During a recent editorial board with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, questioning turned to the financial straits of the U.S. Postal Service, which lost $2 billion for the third quarter, the 21st losing quarter of the last 23.
There is, however, some good news.
“Revenue continues to improve as a result of the Postal Service’s January mail price increase, successful sales and marketing initiatives, and continued success in growing the package business,” according to USPS.com. “Total operating revenue of $16.5 billion increased by $327 million, or 2.0 percent, compared to the same period last year.”
In addition, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the USPS has been given permission to cut prices and go head to head with some of the services offered by FedEx and United Parcel Service.
The U.S. Postal Service has targeted large e-commerce companies as the holidays approach.
Last month, regulators signed off on cuts of as much as 58 percent for priority mail by shippers moving at least 50,000 parcels a year.
Based on the grousing by FedEx and United Parcel Service officials, the USPS is onto something that will help its bottom line
While not the exact menu of cuts discussed with Sen. Collins, they fall in line with what she has long advocated — letting the USPS compete aggressively for business.
Sen. Collins makes the point that USPS officials have spent too much effort looking at nickel-and-dime cost controls. Some of these would needlessly increase delivery times and slow service by closing distribution centers.
Instead the senator has advocated letting the Postal Service compete aggressively for business. She supports the trial run of allowing limited USPS services, like selling stamps, to be done at retail locations, such as Staples.
Some of our readers may remember the days when much of a small town’s postal business was conducted at the local drugstore. In the Garrison City, such a place was Dover Drug that at one time did business on the upper square.
Sen. Collins, who tends to be forward thinking, urges a kind of return to the good old days in this case.
And we agree.
New Hampshire locates some of its liquor stores in strip malls and allows lottery tickets to be sold at the local convenience store — all to keep costs down and profits up.
Philosophically this is the direction intended for the USPS by Congress when it passed the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, telling the newly minted United States Postal Service to pay for itself instead of tapping the U.S. Treasury.
Unfortunately, politics has held much sway since then and made the notion of turning a profit more of a dream than reality.
This can be changed, in part, by allowing the USPS to compete. But not just for the big dollars of a UPS or FedEx, but those of Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public who find it easier to mail a letter or package while doing the grocery shopping, for example.
Our hope is that Sen. Collins will see more of her ideas put to work so the USPS can become financially sound, as intended.