to raise their bottom line. Instead it will end up costing them more.
    Cut your costs, go back to your core business leave private enterprise to handle the customer services aspect of this industry. We have done a very nice job of it over the last 20 – 30 years.
    Jeff Ballantyne
    Parcel Room

  • They may not be able to pull this off successfully, but just like the guy who opens a store down the road from you on a shoestring with no association or franchise help – they will take some business away from you up until the day go out of business.

    For a government agency to compete with an industry they regulate is corrupt. And they won’t stop with these enhancements. When Saturday delivery is eliminated, they will advertise the fact that a PO Box with a street address is they only place you can get your mail on Saturday.

  • Just to bring in one more thing: I’ve noticed that the post offices are now carrying a complete selection of greeting cards. Is that legal???

  • There’s little I can add, except to say that the whole concept is so deeply flawed that it appears the action of one who is “grasping at straws.” One thing that makes us successful is our emphasis on customer service–something that the post office has NEVER been very good at.

    Let me say a big thanks to AMPC for their efforts on our behalf.

  • The time is near to for a visit your congressional representatives. This is an attack on all of our stores.

    Pity the USPS could have actually made some extra money by just rasing the P O Box rates and keeping the service the same.

    In reality we save the USPS tons of money providing USPS services to our customers and we receive no compensaton from the postal service.

    Bob K

  • Please provide the boilerplate letters you are sending to local Senate and House Representatives and I’ll copy and paste this and do the same locally.

  • Do what we all should do and that is contact your U.S. Rep. and Sen. as well as the Pres. after all we are loosing Tax Revenue and small business just the thing the politicians are in a frenzy about, should this go into practice. Note my Mail Delivery Person already got the letter from his P.O. Box about the is now in effect.

  • When it is time to write letters we will have templates, but we have to exhaust the other means first. Per the PRC complaint procedure we have contacted the USPS General Council to request a meeting.

    That meeting will be on Friday, February 17, 2012. If the meeting is not productive the formal complaint will be submitted to the PRC and will be open to your comments.

    We will then be able to supply you with suggested wordings for the PRC and Congress.

    Thank you for your support and interest in this serious matter jeopardizing our businesses.

  • There’s time (before Friday (2/17/12) to at least contact members of the PRC. If I find anyone from my area on the Committee you can BET I’ll let them know my feelings!
    The Mail Room
    Myrtle Beach, SC

  • I would gladly compete with the post office for their services. However, my biggest need is discounted postage. I would accept a compromise of a 20-25$ discount on postage and allow my local USPS facility to attempt to offer similar services. They still have problems getting the mail sorted correctly, so adding another service is pointless. I suggest that we make a point on Leap Day, February 29th. We sell no postage services on that day, and only use our other resources. Even if it means shipping something at cost.
    Our costs are the same as the general public for postal services(for the most part) and they need to get on the bandwagon with Wholesale and counter/retail rates for their services.

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